Father’s Day Post Leads to Old Fashioned Push Mower Shopping… Thanks Dad! Happy Father’s Day!

Detail from a Schlitz beer ad, circa 1950

It all started innocently enough. This morning I wanted to publish a quick ‘Happy Father’s Day’ post for all the dads out there. My dad has always been a fabulous gardener, expert berry grower and lover of native plants and trees… But he hated mowing the lawn. HATED. And can you blame him? Lawn mowing is loud, smelly and invariably fraught with mechanical troubles. My father lives in a condo now, and he no longer mows his own lawn, but I will always remember him parked in a plastic lawn chair, clutching a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, legs stretched out, glaring at the frequently broken-down lawnmower. Poor dad! Laughing at the memory, I immediately began searching for an image to capture the feeling. I couldn’t come up with anything good from 80s, but I did find this old Schlitz beer ad from the early 50s – and I love it! Get a load of that fabulous push mower!

Well, no sooner did I crop the photo and scan it to this draft post than an obsession with old fashioned lawn mowers overtook me. My clunky Sears Craftsman model -inherited from my dad when he closed up the country house a few years back and moved into a condo with my mother- has seen better days and it has been sputtering and moaning ever since I made the mistake of overfilling the oil-well last summer. You could say I killed my mower with kindness, but that would be too kind.

As much as I support the ‘un-greening’ of the American suburb -replacing grass turf with low maintenance ground covers, native plants, vegetable patches and other ecologically friendly options- I am not completely anti-lawn. Grass is beautiful, and I believe that a modest lawn, in an appropriate climate, is a wonderful garden feature that needn’t be an environmental hazard or drain. I live in Vermont – the lush, Green Mountain state – but I don’t have a large lawn. There’s just a petite patch of sod for lounging ’round Dan Snow‘s fire sculpture, and a few verdant paths leading to outdoor rooms. It’s not much more than a postage stamp, really, but I still need to cut the grass if I wish to maintain my tiny emerald carpet…

My petite lawn, surrounding artist Dan Snow‘s beautiful Fire Sculpture

Of course I considered an electric mower; quiet, efficient and ultra-modern, the newer models are very tempting. And I also weighed the possibility of a more economical gas model, but I dislike the smell of fumes and all the engine noise -never mind the obviously wasteful use of fossil fuel. So what to do? Well a modern reel lawn mower has always been at the back of my mind. And thanks to Mr. Schlitz at the top of the page, I’m all over the idea – like a dog rolling on freshly cut grass. So for the past few hours, I have been researching and reading reviews. Here’s what I’m looking at…

Scotts 2000-20 20-Inch Classic Push Reel Lawn Mower

With 242 five-star and 168 four-star Amazon reviews, the model above is currently at the top of my list. Retailing for a very reasonable $99.99, it’s clearly quite affordable and popular. The only negative I really see is the 6″ side-clearance, which makes a clean edge difficult and string-trimming mandatory (with my current mower, string trimming is not necessary).

American Lawn Mower Company 1705-16 16-Inch Bent Reel Mower

Running neck-and-neck with the Scott’s mower is the American Lawn Mower Company’s model pictured and linked above. I have read that both mowers are made by the same company. This model is four inches narrower, so it will cut a smaller path through the grass and get into tighter spaces. At $98.49, it’s also quite reasonably priced and although there are fewer reviews for this product on Amazon, they are mostly quite favorable, (69 out of 83 reviews are 4 and 5 star). In the end, this may be the one that wins out, as I am leaning in the direction of a narrower path. Like the one pictured above, this mower is made in the U.S. – important to me with the tough economy we are in.

Gardener’s Supply Company Reel Mower

Then there is the Gardener’s Supply Company Reel Mower, pictured and linked above, which is both lightweight, cute and well-made. It’s comparable to the American Mower Company model above, with the same width and blade height, but it has the advantage of a more comfortable looking handle and safer-looking guard. It’s more expensive at $199 – but from the photos and reviews I have seen, it is both popular and well-made.

Gardener’s Supply Company Reel Mower

The final contender is at the high-end of the price scale, ($299). Also from Gardener’s Supply Company, the reel mower above has received great reviews and also looks comfortable and easy to maneuver and use.

So what will I do? Well, I’m not sure yet. I’d like to try a couple of mowers out to see which model is easiest to lift and fold for winter storage. But there is, without a doubt, a push-style mower in my near future. Do any TGE readers own modern reel mowers? What do you think of them? Do you have a model you would recommend? I’d love to hear from you.

And for all the dads out there: Happy Father’s Day !!! I sure hope you avoid the lawn-detail this Sunday! Go find yourself a comfy hammock or lawn chair and a cool bev. Enjoy your day – you deserve it. Thank you for all you do! xo Michaela


Article © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. Hammock Dad image is the property of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, (aka Pabst Brewing). Mower images courtesy Amazon and Gardener’s Supply Company, respectively.

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2 Replies to “Father’s Day Post Leads to Old Fashioned Push Mower Shopping… Thanks Dad! Happy Father’s Day!”

  1. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Hi Michaela, I don’t know if your current mower is still with us or not but, have you changed the air filter since the unfortunate strangulation? I did the same thing once and, as it was a very long time ago, I think that was the solution to the problem.
    About these push mowers… There was one at the farm when we moved in and I remember trying to use it. Of course it badly needed the blades sharpened, so the “cutting” action was terribly hard on the grass, but the sound of the blades going around is a sound I will never forget. The other thing I can’t forget is how incredibly heavy it was to push and turn. I’m sure that the newer models are ‘way lighter, but even so, be sure to take them for a test cut before you buy, eh? ; )
    P.S. All of the Gardena tools I have here (20+ years) have been around the block and then some and still look and function just like when they were new, if that helps. D. xo

  2. Michaela

    Hi Deb, My current mower is actually starting. Good tip on the filter, and yes I actually replaced everything from spark plugs to filters. Then I brought it to a retired friend who repairs mowers for a bit of supplemental income. He was able to get it working again, but warned me that it’s getting close to time for euthanasia. Now I have a couple of broken cables to deal with, and slow, difficult starting. I am thinking of trying a light weight reel mower since I have such a tiny lawn. We’ll see how it goes. I always have the gas-guzzling geezer as a back-up (for now anyway).

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