When we first moved to this house, the biggest job in the garden was keeping the lawns mowed. It was winter, so the grass was long and lush, and it seemed as if my partner was out there every weekend trying to keep it under control. We didn’t own a mower at that point, so we had borrowed an old one from relatives. It had a pull cord to start it, two stroke to fuel it, broke down more than it worked, and my partner seemed to spend more time violently swearing at it than he did mowing the lawn. The edge trimmer was even worse.
Standing on the deck holding the baby and watching this was hilarious.
After a few weeks of this, he finally reached the snapping point and wanted a new mower and trimmer. We had barely any money in our budget, but new tools were probably going to be cheaper than the required counselling sessions if I made him keep using the old ones.
Once the decision was made, we had to decide what type of mower and trimmer to buy. At the time I had been flipping through a book in the library that recommended getting rid of lawns around the home to improve your environmental impact. This seemed counter intuitive to me, but the book went on to explain that the amount of energy used to maintain them more than outweighed any environmental benefit to having them. With two young children we didn’t want to convert their play area into a hard surface or cover it with plastic grass, so it was time for better alternatives.
Initially we were looking at an electric lawn mower and an electric trimmer. These options seemed better than the petrol ones, because we wouldn’t have the hassle of jerrycans and trips to the petrol station to fill them. When we got to the store, we discovered that not only did they have electric mowers, they also had push mowers. The push mower was tiny compared to the mower we had been using, and the lack of an engine meant that it was light weight and easier to move.
I’d like to claim that it was environmental diligence that inspired us to buy the push mower, but it was our budget. At less than half the price of the mowers we were initially looking at, a push mower and electric trimmer combination meant that we could afford both, while staying with the more common petrol equivalents would have meant we could only afford one.
The reaction from friends and family when they heard that we had bought a push mower was pure astonishment. We were told by many people that we’d be back to a regular mower within weeks. Strangers have stopped on the footpath to watch my partner, amazed that our pathetic little mower works so well. Thanks to our push mower, we got to know some of our neighbours, and we’ve built a reputation of being amazing gardeners as a result. One guy said our lawn looked so good that he wanted a bit of grass to try growing it at his place, so we switched from the edge trimmer that weekend to a shovel and he happily took home some of the grass roots that had grown out over the footpath.
Despite its many benefits, there are a few disadvantages to the push mower. Obviously the power that we get out of it is the power that we literally push into it. If we let the grass grow too long then it doesn’t cut as well as it does with more frequent cutting. Weeds can also be a problem if they are supple enough to flex around the blades, and if we push over something long it can wrap around the cutting bits and they get stuck.
We made that purchase about a year ago now, and we have no intention of going back to a petrol mower or trimmer. The drawbacks are negligible or easily solved, and the switch to something that gives us healthy exercise while being quieter and cleaner more than outweighs the negatives.
If you’re playing along at home…
…have you found any techniques to reduce the amount of fossil fuels that you use to maintain your garden? Please share what worked and didn’t work for you in the comments below.