Test Run: A Cut Above

Nothing says summer like a green, well-groomed lawn. But beautiful yards take work—or do they? With the right machine, lawn care can be quick and painless—even, if such a word ever applied to outdoor work, luxurious. “If you can keep mowing time under an hour, people don’t seem to mind mowing the lawn,” says Pat Wiley, vice president of Star Lawnmowers in Jamison. One hour out of your Saturday seems reasonable for a lawn that will match the color of your neighbors’ envy, and there is more than one machine that will get you there.

The most important consideration for buying a mower is the size of your yard. “Buy according to the property you have,” says Nick Halkias, a partner at the Lawn Barn in Langhorne. He recommends a riding mower for lawns a half-acre or larger. For small yards, the choices range from energy-efficient reel mowers and electrics to gas-powered models and high-tech robotic machines. Whether you want a sleek machine that turns on a dime, earth-friendly cutting or a cup holder, the following models have got you, and your lawn, covered.

Mow While You Sleep
Believe it or not, we are in the age of automated mowing. The fume-free electric Robomower RL1000 can be programmed to cut day or night (it’s quiet enough to mow while you sleep), with a wire similar to an invisible dog fence to define its mow zone. “The Robomower will follow the perimeter and learn it, then compute the best way to cut the grass, usually working in a W pattern,” says Jim Pearsall, owner of Robomower.us, based in New Hope. This bagless wonder tackles lawns as large as 16,000 square feet (about a third of an acre) with every four-hour charge, using three blades to mulch grass. It comes with a docking station for recharging, and it knows when to quit: “When the Robomower senses it’s low on power,” says Pearson, “it makes a beeline for the docking station.”

The Reel Deal
With adjustable cutting height, durable wheels and a
foam grip for comfort, the Deluxe Light reel mower from the American Lawn Mower Co. (also known as Great States) is the way to go for small lawns. “If I had a small row home, I would own one of these,” says Tony Trotter, owner of J and J -Hardware in Mount Laurel. For those who don’t mind a little physical labor, this push model’s five blades and 18-inch cutting width can handle most small jobs. The machine offers the additional benefit of noiseless mowing, which your neighbors will enjoy, too. Because of its simplicity, maintenance is easy, and you can’t beat the convenience. “You don’t have to store gas or use an extension cord,” says Trotter.

POETRY IN Mow-tion
Want power, durability and options, all at the flip of a switch? The Honda HRX is “probably the most well-refined lawnmower in the industry right now,” says Wiley. A Versamow Clip Director system tells grass clippings where to go, from 100 percent mulch to 100 percent bag, with 10 settings for any combination of the two in between. The machine has a deck made of Xenoy, which doesn’t rust, dent or corrode over time, and the option of either a three-speed or cruise-control transmission.

‘Free’ Grass Care
Gas-free, cord-free and hassle-free, Country Home Products’ Neuton Cordless Electric Mower starts with a squeeze of the handlebar. Electric power means this lightweight mower is both quiet and good for the environment. Each charge lasts up to an hour, making it a great option for lawns a quarter-acre or smaller, according to Lou Mercantini, co-owner of R A Grooms & Sons in Hightstown. “On a small piece of property, you’d easily cut the yard on one charge and be able to do the weed–whacking and trimming,” says Mercantini. An optional trimming attachment or mulching kit helps you tackle all your yard work in one shot.

Cutting Corners
Got trees? Toro’s TimeCutter Z zero-turning-radius mower can handle them, along with most other mowing obstacles. Taking its cue from commercial mower technology, the TimeCutter Z uses two levers—one on the left, one on the right—and independent rear wheels to provide excellent maneuverability.

“You could be sitting on the machine, push one handle, pull the other, and spin around 180 degrees,” says Halkias. “It cuts your mowing time way down, plus your maneuverability increases.” A rear-engine design opens up the front for better visibility, so you can spot what’s coming (flower beds, golf balls, the neighbor’s cat) and swerve accordingly. In addition to efficient cutting, the TimeCutter Z offers comfort, too. As you mow, enjoy the adjustable seat and footrest, and keep a cold beverage handy in the built-in cup holder.

Tricked-out Tractor
The Husqvarna YTH1842 rides as smoothly as it mows, with a 42-inch cutting width and six height adjustments. Like the Toro TimeCutter, it doesn’t skimp on the important stuff—note the comfortable seat and convenient cup holder—but this heavy-duty mower also has an 18-horsepower engine and a cast-iron front axle for maximum mowing power and durability. “This is a good-quality machine for somebody who’s got a large residential lot of about an acre,” says Jeff Finch, a partner at South Jersey Outdoor Power Equipment in West Berlin. And optional accessories, such as a snow blower and pull-behind dump cart, mean this tractor works year-round.