• Garden Maintenance

Must-Read Guide to Lawnmowers

Keeping your back garden neat and tidy is easy with a lawnmower. With regular trimming, your lawn can always look lush and well-maintained. There are now more machines to choose from than ever. This useful guide should help you find the lawnmower that best suits the size of your lawn and your own requirements in handling them.

Walk-behind mowers

This large category usually covers a wide range of models you walk behind. They are suitable for small to medium lawns. Lawnmowers are usually easy to manoeuvre around objects and often have grass collection boxes.

walk-behind lawnmower

Included are electric or battery mowers and petrol-powered models. Environmentally friendly, manual mowers are literally pushed. You'll need to be strong to use them and they are best suited to small lawns. Hover mowers are the lightest to handle as they float above the grass on a cushion of air.

Robot mowers

These mow grass independently. Obstacles and lawn edges are detected through special sensors. Suitable for lawns up to 5,000 square metres, they operate best on level lawns. Frequent mowing is advisable as robot mowers struggle in long grass. With regular maintenance, they could last ten years.

robot lawnmower

Tractor mowers

These heavy-duty, ride-on lawnmowers are ideal for large fields of grass. Deck widths of up to 54 inches are capable of mowing four or five acres. Most lawn tractors are equipped with single or twin transmission engines with up to 25 horsepower.

tractor lawnmower

Top models feature hydrostatic transmission and cruise control. Some tractor mowers find it difficult to manoeuvre round obstacles or make sharp turns.

Outfront mowers

If your garden has many obstacles, a ride-on, outfront model could be more suitable. These mowers have the blades located at the front. They can easily mow the grass beneath overhanging bushes and picnic tables. Outfront mowers can also make sharp turns around trees. They are powerful machines with up to 25 horsepower.

outfront lawnmower

Zero turn mowers

These models provide a superb performance in terms of manoeuvrability. They can negotiate difficult corners with ease making them an ideal choice for decorative lawns. They are usually equipped with hydrostatic transmission, rear wheel drive and lap bars for easy control.

zero turn lawnmower

Fast results are achieved through an engine size of up to 25 horsepower and cutting width of approximately 60 inches.

Cylinder versus rotary mowers

A cylinder mower has up to twelve metal blades that twist around the cutting deck. This is positioned at the front of the mower. As the cylindrical deck rotates, the blades use a scissor style cutting action to slice through the grass. It works best on level lawns that are frequently cut as long grass can become tangled. The blades will need regular adjustments.

A rotary mower uses one large, metal blade fitted beneath the body of the machine. The blade resembles a knife and operates at incredible speed to slice through the grass. Rotary mowers don't cut as low as cylinders, but they need much less maintenance.

In general, rotary mowers are for family lawns while cylinders are used by gardeners seeking lawn perfection.

Battery versus petrol-powered

Petrol-powered mowers are far more powerful than battery models. Their additional strength makes them more suited to large lawns and those with difficult slopes. You'll need more power as the size of the cutting system increases. Most petrol-powered cylinder mowers use upwards of 3HP while rotary versions have an average of 4HP or 5HP.

Battery mowers take between four to six hours to recharge. You then have approximately one hour of mowing time. Therefore, they are more suitable for small to medium lawns. Battery mowers usually operate at 900 Watts to 1500 Watts.

Battery mowers are often more lightweight. Petrol-powered mowers require regular maintenance.

Getting stripes on your lawn

For a high-quality finish, your lawn should have stripes. The different lines are created through the blades of grass being rolled or flattened in a particular direction. Cylinder mowers usually incorporate a roller, but an alternative is using a striping kit. This consists of a weighted metal bar which trails behind the mower.

lawn with stripes

Plan where you want your stripes to lie across the lawn. The cutting height should be set to high as short blades of grass won't have the length to bend properly. Start at the edge of your lawn then ensure you mow parallel to each stripe turning sharply at either end.

Stripes are easier to achieve in dry conditions. For greater impact, go over the stripes once more using the roller, but without trimming the grass.

Brushcutters and strimmers

Both of these grass cutting machines can be maneuvered easily and have small cutting heads. Many gardeners with a small lawn or garden with difficult terrain often use them in preference to a lawnmower. They are ideal in larger gardens for trimming long grass in difficult to reach areas or around trees.


Strimmers are also known as line or grass trimmers. They cut the grass by a short length of nylon thread that's continually fed from a spool beneath the head. It gradually wears down and has to be replaced. Obstacles such as rocks can sometimes break the line.

Brushcutters are heavy duty versions of the strimmer. They use a metal blade fitted beneath the head. They can also incorporate a nylon line for greater versatility. Brushcutters are capable of slicing through more than just grass. They can be used to cut down tangled undergrowth, shrubs and saplings.

Leslie Vincent is the gardening expert at Atkins Atkins is one of Ireland's biggest garden centres advising gardening enthusiasts and professional landscapers on all their gardening needs.