If they tell you your mower doesn’t need regular servicing, ignore them!

I sometimes think that the most troublesome piece of lawn care equipment is – yes, that’s right, the mower. And I know this sounds odd and maybe you’re thinking I’ve finally flipped – but give me a minute or two and it will all become clear.

Let me start by refining this –  I don’t mean ALL mowers, just the rotary varieties. And it’s not really the mower itself that is to blame…

You see, first we had the cylinder mower, with two opposing blades; a brilliant invention, perfect for the job of cutting grass cleanly. But they’re complex, so little wonder that a simpler alternative came chasing its heels, the rotary mower. But the simplicity of its key design feature – the single blade – is the reason we take them too much for granted.

Simple it may be, but you can never cut as cleanly with a single blade flying round at high speed. Two opposing blades are always better – just ask your hairdresser! So to help us compensate, our canny mower manufacturers have gone to town making the modern rotary mower really easy to use. After all, ‘convenience’ sells in our modern busy times!

This has fed the misconception that the rotary mower is almost a maintenance-free machine.

For example, at one of my lectures, a well-respected company was showing off its range of mowers. And when asked about sharpening the blade on the rotary models, the sales rep suggested that “once a year should do it.”

Now, if you are a regular reader of my articles you will know that I am forever reminding people to sharpen their mower blades several times a year. And with strange advice like this coming from a manufacturer, I’m clearly going to have to keep pushing this one home!

There are other things too which help to keep your petrol rotary in proper working order – and even if the owner’s manual doesn’t tell you to do these, I am!

You see, my hunch is that the people who write the manuals are engineers, not gardeners. They may bench test their machines, but maybe they don’t take them into the real world and run them for a year to find out how they fare. And this means they don’t see the deterioration of the cut – the damage to the lawn – when the mower isn’t kept in the condition its designers intended.

So, the best solution is to maintain a strict mower-servicing schedule. You can send yours off to a reputable dealer or learn to do it yourself. But either way put it in your diary and stick to it. Once a year is sufficient for most people – or even every other year if you have a small lawn.

The main items in a petrol mower service are changes of filter, oil and spark plug. If you do want to do this yourself, it’s not difficult and you should be able to find the right parts. However, one thing that a good dealer can also do is to check each and every cable, bolt and pin. Not many of us would even know where all these are!

What’s that? Yours is an electric mower? Don’t think that lets you off the hook! When did you last check the full length of the lead in minute detail? And just how many moving parts are there that can get caked in dirt and risk seizing up? And of course there’s the blade….

Which brings us full circle back to my hobbyhorse – mower blades. For these, don’t wait for your annual service. Along with aeration, keeping your blade sharp at all times is one of the most important things you can do to keep your lawn in good condition. Heed a saying: The only cutting tool that grows keener with constant use is a sharp tongue!