The Best Type Of Lawn Mower To Use In Your Small Yard

It may surprise you to learn that lawn mowers are nearly 200 years old. The first one — a simple push mower made of wrought iron — was patented in England in 1830. It was used to cut grass in cemeteries, sports fields, and extensive lawns (which most people didn't have at the time). This invention was a vast improvement over the previous method of cutting grass, a scythe, in terms of convenience and control. The simple machine quickly morphed into a steam-powered version and then a gasoline-powered one. Since then, of course, there have been hundreds of upgrades to the simple machine that trims the lawn.

While we admire large houses surrounded by large grass lawns, most of us don't have acres to trim. According to HomeAdvisor, the average size of American yards is a quarter acre, or 10,890 square feet. If you live in a densely populated area, your yard may be smaller or you may have obstacles to mow around. When thinking about the best type of lawn mower to use in your small yard, consider the maneuverability of the machine since you'll be turning often, the physical strength needed to propel the mower, and the running time. 

For small yards, Consumer Reports suggests the simple push reel mower is best since it's easy to steer and weighs less than machines with engines. Plus, with no fuel costs, it's an economical and planet-friendly alternative. Since mowing a quarter acre takes less than a half hour, power equipment and other expensive amenities probably aren't needed.

Person-powered or engine-powered?

Walk-behind gas mowers are the most powerful mowers and are good for trimming grass that's overgrown or if you're forced to work in wet conditions. They have a long run time, which is especially convenient for those with larger yards. However regular maintenance is necessary. The machine requires upkeep from cleaning carburetors to changing spark plugs and air filters. The environmentally-conscious homeowner may choose to opt for the electric/battery hybrid of a walk-behind mower.

Electric mowers work either with a long cord or with batteries charged from a regular household outlet. Both kinds run more quietly than a gas-powered machine, and both are lighter to move. Blades should be sharpened, and the machines cleaned regularly, of course, but the routine maintenance is greatly reduced. Corded electric mowers will run as long as they're plugged in, however, watch for the cord tangling around flower beds or furniture. Battery-charged mowers will easily run long enough to complete a small yard, since the charge lasts 30 to 60 minutes.

Think green

Be aware that more and more cities are banning the use of gasoline-powered garden tools, due to the noise factor and increased air pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extensively studied how gas-powered equipment impacts the environment and has concluded that these mowers, trimmers, and edgers emit carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxide. It's estimated running a gas-powered mower is comparable to driving a car over forty miles. Those who want a greener alternative should consider hybrid mowers or push reel mowers to improve air quality. Electric/battery-operated mowers and people-powered mowers are easier on the ears and will reduce noise pollution.

However, one advantage to mowers with engines is the option to use a mulch setting. Mulching as you mow is best for your lawn and also for the environment because when you cut the grass and allow the clippings to settle back onto the lawn, it absorbs nutrients such as potassium, leaving your grass healthier and greener. Plus, you don't have to throw away bags of grass clippings. But the good news is that you can still mulch with a push reel mower. Simply go over the lawn twice -– once to cut and another to make the cuttings even smaller. No matter what lawn mower you decide on, regular mowing will keep your yard looking its best.