Types of mowers: there are three basic mower types; the reel, flail and rotary.

Reel mowers are primarily used on professional game fields and golf courses. Reel mowers have horizontal blades attached to a rotating reel. As the reel rotates, the leaves are pulled towards the blades and are cut, which provides a close, consistent cut. Reel mowers cut the leaves cleanly, giving a soft, smooth appearance. While you can purchase a reel mower for your lawn, they are uncommon and expensive.

Flail mowers are most often used on dense, overgrown areas. You may have seen flail mowers along the sides of the road cutting away vegetation. Flail mowers have rotating blades hinged to a horizontal axle. This yields a very rough cut which is undesirable for home lawns.

Rotary mowers are by far the most common for homeowners. A rotary mower works by a set of fixed blades spinning around a fixed axle. While a rotary mower doesn’t provide as smooth of a cut as you would get from a reel mower, it is far superior to a flail mower.

How to choose the right mower

When choosing the right mower, the first big decision is whether to ride or push.  If your lawn is less than ½ an acre then a push mower is probably best. Over ½ an acre may warrant a riding mower depending on the shape and obstacles.

Once you have decided on a riding vs. push mower, there are several quality points you will want to consider.

  1. Torque: Torque describes the force that keeps the mower blades moving. The higher the torque, the more even, uniform cut you will receive even in tall, thick or wet grass.
  2. Engine size: Manufacturers describe the size of their engines in cubic centimeters (ccs). A higher cc measurement means a more powerful engine.
  3. Prime or no prime: While it doesn’t seem like a big deal standing in an air conditioned Lowe’s, once you are out in the Mid-South heat, you will definitely appreciate a no prime mower. To prime a mower there is traditionally a bulb located near the engine that you press to force gas into the carburetor. In a primeless engine, everything is done automatically. You will have less trouble starting a primeless mower.
  4. Cutting width: This describes the width of the cut. A wider cut means fewer passes you will have to make. If you have a small lawn, you may want to consider a more narrow mower for ease of handling.
  5. Speed Adjustments: Some self propelled mowers offer speed controls. This lets you set your own pace. You will want to look for a mower that lets you control the speed with either hand.
  6. Blade brake clutch: Instead of having to stop the engine every time you need to stop to move an obstacle, a blade clutch allows you to stop the mower blades without stopping the mower. This means that you don’t have to fight to re-start it as often.
  7. Height adjustment: Choosing the right height for your lawn is important to the health and appearance of your lawn. Your mower could have one adjustment lever for each wheel, two levers (generally on the back wheels), or sometimes just one lever for easy adjustment.
  8. A deck wash port: Some mowers are equipped with a port to hook up a water hose in order to clean the underside of the cutting deck. Cleaning the mower deck will extend the life of the mower and blades.

Additional Mowing Recommendations:

Proper Height: Mowing your lawn at the proper height and frequency will result in a thick carpet of turf. On the other hand, mowing too much, not often enough or at the wrong height will produce less desirable results. The leaf blades of the grass will not only grow upwards from the tips, but actually produce new leaves along the length of the blade. By continually trimming the tip of the leaf, you will encourage new growth along the length of the leaf resulting in a thicker carpet.

Frequency: You should always cut your lawn when the leaves are dry. This will ensure a cleaner cut and will cause less damage to the leaves. In some areas, it may be difficult to find a day where the lawn is dry, so just do your best. The frequency of mowing will depend on the type of grass, temperature and moisture level of your lawn.  Traditionally, you should trim (emphasis on trim) your lawn once it has grown about ½ an inch or, if you have bermuda, when you see seed heads popping up. For exact height recommendations contact your local extension office or lawn care professional. Remember: do not remove more than ⅓ of the leaf at a time.

Bag or Mulch: The leaf clippings produced when you mow contain about 70% water, but they dehydrate quickly then decompose to return nutrients back to the soil. If you are maintaining a consistent mowing schedule, then the clippings will be small and will easily decompose. But if you are scalping in the spring, you will want to bag the clippings. Due to the size of the clippings they will not easily decompose.

Quality Points provided by Lowes.com.