Green machine: non-motorized reel mower

blog-reelmower-squareIf you’ve ever smelled a combustion-engine lawnmower in action, you can understand my concerns about owning one. They are smelly and unregulated and require you to carry a can of flammable liquid in your car. When I moved into Casa Verde, I knew I would need a means by which to control the grass on my vast estate. Because electric mowers are rather pricey, I decided to just embrace my inner masochist and buy a non-motorized reel mower.

blankNaturally, I did a lot of research online.  I also visited my local Lowes and Home Depot.  There were not a lot of differences between the various models, but a few things stood out.  Only one mower offered a built-in sharpener.  The others would require yearly sharpening using a kit that required you to remove one of the wheels.  The catch with the built-in sharpening was that the mower’s operation involved metal against metal scraping, which is rather loud.

There were different sizes of mowers, allowing you to cut larger or smaller swaths of grass.  Some were heavier than others.  One was even imported from Germany and looked pretty high tech.

I ultimately chose the Gilmour model.  It has the built-in sharpening, guide wheels, adjustable height and is a lovely shade of green.


One thing you should know about mowing your lawn with a reel mower is that your grass must be a reasonable height.  If it’s too long, the mower will simply push it over.  Consider chopping it off with an electric weedwhacker first.  Once you have it mowed the first time, just be sure to mow it regularly.


  • I’ve always mowed my lawn with a push mower. Except for the summer. Once May happens, there’s a kind of grass that starts growing and has a tough, papery texture that the push mower just bends and cannot cut. That’s when I have to either use a scythe (whacking back and forth by armstrong method) or bite the bullet and use electric mower.

  • Please add some more information on “slow growing grasses” which don’t require weekly mowing. Also, there are rechargable battery operated weedwhackers that will do a great job on small lawns without using any gasoline whatsover.

  • Hi Jay! Thanks for your comment! I do own a rechargeable battery operated weed whacker. It is good for the edges, however it can be very arduous to “mow” an entire lawn with one. I mostly use it for cleaning up weeds. As you know, you can also buy an electric mower. I did find that, since my lawn is largely weed covered, this push mower doesn’t do such a good job. I don’t water my lawn – I just let it ebb and flow with the seasons.

    There is a slow-growing, drought-tolerant grass that is marketed in Florida called Zoysia ( However, planting grass requires that it be fertilized – a practice that is not so good for the environment (especially waterways).

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