Reel mowers offer very little noise and no nasty smells. Plus, they are more than just environmentally friendly; they are also easy on the wallet with no gas, electricity or annual servicing costs.
Users compare mowing with a reel mower to an aerobic workout, though many say they enjoy the exercise. Extra work is also required before and after mowing. Sticks and twigs must be picked up beforehand, and the clippings may need to be raked. Plan on mowing every four days to keep grass from getting too high for the reel mower to cut.
The Fiskars StaySharp Max 6201 (Est. $200) garners more reviews than any other reel mower, and most say it's the best on the market. Reviewers report that it delivers a more powerful cut and is easier to push than its competitors, thanks to a design that puts the large wheels behind the reel.
Because the five blades don't touch each other, the StaySharp Max 6201 is extra quiet -- many owners consider this one of its best perks. This also means the blades don't get dull like they do on standard reel mowers; Fiskars says they should last the life of the mower and only require occasional backlapping (a special way of sharpening reel mowers) if the blades begin to wear.
The StaySharp can cut as high as 4 inches. A simple lever adjusts the mowing height quickly. Users say it struggles with grass over six inches or thick weeds. "The mower will not cut tall lawn blades and weeds but instead bends them over and they pop back up as the mower passes over them," explains an owner at CleanAirGardening.com." Otherwise, "the mower cuts extremely well and the mower blades are sharp," the same owner adds.
For a more basic reel mower, owners find the Scotts Classic 2000-20 (Est. $130) a good pick. It's lightweight, inexpensive and takes up little space when stored. It isn't up to tackling unruly yards or weedy lots, but users say it does a good job when used every four days or so to maintain a small lawn.