Lawn mowers have been around since the early 19th century and have evolved greatly since their inception. They are an essential tool for maintaining a well-manicured lawn, but with so many different types available, it can be difficult to determine which one is the best fit for your specific lawn needs. In this article, we will explore the three main types of lawn mowers: rotary, cylinder, and flail mowers, and help you determine which one is the best lawn mower for you and your lawn.
3 Types of Lawn Mowers
Before we get into any specific mowers we need to talk about the three different ways that that lawn mowers cut the grass; it does make a big difference to the type of mower you may want to get.
A rotary mower is the most common type of lawn mower and is suitable for most lawns. They use a spinning blade to cut grass and have adjustable cutting heights. They are available in both push and self-propelled models. Rotary mowers are easy to use and maintain and are relatively inexpensive. They are a good choice for most people.
A cylinder mower is a more traditional type of lawn mower that uses a series of blades arranged in a cylinder to cut the grass. They are more expensive than rotary mowers but offer a cleaner, more precise cut. They are ideal for formal lawns and are often used by professional gardeners.
A flail mower, on the other hand, uses a horizontal rotor with numerous small hammers attached to it, which beats the grass to cut it. They are mainly used for heavy-duty work such as mowing rough grass or thick underbrush. They are also great for uneven terrain or rocky ground.
Walk Behind Mowers
Push Rotary Mowers
Walk-behind rotary mowers are a popular choice for homeowners and lawn care professionals alike. These mowers are designed to be pushed by the operator, allowing for greater control and precision while cutting.
Rotary mowers are equipped with a spinning blade that cuts the grass and they have adjustable cutting heights to accommodate different grass types and lengths. They are also relatively easy to maintain and repair. They are perfect for most lawns and can handle small obstacles like rocks and sticks, and are also very affordable. They are great for small to medium-sized lawns, but not suitable for very large lawns.
They also are typically light and easy to manoeuvre.
Self-propelled Rotary Mowers
Self-propelled rotary mowers are a step up from standard push-behind rotary mowers. They make mowing easier and more efficient by providing power to the wheels of the mower, so the operator does not have to push it along. This feature makes them ideal for people with large lawns, uneven terrain, or for those who have physical limitations.
Self-propelled rotary mowers are very popular with lawn mowing contractor due to the increased efficiency. Commercial grade machines also often have extra safety features like blade brakes.
Self-propelled rotary mowers also come in a range of sizes and styles and are equipped with the same cutting blade and adjustable cutting heights as standard rotary mowers They are generally more expensive than standard rotary mowers, but they save the effort and time of pushing the mower. They are the best lawn mower for large lawns, hilly terrain, or for those who want an easy mowing experience.
Battery Rotary Mowers
Battery-powered rotary mowers (such as the Ego mower pictured) are a newer alternative to traditional petrol-powered mowers. They are powered by a rechargeable battery, which eliminates the need for fuel, oil, and cords. They have the same features as traditional rotary mowers, such as adjustable cutting heights and a spinning blade for cutting the grass.
The benefits of battery powered mowers are that they are lighter, easier to use, have very little maintenance and create less emissions. Some higher end battery powered mowers even have comparable power to their petrol counterparts.
There are two major downsides of battery mowers. The first is that battery run time may not be enough for larger block or overgrown lawns and the second is that they are currently much more expensive than an equivalent petrol powered machine.
Residential Cylinder Mowers
Cylinder mowers are considered a step up from rotary mowers because of their superior cutting performance. Instead of using a spinning blade, cylinder mowers use a cutting cylinder and bottom blade which work together to cut the grass in a scissor-like motion, resulting in a cleaner and more precise cut. This means that the cylinder mower can cut lawns much lower than rotary mowers. They also have rollers that create stripes in the lawn.
The downsides of cylinder mowers is that they require regular adjustment and sharpening of the cutting cylinder, are not able to cut overgrown lawns and are not as robust as rotary mowers. They are also generally more expensive than rotary mowers, but they are the best choice for those who want a professional-looking lawn and are willing to invest in a high-quality mower.
Commercial Cylinder Mowers
Commercial quality cylinder mowers cut in exactly the same way as residential machine but are a step up in two areas.
Firstly is build quality and durability, this means that a commercial machine will be able to handle more abuse and harsher conditions that a residential machine would not handle. Secondly is the weight of the machine, commercial machines are often heavier (the Mow Master HC26 pictured is about 170kg), this means that they give a truer cut to the lawn which is important when maintaining a playing surface like a bowling green or a cricket wicket.
Ride On Mowers
Tractor Style Ride On
Tractor style mowers, also known as riding lawn mowers, are a traditional type of lawn mowing equipment. They are typically powered by petrol engines (although some battery models are becoming available) and are equipped with a cutting deck mounted in the middle of the machine.
They are a very popular style of mower for home owners and are the cheapest style of ride on mower available.
These mowers drive with a steering wheel similar to how one would drive a tractor, making them simple to drive and well-suited for mowing large lawns. However, they are not as manoeuvrable as zero-turn mowers, and they can be less efficient when it comes to mowing tight spaces or navigating around obstacles.
After market catchers can be added to these mowers if needed.
Zero Turn Ride On
On the other hand, zero-turn mowers are designed for greater manoeuvrability and efficiency. Their wheel turn independently of each other, allowing the operator to make tight turns and navigate around obstacles with ease.
Zero-turn mowers are well-suited for mowing smaller lawns, or for mowing lawns with a lot of obstacles, such as trees and flower beds. They are also faster than tractor style mowers when it comes to mowing large areas. However, they are typically more expensive than tractor style mowers and they don’t have attachments capabilities like the latter.
After market catchers can be added to these mowers if needed.
Out Front Ride On
Some mower brands like Walker or Gianni Ferrari are known for their innovative out front cutting decks. These decks are designed to be free floating, meaning that they are not connected to the front of the machine. Instead, they are mounted on a pivot point and are able to move independently of the mower.
This allows for greater flexibility and manoeuvrability, as the cutting deck is able to follow the contours of the lawn more closely. Additionally, the out front cutting decks on Walker mowers can also be adjusted to different angles, making it easier to mow around obstacles, such as trees and flower beds. Overall, the out front cutting decks on Walker mowers are designed to provide a more precise and efficient cut, making them ideal for professional lawn care and landscaping use.
These brands also have built in catchers to collect the lawn clippings which makes them very efficient machines for commercial operators.
These are typically the most expensive type of rotary mower available but deliver the highest quality of cut and the best efficiency for those collecting clippings.
Cylinder Ride On
Ride-on cylinder mowers are specially designed mowers that cut exactly the same as walk behind cylinder mowers giving the lawn a much cleaner cut, allowing the mower to cut lower. For this reason these mowers are often used on playing surfaces like golf courses or stadium lawns.
The mower’s ride-on design allows the operator to comfortably sit while they operate the machine, making the process of mowing large areas less tiring. They are also the best lawn mower for sports fields, parks, and other large grassy areas that need to be kept in a pristine condition.
They are very expensive to buy and need a lot more maintenance but are the only option for those who want low cut turf on a large scale.
Tractor Mounted Flail Mower
Tractor mounted flail mowers are specialized mowing equipment that are designed to be attached to a tractor. These mowers typically have a large cutting drum that is equipped with a number of flail blades. These blades are attached to the drum using flexible shafts, and they rotate at high speeds as the drum spins. The flail blades are designed to chop and shred the grass, making them ideal for mowing rough and overgrown areas. Tractor mounted flail mowers are capable of cutting through tough and woody vegetation, and the shredded material is left on the ground as a mulch, which can be beneficial for the soil. They are commonly used for maintaining large areas of land such as grasslands, meadows, and parks, or for cutting down weeds, bushes and small trees. They are also used in orchards, groves and vineyards, as well as for clearing roadside verges, and for maintaining ditches, embankments and other hard-to-reach areas.