Walk-behind rotary mowers are versatile machines. They can be used on areas of rough grass or ornamental lawns and there are machines suited to roadside verges and embankments. The type of vegetation and its density, how often it needs cutting and the required finish, will determine the best choice of model. The size of the area to be mown, and access to it, will determine the most suitable width of machine.
There are a lot of options for rotary mowers: push or self-propelled; side or rear discharge; collecting or not; wheeled or roller. But all rotary mowers have the same cutting action. They cut the vegetation by means of a horizontally rotating blade, or blades, usually spinning around 3,000rpm to slice through the grass.
This means higher engine power is important where the mower is required to smash its way through long or thick grass and where there is an abundance of dock and thistle plants or other weeds. An underpowered mower is likely to stall when the going gets tough.
Rotary mowers can be of a push type, where the engine only drives the blade, or self-propelled where drive is also to a set of wheels or a roller. They are more expensive of course, but self-propelled models will mean less effort.
Side discharge mowers will throw clippings out to one side. Rear discharge models leave a trail of clipping behind the mower, but more often than not are offered with a grass-collection system in the form of an easy-to-attach/detach box or bag. This is the type of mower for those of you seeking a neat finish. Many modern mowers are fitted with a blade brake clutch so that while the collection facility is being emptied, the blades stop rotating but the engine continues to run.
Choose a model with a roller, rather than wheels, if you want a striped finish.
Another type of mower — the mulch mower — has neither rear nor side discharge. These mowers are recognised by their domed housing, designed to retain the clippings in the cutting chamber while they are re-cut into tiny pieces before being dispersed downwards into the sward. Mulch mowers are capable of a neat finish and are increasingly popular with contractors, although their usefulness can be limited by the height of grass. Tall grass may require double cutting: the first to lower the height and the second to complete the job.
Setting the height of cut on a rotary mower is done via a lever, or levers, to adjust the height of the wheels or the roller in relation to the mower housing.
Another type of rotary mower has neither wheels nor roller. The hover mower glides on a cushion of air created by an engine-driven fan. This allows the mower to be moved in any direction. Such machines are useful for mowing under shrubs, around irregular shaped beds, on sloping banks and also where paving slaps have been set into the lawn as stepping stones. Contractors’ models are available.
As with all machinery, it is best to see a demonstration before purchase. The mower should be well engineered and robust for commercial work. It should also be comfortable to use, with easy adjustment of handle height. Vibration figures and noise levels should be studied and compared. Check out the safety features and think how the mower will be transported between sites.
Don’t forget to ask about the warranty and dealer backup in terms of servicing and spare parts.