Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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How to Maintain and Properly Use A Push Mower and Push Edger

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Reducing energy around your home involves more than using energy efficient appliances.

My neighbor laughs and says that thing would work a lot better with a motor on it. I say yes, but my push mower is fine. He responds that at least I am getting some exercise out of it. Well, that is true. As the heat increases for the summer season, I am well aware that my utility bills will rise too. Most of that cost will come from the air conditioning system, but I thought about all of the little things we use, which use power, and how we can reduce our bill by doing things by hand instead.

This thought stayed with me during the day as a guest watched me make a pesto sauce by finely chopping the ingredients with my chef’s knife. Would it not be easier to throw all of that into a blender, she asked. However, think about the energy needed to use that blender. You still have to rough chop the ingredients, so besides running the blender, you are also using energy to wash the blender components, the cutting board, and the knife. The kitchen is a great place to find examples of this waste, but with gas prices going up, you may be looking to spend less on keeping your yard looking nice.

First, if you are reading this post to see if you want to buy a push mower or edger, let me be honest about what you will get. This equipment is cheaper to buy, and it is easier to maintain. (I find that many people do not care for their gas powered mowers well, which increases the cost of operation). Push mowers are typically around $100, and push edgers are around $25. The mowers will eventually need their gears greased, and both pieces of equipment will need the same care that your give to a shovel. Will they give you the manicured look for your lawn? It depends. Setting a push mower to its lower settings helps it cut better. Having a higher cut is better for the health of your grass. The higher setting on a push mower does not effectively cut the grass evenly though. Push edgers do edge well, but again, you will not have a nice clean edge cut.

A push mower works by having the blades thrash the grass leave against the bar which runs between the two wheels. These blades are not like sharp knife blades. By pushing the mower quickly over the grass, you can obtain an even cut. Once you raise the blades up, I find that many grass leaves escape being cut. I handle this in one of two ways. One: I move at a steady pace across the grass from side to side, then I cut from top to bottom, creating a cross hatch pattern. Two: I use a push/pull method over one area before moving on. (A push mower does not work in reverse; I am cutting on the push stroke over the same spot). Method one works fine when the grass is not too high; method two is for when the grass has become thick. I always use the back and forth motion for the push edger. When you have the push mower on a higher setting, the height of the grass at the edges becomes a problem. The leaves bend down to the area where there is no grass, so I use method two along the edges. The push edger does not cut many of these leaves. Another problem to look out for is sticks. These will catch between the blades and the bar causing the mower to jam up. To remove the stick, rotate the blades in the opposite direction, away from the bar. It is a good idea to pick up large sticks before cutting the grass.

Push mower and edger maintenance is like other garden hand tools. Rinse them down after heavy use. Remove any debris that wraps around the wheel shaft (vines are easier to cut out, rather than pulling them off). Once a year go over the metal parts with a light sandpaper for rust and with a rag which has mineral oil in it. You can use the mineral oil on the wood part of the push edger too. After three years, I find is the time to check on the gears. The covers over the wheels can be removed. Clean the area with a paper towel, then add new grease (you can find wheel bearing grease at an automotive supply). The foam cushion for the handle of the mower will breakdown, and you could replace it with foam pipe insulation.

I did make one small hack to my push mower to make it easier to carry. At the cross bar of the handle system, there are two bolts which make gripping there uncomfortable. I took a handle from an old weed eater to be attached there. The weed eater was being thrown out by a homeowner, so I got the handle for free.

I use a rake and broom, along with hand shears for pruning. No need for electric or gas blowers or weed eaters. I look at it this way, I am saving money on a gym membership as well as the other costs mentioned above, and raking and sweeping give me a chance to relax with their repetitive motions. If the highly manicured look of a lawn and hanging out at the gym are important to you, then this equipment is not for you. However, if you are < !– google_ad_section_start –>trying to live a green lifestyle< !– google_ad_section_end –> then a push mower or edger could be for you.

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States
713.781.6090

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