Sunday 11 December 2016

The green machines: The best lawnmowers on the market

From hand-push cylinders to robotic models, John Cradden cuts to the chase to find out the best 'mowers on the market today

John Cradden

Published 21/04/2016 | 02:30

Summer loving: Marie Nolan with her robotic lawnmower at her home in Navan. Photograph: Mark Condren
Summer loving: Marie Nolan with her robotic lawnmower at her home in Navan. Photograph: Mark Condren
The Al-Ko Soft Touch lawnmower.
Bosch Rotak 43 Li
The Bosch AHM 38G lawnmower.
Honda HRX 537 VYE
The Husqvarna 64 lawnmower.

If you've recently unearthed your trusty lawnmower from its winter hibernation only to discover that it's on its last legs and you need to upgrade, you might be a bit bewildered at the growing number of options in this particular (garden) field.

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The size, shape and the look of your lawn are probably the biggest single factors to consider when choosing a new mower.

Corded electric rotary or hover mowers remain a solid and easy-to-use choice for a small to medium-sized lawn, and can be bought fairly cheaply, but if you hate having to mess around with electric leads while mowing, there is a whole new breed of cordless machines powered by lithium-ion batteries that give similar power to corded electric machines and a far longer battery life than older NiCd ones.

You might have to pay around twice as much for an equivalent corded model, but some lawnmower makers make other garden tools like strimmers that can be powered by the same battery unit.

For larger lawns but also for tough grass or uneven surfaces, a petrol rotary mower makes for a better choice. The downside is their size and the fact that you'll have to service them every so often.

If you like your lawn to be super neat or stripy, cylinder mowers cut the grass like scissors to create a good finish, but you'll need to cut it very regularly as it won't cope well with long grass. Rotary models with rollers can give you the desirable stripy finish, however.

To collect or not collect is the other big question - more so for the smaller, cheaper rotary or hover models than the larger more expensive ones that would have them as standard - but a relatively new feature found on more machines (electric and petrol) is the ability to 'mulch' the grass clippings.

This enables the mower to recut the lawn clippings into tiny pieces and blow them back on to the lawn, where they break down and feed the grass. Some have a metal or plastic plate that blocks off the outlet to the grass collector, while others have a knob that converts quickly from collect to mulch. There are some models that can do both at the same time to varying degrees, such as the Honda HRX (see panel).

The Honda HRX is a self-propelled petrol rotary mower that starts at around €1,100, but it turns out to be the single best-selling mower out of Limerick-based Croom Cycles and Lawnmowers.

"It's not the cheapest mower; it's kind of expensive really," says owner Donal Hanly. "But if people are spending money, they are going to buy something good. You will either buy a small cheapy little thing that might last you a couple of years, or you might buy something like a Honda which you would expect to last you 15 years or more."

However, he adds that they sell more ride-on tractor mowers, with prices starting at €2,000, than they do walk-behind or push mowers.

But if getting out to mow the meadow feels like too much hard work or you're pushed for time, the new breed of robotic lawnmowers may be worth considering.

These trundling, tortoise-like machines are very smart, quiet and convenient, and do well in the green stakes, too. Many of the main lawnmower brands sell them now, including Honda, Flymo, Husqvarna, Al-Ko as well as specific brands like Robomow or Autolawnmow.

Sales of robotic lawnmowers have been huge in the US and continental Europe, but despite being available for nearly ten years, Ireland and Britain have some way to go before these machines are perceived as a niche or a luxury product.

Hanly has been selling robotic lawnmowers for the last three years, including the Honda model and the Robomow. He is selling around 25 of them a year so they represent a small percentage of his overall sales, but is growing as the technology improves.

The smallest and cheapest ones, such as the Robomow RC304, which starts at about €1,300 can do lawns of up to 400 square metres, but a few hundred quid more will buy one that can do up to 1,500sqm.

But to return to the other extreme - and only if you have a small lawn - it's also well worth considering buying a good quality hand-push cylinder mower, such as those made by Husqvarna, Bosch or AL-KO.

Not only are they completely emissions-free, cost nothing to run and are much quieter, the opportunity to get more of a fresh-air workout while mowing can't be a bad thing given the increasingly sedentary lifestyles we lead, particularly since you'll need to cut it more often than with powered types. And with less to go wrong, these machines can last 15-20 years or more with a bit of occasional maintenance.

Top buys: Lawnmowers

Husqvarna 64/ Bosch AHM 38G / Al-Ko Soft Touch

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A hand-push cylinder mower is by far the greenest option and a great alternative to a basic electric mower as long as you are reasonably fit and your garden is small and you are willing to cut at least once a week in the growing season. The Husqvarna 64 has four adjustable cutting heights and a collection box is an option, but it is quite expensive and not that widely available offline. But there are other hand push models out there that are nearly as good and probably a bit cheaper, such as from Bosch or AL-KO.

Buy: €140 or less

Bosch Rotak 43 Li

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This is a cordless rotary mower powered by a lithium-ion battery that is good for 40 minutes (equivalent to c600sqm) on a single charge. It includes a rear roller for the stripy garden wanna-bes, seven cutting heights and a 50-litre grass box. It's also fitted with grass combs and a roller to facilitate mowing up to and over the lawn edge.

Buy: €680 from Hardware Ireland.ie

Honda HRX 537 VYE

2016-04-21_lif_20148437_I4.JPG

This is a popular self-propelled petrol rotary mower with a very good mulching facility that can simultaneously distribute grass clippings both to the ground and into the bag, to varying degrees. Most mulching mowers can only either collect or mulch, but not both. You can also adjust the speed at which it propels itself, and also stop the blade rotating with engine still running. Comes with an 88-litre collector.

Buy: €1,099 from Croomcycles.ie

Irish Independent

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