Which is better: A Rotary or Cylinder Lawn Mower?

We all want to have the nicest looking lawn around. Everyone expectation is well-manicured lawn, and for that, you will require a good lawn mower. A lawn mower is one of the most important tools that are needed to grow and keep a lawn successfully. Often, the lawn is the largest area of the garden and as such, having the best quality lawnmower that suits your garden size and your grass needs is vital.

Homeowners and landscapers must consider several things when choosing between the major types of lawn mowers, i.e., rotary mowers and cylinder mowers. The choice will be informed by how the lawn is used, the type of grass, the size and shape of terrain to be mowed, and how often the lawn requires mowing.

Cylinder Lawn Mower-How it works

A cylinder mower has anywhere between three to seven cylindrical blades that rotate vertically to trap and slice grass against a fixed bottom plate. This produces a shearing action inside the grass box, and the more the blades, the better the cut. The grass box is located at the front of the mower. Cylinder mowers are best suited for flat lawns that you want to keep short and immaculately manicured.

The scissors-like action is very effective and provided that the grass is not wet or too long; it cuts the grass very cleanly, leaving a much healthier lawn. Also, it rolls your lawn as you mow, leaving behind a beautiful flat finish with stripes. However, the blades are easily damaged so you may want to ensure that the lawn is free from debris and small stones. They also have a hard time chopping twigs and winter weeds.

Because a cylinder mower cuts the grass very short, the blades are likely to scalp, cutting the roots and the soil. As such you should ensure that the lawn surface is absolutely level before you can use a cylinder mower.

Cylinder lawnmowers can be petrol-powered, electric or even push mowers which are also commonly referred to as reel mowers. There are also, pulled mowers which are towed by tractors such as those used for golf courses.

Rotary Lawn Mower-How it works

Rotary lawn mowers are designed with one high speed rotating blade that chops grass on impact due to its speed. Most have the grass box behind, but some will have an integral grass box. The blade cuts in a horizontal position, and it works best on medium to high cut, but most can handle most type of grass. Also, they are better at cutting rougher and longer grass. Rotary mowers are designed to cut grass over 1/2″ which means any irregularities on the surface will not be visible.

Typically, rotary blades spin at around 3000 rpm, and when sharpened regularly they can deliver a clean cut. However, most mower owners tend to overlook this aspect resulting in blunt blades that do not cut grass cleaning, usually bruising it.

The rotary design is simple making it common in most domestic lawnmowers. A rotary mower can be powered by a petrol engine, rechargeable battery or the mains electric.

Comparing cylinder lawn mower to rotary lawn mower

i. Cut quality

The slicing/scissor-like cutting action of a cylinder lawn mower gives it the advantage of cutting very short without losing the cut quality. A cylinder mower can cut as low as 3/16″ without compromising the cut quality. If properly maintained, this type of action is superior to the chopping action of a rotary mower. A rotary mower, on the other hand, uses the sharp blades and sufficient power to produce a sufficiently good cut.

ii. Height adjustment on the mower

The range and type of height adjustment is one of the major difference between cylinder mowers and rotary mowers. As mentioned, a cylinder mower can slice as low as 3/16″ which can be adjusted to about an inch without impacting on the mowing quality as much. Rotary mowers, on the other hand, don’t work as much below 1/2″ but the mowing height can be raised up to 4″ without affecting the quality of the cut.

The narrow height adjustment range on cylinder mowers translates to frequent mowing in the growing season to conform to the ‘one-third rule.’ The rule requires that at any one cut, you should never remove more than one-third of the grass lead. This enables you to mow correctly and cut the grass evenly.

Since rotary mowers will cut no lower than 1/2″ the lawn can grow longer before the next cut, probably once a week during the growing season. You can adjust your mower for a longer cut, but you should be careful not to compromise visibility. Also, rotary blades mow closer to flower bed edges, meaning you may not need to do edging afterward.

iii. Mower maintenance

Cylinder mower blades require precise and periodic adjustment to maintain cut quality. If poorly done, it can result in an inferior cut as the mower tends to ‘chew’ the grass far worse than a blunt rotary mower. For this reason, a cylinder mower is designed for serious lawn enthusiasts who are mechanically minded. The blades also need to be regularly sharpened, typically annually for homeowners. Blunt blades will result in shoddy job, or might even damage grass making it more susceptible to diseases.

Rotary mowers require minimal maintenance in terms of sharpening the blades, which is much easier than cylinder mower blades. Gas-powered models require annual maintenance in the form of oil changes, plug replacement, and air filter replacement.

iv. Noise levels

Manual cylinder mowers virtually make no noise, so you don’t have to worry about disrupting your neighbors. Any electric or gas-powered will produce sound, and further they are not friendly to the environment as they require energy in form of fossil fuels.

Which type of lawn mower is for me; Rotary mower or Cylinder mower?

Rotary and cylinder mowers are essential for your lawn care maintenance routine, and often you will find both of them in the toolkit of any serious landscaper.

Most landscapers will use a rotary mower first to clear winter weeds and twigs, and then a cylinder mower to create a clean and manicured lawn throughout the season.

Generally, cylinder mowers are more sensitive than rotary mowers, and much care is needed when setting them up to get the best out of your lawn. They deliver superior quality when well operated and properly maintained.

Rotary mowers, on the other hand, are a better choice for amateur gardeners who are probably not aiming for a cut shorter than one inch. Provided that the blade is sharpened, a rotary mower is very effective and sufficient for most home lawns.

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