Walk-behind mowers

The wide range available means there is always a pedestrian mower to suit your requirements.

There are various reasons why we turn to walk-behind grass-cutting equipment. Perhaps access is limited or the mower needs transporting in the back of a van? Perhaps the size and shape of the lawn is small or awkward? Perhaps we are talking about fine turf — bowling greens or the ornamental lawns at the entrance to a grand house or hotel? And just as there are many reasons, there is a bewildering choice of sizes and models.
Pedestrian mowers come in a range of sizes. Working widths vary from 40cm for some of the top-of-the-range domestic machines up to the 155cm of Simon Tullett Machinery’s Scag SW rotary mower. Clearly, the machine you opt for must reflect the size of the area to be cut — you don’t want to spend all day mowing a large lawn with a tiny mower but equally you don’t need to be stranded at the entrance wondering how to get a big machine onto the site.
The type of vegetation, its height and density, the anticipated frequency of cut and the desired finish will determine the most appropriate cutting action. The choice is between cylinder, rotary, flail and reciprocating. Each has its place.
For very tall grass, and especially the annual cut of small meadow areas, the reciprocating or finger-bar mower is an ideal choice. Flails — and there are a few such pedestrian machines — come into their own when the going gets tough. It is worth considering this type where there are brambles, docks and even saplings. A number of rotary mowers are also at home in these conditions but check out the thickness and strength of the blade and the construction of the deck. High engine power is also needed to smash through difficult vegetation.
Rotary mowers are a popular choice with contractors. For starters, they are simple to use and, with a single blade, they are relatively cheap to maintain and keep sharp. They are also versatile. They can be used on rough areas such as verges or in orchards where they may come across the occasional piece of wood. They are highly manoeuvrable so they can be used where there are a lot of obstacles. And they are capable of producing a good finish on lawns.
There are several types of rotary mower. If you are looking for a striped finish, be sure it has a roller. Wheeled mowers are lighter in weight, so are easier to handle in and out of vehicles or trailers. Mulching mowers work well where mowing is fairly regular and a clean finish is needed without the annoyance of emptying the catcher and the difficulties of disposing of clippings. A high tip-speed is the key to a neat finish with a rotary mower.
There is also the choice of powered or non-powered. Clearly, a powered model will mean less effort is needed to push the machine, but expect to pay more for those machines with drive to the wheels or roller as well as the blades.
The cylinder mower is the one used on bowling greens, high-quality lawns and wherever the ultimate finish is required. It will cost more than your average rotary mower to buy and also has more edges to keep sharp. But for that ultra-fine cut, and with stripes to impress, there is not much to beat this type of mower in terms of delivering a manicured finish.
Frequency of cut is one of the most important questions here. The longer and thicker the grass, the greater the power required to cut it. It will also determine the best options in terms of number of blades and size of cylinder. Larger-diameter cylinders that have few blades are most suited to sites where grass is left to grow between cuts. On the other hand, golf greens and areas that are mown — or even shaved — will need the higher clip rate of a cylinder with more blades. For grass cutting on undulating ground it is best to look for a mower with a short distance between the front and rear rollers.
In all cases it important to choose a mower that is comfortable to use. Look for handlebars that are easy to adjust if several operators are to use it. Soft-grip handles are a benefit where long hours of mowing are anticipated. Don’t forget to ask for data on vibration, emissions and noise levels. Controls should be instantly recognisable and easy to use. Height adjustment should be simple.
Where bends in beds and borders need following, make sure you choose a mower that is manoeuvrable. Study the distance between the blade and the edge of the mower. The smaller the difference between the working width and the overall width, the closer you can cut to trees and obstacles.
Eliminating hand-arm vibrations and user-backache when mowing on slopes, the new Spider remote-controlled mower from Ipswich-based Ransomes Jacobsen does the work while the operator stands at a safe distance. In some instances it may even be appropriate to use totally robotic mowers. Models are available from Allen Power Equipment, McMurtry and Turfmech Machinery.

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