The most important thing in your garage
If you care about the outward appearance of your home, you'll want to start with a well-maintained lawn. To get that emerald green, you'll need the right tools for the job, starting with a lawn mower. There are many options available, and your choice will depend mostly on your budget, the size of your lawn and how much you enjoy mowing.
The simplest, most economical style of mower is a manual reel mower. This type of mower uses blades on a revolving cylinder to cut the grass. The shearing action of the blades cuts the grass cleaner than a rotary power mower, but a reel mower isn't as good at handling long grass or tough weeds. If you don't attend to your lawn maintenance regularly, a reel mower isn't for you.
Power mowers come in gas or electric varieties. An electric lawn mower may be a good compromise if you are concerned about the environment but don't want the workout of a reel mower. Electric mowers are available in reel or rotary styles, and you can get them with cords, batteries or both. (Lawn mower batteries can typically last for 3,000 square feet before needing recharging.) Gas mowers are more powerful and easier to get around a large yard or any obstacles. Either way, if you have any hills in your yard, be sure to get a self-propelled mower to help you up the slopes.
Finally, in most cases, a mulching mower is preferable to a bagged model. The grass clippings will decompose back into the soil, acting as natural fertilizer. As a bonus, there's no bag to empty.
Serious Machines for Serious Lawns
If you have more lawn than time, you might be considering a riding lawn mower. It costs a lot more and takes more room to store, but it will make cutting the grass a breeze. Conventional riding mowers can go about 4 mph and need up to 2 feet to make a turn. Zero-turning-radius mowers maneuver more nimbly around turns and trees, saving you time, and can go up to 9 mph depending on the model. They cost at least twice as much, though.
The main difference between a riding mower and a lawn tractor is engine placement: A riding mower has a rear engine, whereas a lawn tractor has its engine in the front. Lawn tractors also have bigger wheels and more horsepower, making them better for rough terrain. Some even come with four-wheel-drive options. They can also pull a utility cart or push a dozer blade. On the other hand, the 18-inch turning radius of a lawn tractor makes for poor maneuverability.
Garden tractors take things one step further. They have even more power and more options. A garden tractor can pull a cultivator, tiller or thatcher, and it can do double duty in the winter as a snowplow. If your yard is more of a hobby farm, you might need one of these.
Keeping Your Lawn Mower Running
Regardless of your choice of mower, be sure to keep it well maintained. The lawn mower blades will need occasional sharpening. They don't need to be razor-sharp, just filed enough to smooth out any nicks and dents. A mower that is having trouble starting may need a new spark plug or a clean carburetor.
Beyond these basics, lawn mower repair requires a knowledge of small engines. Lawn mower parts are easy to order online, as long as you know what you need. Otherwise, check with your local hardware store – many offer lawn mower tune-up and repair services.