Lawn Care Tools for the Best Kept Lawn
Lawn Care Tools
Lawns are probably the most labour-intensive part of the average garden, and the area where mechanical aids can bring the greatest benefit. As many gardeners are confused by the sheer variety of machines for cutting grass, you must first be clear about your needs and your lawn care tools.
What lawn care tools do you need, do you need a lawnmower, a long-grass cutter, or a machine that will do for both? For a lawn, how particular are you about quality of cut and the finished appearance? Do you want a powered mower, and, if so, will petrol or electricity suit you best? All of these questions need answering before you go shopping.
Hand mowers provide the simplest solution if you have a small, level lawn. Lowest-priced models are the sidewheel types which will cut unsightly ‘bents’, or wiry grass stems, that a roller mower passes over. They also cut slightly longer grass. Roller mowers cut the grass more evenly, however, and leave alternate light and dark bands. Both models have blades of the cylinder type.
The blades of powered lawnmowers may be driven by petrol, mains electricity, or batteries, and many models are self-propelled. Petrol-powered mowers can be used anywhere as they do not have a trailing cable and there is no battery to maintain; but there is a greater chance of mechanical trouble and they are usually noisier than electric mowers.
Mains electric mowers start at the touch of a switch and need the minimum of maintenance. A convenient power point is needed, however, and the trailing cable can be a nuisance if there are beds and borders in the way.
Battery mowers have no trailing cable and start just as easily as mains type, but a power point is needed for recharging — preferably in the garage or storage shed. Battery replacement is necessary every few years.
Cylinder mowers have a multi-bladed cutting cylinder that shears the grass against a fixed bottom blade. Mowers of this type give the finest cut, and are driven by a roller that leaves a banded finish. Width of cut is 30— 60cm (1-2ft). Some of the bigger mowers can be fitted with a trailing seat.
Rotary mowers have a different action. From two to four small blades revolve at high speed on a horizontal disc or cutter-bar. Really close cutting entails the risk of ‘scalping’ any slight bumps in the lawn surface, but the performance of many machines is in other respects fairly close to that of cylinder models.
Rotary mowers, which are powered by petrol engines or mains electricity, cut grass that would be too long for a cylinder mower, and are easier to adjust. Some are self-propelled, others have to be pushed. A grass-box is standard on many machines, though not on some of the small mains-electric types. Some have rear rollers for a banded finish.
Air-cushion rotary mowers are supported by a strong, downward-directed current of air, like a hovercraft. Having no wheels or rollers, they glide across the grass at the mere touch of the handles. They are surprisingly effective on long grass as well as on, and can be used on uneven ground with little risk of damage to the turf.
Most air-cushion mowers do not have grass-boxes, so the finely minced mowings are left on the surface. They do not leave a banded finish. There are petrol and mains-electric models.
Heavy-duty rotary grass cutters are available that are capable of tackling the longest grass and, and are useful for orchards, paddocks and similar grass. They work on the same principle as rotary lawnmowers, and many machines might be described as dual-purpose. In this case, there is often the option of a grass box or a deflector plate.
Ride on lawn mowers with an integral rotary grass cutter are now sold by several manufacturers. Though relatively expensive, they save time and effort where there is a large area of grass that requires regular cutting.
Every cylinder mower incorporates some simple means of adjusting the moving blades in relation to the fixed blades. Regular attention is essential for pod curing, so check the method for your mower in the handbook. Do not confuse this with the separate adjustment for height of cut.
Sharpening is needed every year or so. Put this in hand during the winter as you may have to wait for a while in the spring. Rotary cutters can be sharpened with a broad file or, in some cases, by the angle of the circular or triangular blades.
Drain the sump of a petrol mower each spring and fill with fresh oil. Lubricate oiling points regularly, not forgetting control cables and levers, and store mowers in a dry shed during the winter after cleaning and greasing.
Check electric cables each spring for signs of damage or perishing. Check plug connections.
Employ a professional if any faults occur. Keep batteries topped up; recharge after mowing, and once a month during the winter.
Wipe rollers and blades clean after use, and lubricate regularly at the points recommended by the manufacturer.
Ancillary Lawn Care Tools
Only a few lawn care tools are needed to keep a lawn in good condition, but those listed below will make the various jobs easier. In some cases, however, ordinary garden tools can be used instead.
Edging irons, or half-moon cutters, are used for cutting a new lawn edge, or for straightening an old one. They are much better than a spade, which will leave a scalloped edge.
Edging shears with long handles save bending, and the blades are set at just the right angle for easy cutting. Another form of long-handled shear has the blades set horizontally for cutting grass in corners and around trees.
Mechanical edgers may be hand operated or powered. Hand-operated types are simply pushed along the lawn edge to trim overhanging grass. Powered trimmers, mostly electric, have a shielded high-speed blade that serves the same purpose, but more efficiently.
Lawn rakes of the wire type are invaluable for clearing leaves, removing moss,and other debris, and for loosening a matted surface. Plastic rakes remove loose material but lack the scratching effect.
Leaf sweepers with a rear collecting bag save much time in the autumn on lawns surrounded by trees. They are also useful for sweeping drives and for collecting mowings.
Distributors simplify sowing lawn seed and ensure accurate distribution of fertilizer on established lawns. Output is adjustable for different materials and rates of application.
Aerators are particularly important for good lawn care. Compacted lawns benefit from regular spiking, preferably when the surface is soft after rain. Some types remove a core of, others split the ground. A fork can be used instead (taking care not to lever the turf into ridges), but a rotary spiker saves time and effort. Some sorts can be fitted to mowers, while others have wheels and a handle.
Rollers are less used nowadays than formerly, but will level a lawn disturbed by frost, and are useful when preparing an area for seeding or turfing. It is often possible to borrow one for these occasional needs.