What type of mower?
Choosing the right lawn mower will save you time and frustration so here is a brief outline. Petrol lawn mowers are more powerful than electric mowers, can make much lighter work of a large lawn and give you a better finish at the same time. The additional power of a petrol lawn mower can make them the better choice for most mid sized and bigger lawns.
Although large petrol mowers are available, if you have a very large lawn you may be interested in our ride on mowers. Petrol mowers are heavy, cost more to buy, cost more to run, are noisier and less environmentally friendly so don’t buy one if any of these reasons put you off, an electric mower maybe more suited to your needs.
Lawn size is the biggest consideration when buying any lawn mower. It affects your choice of cutting width, power and whether to buy a self propelled or push mower.
The mowing width of a mower is the width of one stripe of mowed lawn. Choosing a width which is too narrow will result in you spending a lot of time going up and down your lawn. However, bigger is not necessarily better as trying to manoeuvre a very large mower around a small lawn is awkward and frustrating.
The product description for a mower usually has a recommended lawn size it is suitable for. These tend to be given in square metres (m2), acres, or in relation to the size of a tennis court; to give a rough idea, one tennis court is about 640m2 or 1/6 acre.
[info icon=”alert”]When you know the rough size of your lawn, bare in mind that the stated lawn size far a mower is often the maximum; if you find your lawn is close to the maximum you might want to consider a larger mower.[/info]
Cutting widths for rotary mowers range from around 40cm (16″) to 53cm (21″). However, cylinder mowers range from as narrow as 35cm (13″) up to 75cm (30″).
Lawn size will also affect how much power your lawn mower will need but it’s useful to have a rough guide to lawn size and a suitable mowing width:
|Lawn size||Mowing width|
|Less than 1/2 tennis court||40cm – 45cm (16″ – 18″)|
|Up to 2 tennis courts||50cm – 55cm (20″ – 22″)|
|2-4 tennis courts||52cm+ with more power (21″+)|
|More than 4 tennis courts||Consider a ride on mower or lawn tractor|
Cutting height and finish
How long or short you mow your lawn depends on what finish you want and how you use your lawn.
Almost all petrol lawnmowers come with adjustable cutting heights. Given in millimetres, these represent the length they cut the grass to; a typical range would be 20mm to100mm (1″ to 4″) but these vary depending on whether it’s a rotary, cylinder or hover mower.
Rotary petrol mowers have the longest settings and a typical rotary mower will have a cutting height which can be adjusted from 25mm to 100mm (1″ to 4″). These are ideal for family utility lawns as the longer grass recovers better from heavy use and the high cutting height prevents the mower from grounding on bumps in the lawn.
[info icon=”alert”]One shouldn’t cut more than a third off your grass in one mow.[/info]
Since grass doesn’t grow any slower if you cut it short, a shorter lawn means you need to cut it more often – up to 3 times a week in summer to maintain a very fine finish. A longer cut is also better for low maintenance lawns.
Cylinder mowers are intended to create a fine finish and have much lower cutting heights than rotary mowers. A typical cylinder mower can be adjusted from 5mm to 40mm (1/4″ to 1.5″). To keep a healthy lawn at lengths as short as 10mm means you need to mow your lawn very regularly. Cutting at such low heights doesn’t give your mower much clearance so you’ll need a smooth lawn and probably one which gets rolled.
Hover mowers have ranges slightly higher than cylinder mowers, typically between 10mm and 50mm (1/2″ to 2″) and can handle all but the most uneven lawn.
[info icon=”preferences”]As well as choosing the right range of cutting heights, you also want a mower with a mowing height that is easily adjusted because grass should be cut to different lengths throughout the year.
Grass should be cut slightly longer in colder months when it doesn’t re-grow as quickly, and be cut shorter over summer. The exception to this is in drought when leaving your grass longer will help it retain moisture. If you’ve let your grass grow particularly long over winter, the first cut of the year should also be high.
Rear rollers and striped lawns
The striped lawn effect is achieved when light reflects differently off grass mowed in different directions. The effect is caused by the rear roller of a mower flattening the grass as it’s mowed forcing to all lie in one direction.
Petrol mowers tend to be nice and heavy so you are more likely to get a nice striped effect because they flatten the grass more. Make sure you buy a model with a rear roller and stay away from the Hover models as although some have rollers, the effect is not as good. Cylinder mowers are said to give the best striped effect because the cylinder blades cut the grass blades in the same direction.
Things to consider
Petrol engine power is stated in horsepower and is typically between two and seven horsepower, the higher the number the more power.
You’ll find that once you’ve chosen the right type of mower and cutting width, the range of powers available is narrowed down for you as larger mowers naturally need a more powerful engine.
Once you’ve decided on the mowing width and type of mower you need, buying one with more power will make mowing quicker and easier – especially for large lawns.
Self-propelled mowers use engine power to not only cut the grass but to move the mower forward as well. Most large mowers are self-propelled as they can weigh over 50kg (8 stone) and are much too large to be pushed.
Websites will clearly say in the product title or description if a mower is self-propelled. Even if you’re buying a smaller petrol mower, a self propelled one will make mowing easier and faster.
Some of the larger cylinder mowers have an optional seat attachment which turns a self-propelled lawn mower into a ride on mower.
Grass Collection Box
Mowers can come with or without grass box attachments to collect the grass clippings. Without a grass box the clippings will need to be collected. These days you can also get “Mulching lawnmowers” that chop the grass into fine bits that can be left on your lawn to be processed by worms, returning nutrients to the soil.
A rear grass box for collecting the cut grass save time as you don’t have to clear the grass clippings after mowing. If your lawn hasn’t been cut for a while a grass box can fill up quickly but even with regular emptying they’re less hassle than raking up cuttings. Their sizes are stated in litres and range from 40 litre on smaller mowers up to 80 litres on some of the largest.
Almost all rotary and cylinder petrol mowers come with grass collection boxes, but none of the petrol hover mowers do. If you need a hover mower with a collection box, there are electric hover mowers that have them.
Petrol lawn mowers are going to need filling with petrol and oil. On the older 2-stroke engines you need to mix petrol and oil in a ratio of 25 to 1 (but this can vary so do read your manual) before filling your mower. These days most petrol mowers on the market are 4-stroke and have a separate oil sump so you no longer need to mix your petrol and oil.
Some models will list having a throttle which is used to control the speed of the blades. Many models have fixed operational speeds which is said to improve the life of the mower by preventing over revving of the engine.
The engine on a petrol mower is usually started with a pull cord. Starting the mower with a pull cord can get more difficult as your mower gets older. Most size of mower is available with an electric ignition but normally on the more expensive models.
If you don’t want to pull a cord to start your petrol mower look out for electrical ignition