Are you ready to give the noisy, gas-guzzling lawn mower the heave-ho? Unless your lawn is the size of a postage stamp, an electric lawn mower is most likely the right replacement. Then there are also the environmental considerations. “Using a typical, gas-powered lawn mower for one year can pollute as much as 43 new cars driven for a year,” the executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District noted previously.
You have probably already received periodic energy company solicitations to turn in your old gasoline-powered mower for one that runs on electricity. Perhaps you have been held back by old wives’ tales of low power or the fear of running over the power cord. Take heart, I have made the switch and so can you! It all starts with choosing the right electric lawn mower that meets your needs.
Corded or Cordless?
A corded electric lawnmower is very light — usually between 30 and 70 pounds, depending on accessories — and therefore extremely easy to handle. You need an accessible plug, preferably on the outside of the home. Frequently these gardening tools feature a 12-amp motor and a 14-inch to 20-inch mow width. If you have a smaller yard, and if you can commit to planning your mowing pattern with the cord in mind, this is an easy-to-use lawn mower for the backyard.
Cordless electric lawn mowers rely on a rechargeable battery for power. It is always a good idea to have two batteries — one to keep on the charger and the other one for the lawn mower. Since the battery is heavy, these mowers are also a bit heavier than their corded counterparts. Cordless lawn mowers are a good choice for yards that are large and for homeowners who are concerned about the danger of running over a cord. The latter is the reason for my choice of a cordless model.
Mulching or Bagging?
King County defines grasscycling as the practice of mulch mowing. You leave the grass clippings on the lawn, where they supply the soil with nutrients as they decay. The steady supply of nitrogen to the soil has the added benefit of cutting down on the amount of fertilizing you need to do to keep the lawn looking healthy throughout the year. Opt for an electric mulching mower, which does a good job cutting the clippings numerous times before letting them fall to the ground.
The only reason why you might choose a bagging mower instead is your schedule. Unless you can commit to a regular lawn-mowing schedule, a mulching mower may not provide you with the best appearance for your lawn. Longer grass does not mulch quite as nicely as well-kept grass blades. You may see clumps and larger pieces of weeds if you forget to mow for a couple of weeks during prime growing season.
Spring Equipment Preparation
Winter seems to drag on forever. But before you realize it, it’ll be time to cut the grass, fertilize the lawn, and take care of the garden. There are simple things you can do right now to prepare for when spring arrives and yard work begins.
Clean and Shine
We hope you at least knocked the mud off your tools in the fall. Now it’s time to do an up-close-and-personal inspection.
Wash off the rest of the dirt and check for rust. Rust loosens up if you let the tool soak in white vinegar. Use a stiff wire brush and sandpaper to clean off the tool. If it’s so rusted that the tool has become fragile, it’s time for a new one.
Sharpen it up
Inspect lawn mower blades, shovels, spades, shears, and garden knives–anything with a cutting edge. Are they sharp? If you don’t want to sharpen them yourself, take them to a shop that can do it for you. Go now in the winter before the shops get busy in the spring.
Remember to keep lawn mower blades balanced as you file or grind them. Check for balance by using a balancer or hanging the blade on a nail through the center hole.
Tighten up and replace parts
Does any of your equipment have loose screws or parts that need tightening? Are there any parts missing or cracked? Is your lawn mower pull cord frayed? Do you have flat tires?
Check air and oil filters on power equipment to see if they need to be replaced. If you have a riding mower or leaf blower, remember to check the spark plugs.
If you’re thinking about getting a new lawn mower, they are generally on sale in April and May.
Grease it up
Are all the parts moving smoothly? A little WD-40 might be just what you need to make the pruning shears work like new. A chainsaw may need more oil.
Gas it up, charge it up
If you’ve had a half-tank of gas sitting for months in your mower, you’ll want to flush it out before you fill it up. Gasoline without a fuel stabilizer becomes useless after about a month and can corrode and damage a fuel system.
Check batteries and power cords for any power equipment you use.
Review owner manuals and operating instructions
Sometimes the rust isn’t just on the tool. Sometimes our memories need jogging.
Check the yard itself
You can test the pH of your lawn to see what kind of nutrients it will need. See if there are any dead spots or sparse areas in the grass. Are there fallen limbs or branches that will need trimming? How about leaf debris that needs to be raked?
If you’re close to spring, consider laying down 2 to 3 inches of mulch around trees and bushes to keep weeds down.
You can start seeds growing indoors ahead of spring planting. If you don’t already compost, check out composters at your local garden center. It may be a worthwhile investment for you.
Stock up on fertilizer, weed killer, and cold drinks
Pretty soon you’re going to need them!