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Lawn mower advice
Old 07-11-2019, 03:53 PM   #1
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Lawn mower advice

We finally moved into our new house recently, and I would like to purchase a mower for the yard. I hadn't planned on mowing the lawns since we mowed from an area of California, where the average summer highs were around 82 degrees, to an area outside of Austin, Texas, where the average summer highs are around 96 degrees and much more humid.

But the cost of lawn mowing every two weeks runs about $40 per mow in this area for a house on a lot that is 70'x130' (9,100 sq ft.). So, I've decided to give it a shot. If I change my mind after a summer/fall of doing it, I figured I will have saved enough to have paid for the lawn mower.

I've narrowed down my choices to gas-powered, self-propelled mowers. I used to have a standard push mower in the past, but between the heat, the uneven nature of lawns in this area, and a bit of sloping, I figured a self-propelled mower would be beneficial.

But the question of front drive vs rear drive leaves me stumped. I understand that a rear drive mower would help with the sloping and uneven lawns, but they also seem less maneuverable. It also should be noted that nearly everyone (lawn service or home owner) mulches their lawns. It is rare for me to see anyone bagging their lawn clippings. In California, we almost always bagged our clippings and put those into a yard debris recycling bin. I wonder if the nature of the hard soil in Texas benefits from constant mulching.

Any suggestions?
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:15 PM   #2
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I'm down the road from you a few miles and have 35+ years experience mowing in central TX.

I recommend a rear drive mower. Front drives are really difficult (for me) to maneuver, especially on a slope. You have to lift up on the handle to get traction, awkward vs pressing down on a rear drive. No need to bag your clippings unless you don't mow frequently enough to prevent the length/volume of clippings to be a problem. Waste of time and soil nutrients.

(I'm guessing you live in the Georgetown area...)
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:19 PM   #3
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I've never understood why anyone would buy (let alone manufacture) a front-wheel drive lawn mower, especially one with a grass catcher. As the grass bag fills, weight shifts to the rear, and the front gets lighter reducing traction on front wheel drive. This makes no sense to me. Admittedly I've never owned a front wheel drive mower for that reason. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Anyway, if your yard has any slope at all and if you're even thinking of bagging clippings, you'll want a rear drive mower. I didn't notice that the rear wheel drive mowers that I had were hard to maneuver, but they were higher end machines that had a clutch to let the outside wheel in a turn freewheel. That is, the drive shaft had some type of "differential" in it to let one wheel go faster when turning.

And as one who has pushed a mower, both powered and "Armstrong" reel mowers in 90+ degree heat, yes, you will definitely want a self-propelled mower.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:22 PM   #4
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Just my 2 cents: My yard is a little bigger than yours, but I keep choosing the push mower over a self-propelled one. To me, pushing the mower in a straight line seems like only a tiny bit more effort than walking (especially as I always get the high-wheeled model--well worth it). The "hassle" is in making the turns, maneuvering around DWs frequent and annoying beautiful beds and plantings, etc. The extra weight and complexity of a self-propelled mower (which impedes rather than assists with the turns/switchbacks/maneuvering) just seems to be "another thing." It won't speed up the job, which is what I'd really like.
Mulching is the way to go, but I wouldn't buy a mower that can't also bag and discharge. If the lawn gets away from me (I'm out of town for a week, etc), it is very nice to be able to spread the clippings out for that first mow and then mulch the next time. I only bag if we need the clippings (to make compost. etc).
I'll be interested in what folks have to say about self-propelled mowers.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:34 PM   #5
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I have always bought push gas mowers though do also have a reel mower. Toro and Honda. I recently couldn't resist buying a (barely) used top-of-the-line Toro with rear-wheel drive and electric start. My mom's 1980 2-cycle Toro had gassed me for long enough - I gave it to my neighbor who took it to his hunt camp! I have quite a hilly lot with lots of beds and trees. After using it for 6 weeks I have to agree with samclem that the added weight is a pain and negatively affects maneuverability. It does give a beautiful cut. Mulch mainly but after a big wind and in the fall it is nice to be able to bag leaves.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:42 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by REWahoo View Post
I'm down the road from you a few miles and have 35+ years experience mowing in central TX.

I recommend a rear drive mower. Front drives are really difficult (for me) to maneuver, especially on a slope. You have to lift up on the handle to get traction, awkward vs pressing down on a rear drive. No need to bag your clippings unless you don't mow frequently enough to prevent the length/volume of clippings to be a problem. Waste of time and soil nutrients.

(I'm guessing you live in the Georgetown area...)
Northern part of Leander.

The slope here isn't that great, but the Bermuda grass sod in these new house builds is so uneven. Maybe the ground will level off over time. I was used to tall bladed Fescue grass and the like in California with very smooth ground, although that grass needed to be cut often during the warm weather months and even occasionally during the winter.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:43 PM   #7
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I bought a front drive mower. The rationale (Walt34 ), was that as you move around with it, all you have to do is pick up the front wheels to disengage the drive wheels. This works very well for a flat, rectangle yard where you go down one strip and then turn 180 degrees and do the next strip and so on. Unfortunately, I don’t have such a lawn and I hate my fwd mower. If you have a lawn where actual navigation of your mower that is needed, rear wheel drive works better.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:56 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by samclem View Post
Just my 2 cents: My yard is a little bigger than yours, but I keep choosing the push mower over a self-propelled one. To me, pushing the mower in a straight line seems like only a tiny bit more effort than walking (especially as I always get the high-wheeled model--well worth it). The "hassle" is in making the turns, maneuvering around DWs frequent and annoying beautiful beds and plantings, etc. The extra weight and complexity of a self-propelled mower (which impedes rather than assists with the turns/switchbacks/maneuvering) just seems to be "another thing." It won't speed up the job, which is what I'd really like.
+1, totally agree with samclem on this. I have a self-propelled mower, and I also have a (lightweight) regular push mower. I find myself using the regular push more most of the time, for the reasons you mentioned. The extra weight of the self-propelled mower is a problem, especially when trying to maneuver around obstacles or back up (which is often, where I mow). I decided a few years ago that whenever I need a new mower, I'm just going to buy the lightest-weight regular mower that I can find, as that is what works best for my yard, and other yards that I mow.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:56 PM   #9
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The slope here isn't that great, but the Bermuda grass sod in these new house builds is so uneven. Maybe the ground will level off over time. I was used to tall bladed Fescue grass and the like in California with very smooth ground, although that grass needed to be cut often during the warm weather months and even occasionally during the winter.
Yes, the uneven surface will gradually improve.

Expect your last mowing of the year around Thanksgiving, your first around St Patrick's day and less frequent mowing during the heat of summer.
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:02 PM   #10
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I have always had front wheel drives, so can’t comment on performance compared to rear wheel. I find it helpful to just apply a small pressure on handle to disengage the drive.

I would suggest the large rear wheel type. Makes it easier to push when I don’t use the powered drive.

For what it matters, I live in northern VA where we get lots of heat in July and Aug (right now for example)

Just wanted to provid another perspective.
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:41 PM   #11
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I couldn't decide whether to get front or rear drive self-propelled mower, so I blew some dough on a Husqvarna all wheel drive. One minor issue I've recently encountered is that before pulling in reverse I have to first continue moving forward a little when I release the drive handle, otherwise the wheels lock up.
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:59 PM   #12
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I couldn't decide whether to get front or rear drive self-propelled mower, so I blew some dough on a Husqvarna all wheel drive. One minor issue I've recently encountered is that before pulling in reverse I have to first continue moving forward a little when I release the drive handle, otherwise the wheels lock up.
I have a Husqvarna rear wheel drive and find the same "feature" Have to move forward a little bit to disengage the drive and then pull back. Half the time I get PO'd and just drag the damn thing back with the wheels locked. Other than that a great mower.



On the RWD vs FWD I've owned both and its no comparison if there are any hilly areas to be mowed RWD has it all over FWD for this application. On a perfectly level lawn probably easier with a FWD as you push down on the handle and change direction with the front wheels spinning on the air.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:04 PM   #13
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I'm down the road from you a few miles and have 35+ years experience mowing in central TX.
I'm in New Orleans and have 23+ years experience not mowing in this part of the country. (I did mow in Texas for 12+ years, true! But that is part of what persuaded me to quit mowing.)

Personally I hate mowing and I think it is hideous and sweaty and stinky, uses great gobs of free time of which we all have precious little, and even causes heart attacks sometimes. I can't for the life of me think of any better use for my money than to hire a lawn guy.
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Old 07-12-2019, 06:18 AM   #14
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I had a RWD Toro for year at our first home. It was a great mower. It propelled as fast or slow as you wanted to go based on the pressure you applied to the drive bar on the handle. For our small lot it was a perfect mower (~1/4 acre). When we moved to our new home I went with a Toro Z-Master Pro zero turn with a 60 deck. I love that machine! We have a lot of grass and I can get it done in under 2 hours (~2.5 acres). It was expensive but I really enjoy my time cruising around the yard and listening to podcasts.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:13 AM   #15
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My main mower is a big 60-inch zero turn since I have 2+ acres I mow. But I also have a small rwd high wheel Husqvarna with the Honda engine for some areas the big mower does not fit or trimming near the drainage ditch. For sure the self propelled is worth it. Agree that rwd is better as several have suggested.
I never use the bag, just mulch all the time.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:13 AM   #16
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A self propelled rear wheel drive mulching mower with an aluminum deck is great for almost all applications here in Texas. I am not aware of any that do not also come with a bag attachment. I like Honda mowers myself. Our weather can be hot and humid, and I would be wringing wet in about 15 minutes using a push or reel type mower. Keep the blade sharp and mow weekly and it will do a terrific a job for you.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:22 AM   #17
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A couple of questions about the rear wheel drive models. Can the drive be disengaged on most models, and are they difficult to maneuver with the drive disengaged? We have grass up to the fence line in the back yard and up to the house on the sides, so being able to maneuver around this would help.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:24 AM   #18
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I had a RWD Toro for year at our first home. It was a great mower. It propelled as fast or slow as you wanted to go based on the pressure you applied to the drive bar on the handle. For our small lot it was a perfect mower (~1/4 acre).
Thanks for that. I've been tempted by the 30" twin-blade Toro Timecutter self-propelled mower. It's pricey (about $1000!) but I'm skilled at rationalizing such things ("If I keep it 10 years, that's 300 mowing sessions. If the wider cut saves me 30 minutes from my 1.5 hour regular session, that's 150 hours saved in mowing. This mower is $800 more than a regular 21" pusher, so that time savings will cost me $5/hour. Bargain!"). Still, I wondered if the self-pacing walk speed contraption was troublesome (apparently it works okay). It's still a very heavy mower, though, and the turns/short back-and-forth bits under the low tree boughs, etc wouldn't be fun.
My best use of time would be to fix the layout of the yard to reduce the troublesome little hard-to-mow areas.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:30 AM   #19
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A couple of questions about the rear wheel drive models. Can the drive be disengaged on most models, and are they difficult to maneuver with the drive disengaged? We have grass up to the fence line in the back yard and up to the house on the sides, so being able to maneuver around this would help.
For Honda mowers the answer is yes and no.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:43 AM   #20
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I guess I'm the only one in the FWD camp. I always had trouble making the 180 degree turns at the end of a row with RWD, at least those with a latched-on drive system. The FWD is much easier to turn by comparison. Just put some weight on the handle and lift the front wheels off the ground. I suspect that if the mower required the operator to hold down a bar to engage the drive , it wouldn't make any difference. Being in flatland (flyover country), RWD's more powerful drive capability in hilly terrain was never an issue for me. Today, I drive a lawn tractor.
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