Big Yard Lawn Care: Riding Vs Powered Push Lawn Mowers

There are two options for mowing a large yard efficiently. Here we compare a riding lawn mower vs a powered push mower.

Owners of smaller yards can usually handle the chore of mowing through a standard mower or perhaps a self-propelled model. But larger yards often require some extra mowing firepower- the ubiquitous riding lawn mower. These machines can make short work of large open spaces, but they aren't always the best choice for intricate mowing around gardens and other obstacles. The prospect of pushing a self-propelled mower over a two acre patch of land may seem daunting, but at least the flower garden won't become multi-colored mulch. There are pros and cons to both mowing methods, so gardeners need to evaluate their specific mowing requirements before dragging out the power mower or firing up the riding version.

1. Large, flat areas. The obvious winner in a straightforward mowing situation is a riding lawnmower. A gardener in good physical condition could probably handle a medium-sized field with minimal exertion, but anything over an acre is too much for powered mowers. If appearances are important, a carefully-driven riding mower can provide the pleasing lines of a professionally-mowed lawn. A self-propelled mower is at the mercy of a human pilot, who may become less and less precise as the day wears on. Riding mowers can also pull special attachments for extremely large areas- something a self-propelled lawn mower cannot do. If the area is fairly level with minimal obstacles, a riding mower is clearly the way to go.

2. Yards with gardens and walkways. If the area to be mowed is filled with stationary objects and protected gardens, a self-propelled mower would be best. Riding lawn mowers can have some impressively short turning radiuses, but they can also get caught in areas with no clear exits. A self-propelled mower does a better job of reaching right to the edge of a protected garden or maneuvering around a backyard pool. In general, powered push mowers have the advantage of stopping and reversing course with minimal fuss. Riding mowers can still reach many of the same tight areas, but it takes an experience operator to maneuver out of some awkward positions. A small powered lawn mower can usually be lifted out by an average gardener.

3. Thick grasses and clippings. If the grass is especially thick and would require raking or bagging, a riding lawn mower would most likely be the best choice. A self-propelled mower with a grass bag attachment may get bogged down in heavy growth. The bag may also fill up often, which can choke out a self-propelled mower's engine. Clearing out a bag may also wear out the human operator faster, because he or she must stop the mower, unclip the bag, walk to a suitable spot for emptying and return to the mower for a restart. A riding lawn mower can usually power through heavy grasses without bogging down, and the operator can simply drive to the emptying site with a full bag of grass. Even if a grass bag is not used, a riding mower can usually continue to cut neat rows without raking. A self-propelled mower can have difficulty finding the next line with thick piles of grass obscuring the operator's view. Someone else may have to rake up the thick grass thrown by the mower in order to prevent future complications.

4. Steep terrain, marked boundaries. Although many riding mowers can handle uneven territory, self-propelled mowers have a clear safety advantage. Operators of a self-propelled mower can maneuver right up to fencing or other boundary markers without much added momentum. Trying to stop a riding mower inches from a barbed wire fence can be painful. Some large yards have steep drops, either in the form of drainage ditches or natural grades. A riding lawn mower may not be able to stop in time to avoid an uncontrollable roll down the side. Even if a riding mower survives the drop intact, there's no guarantee it will be able to make the return climb. In situations where there are steep grades or immovable borders, a self-propelled mower should be used at least for the edges. A riding mower should be able to handle the rest of a large yard if there are no major ruts or trenches.

5. Bush hogging and thick brush. If a large yard contains thick brush, weed patches or saplings, a riding mower may be the best solution. A specialized mower called a bush hog is best-equipped to handle very thick growth, but a riding lawn mower can handle the occasional encounter with tall weeds and brush. A self-propelled mower doesn't have a lot of weight to battle resistance, and the operator is placed in a vulnerable position. A riding lawnmower does have more mass and can protect the operator from flying weeds and other debris. Neither machine is designed specifically for brush removal, but a riding lawn mower is much more likely to survive the encounter with minimal damage.

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