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Archive for Sunday, June 3, 2001

Get a cut above

Lawnmower basics help groom your green

June 3, 2001

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Welcome to the weekend time to relax, enjoy, get away from it all.

But after the initial glee wears off, it hits you. The lawn. The lawn you swore you would mow last week. And the week before.

It's time to make friends with your mower. Clean it. Fix it. If you need to, hold a mower memorial service and shop for a machine you can love.

The new mowers aren't your father's cranky cutters; they start with ease and don't require much of you besides following them around the yard.

Take this lawnmower guide to the garage and assess the situation and keep this chore from becoming a pain in the grass.

A good lawn mower is like an investment, said Rex Johnson, vice president of Turf and Irrigation Hardware in Corpus Christi, Tex. Just as you wouldn't buy a disposable house, you probably want to pass up a disposable mower.

"A lot of people try to buy just based on price," Johnson said. "Look at what you'll spend in the life of the machine. If you buy a $99 special, you'll have to replace it every two to three years. You might as well spend $400 in the first place."

Quality mowers also deliver better cut quality, John said, which means the mower is easier to push, easier to maintain and leaves you with a tidier-looking lawn.

"If you tear and shred grass, you'll get brown parts and uneven spots," he said.

While push mowers used to be considered the safest route, Johnson said self-propelled mowers are safer.

"I see these young kids leaning way into the mower to push it, and they could slip on grass or the handle could break," he said. "With a self-propelled model, you're basically following the mower."

Self-propelled models are a good choice if you want to bag grass clippings, as the machine will carry that extra weight for you, Johnson said. When it comes right down to it, you'll need to decide if you want to pay in dollars or muscle.

"The self-propelled model will cost you more, but it's less wear and tear on you," Johnson said.

Many women, mowers with arthritis or arm injuries, or anyone looking for a low-impact mowing experience should consider key-start mowers. And yes, macho homeowners, they are just as good as the manly machines with cable-starters.

"These start just like a car," Johnson said. "They are very dependable and very reliable. A lawn mower is nothing to be afraid of."

Johnson encourages homeowners to spend some time indoors before mowing.

"Manufacturers spend a lot of money making a very nice owners' manual," he said. "Read it. At least look at the pictures."

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