my lawn is too long - help me
May 28, 2004 7:40 AM   Subscribe

What do you do when the lawn gets so long your mower can't possibly cut through it?
posted by TurkishGolds to Home & Garden (29 answers total)
Buy a goat?
posted by JollyWanker at 7:42 AM on May 28, 2004

Response by poster: Also, is it safe to assume that I can just put regular unleaded gas in the mower? It's not mine, it came with the apartment, none of the other tenents know anything about it. I'd classify it as a reqular-old mower (i.e. red, pull the cord to start it, safety bar that's been disabled, etc). I've heard talk of mowers needing a gas/oil mixture, but no manual is available and nothing is written on the mower itself. Unfortunatly, I don't know what make/model it is off the top of my head.
posted by TurkishGolds at 7:43 AM on May 28, 2004

Hack it down with big shears or a scythe, to a mowable level?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:48 AM on May 28, 2004

If the lawn is too high to mow, why are you concerned about what gas to put in the mower?

Anyway, in answer to your question, let your landlord worry about it.
posted by mischief at 7:48 AM on May 28, 2004

Well, you can almost certainly get through it by mowing slowly. Advance the mower a few inches at a time, or lift the front of the mower, advance a bit, and slowly lower it down. Pretty tedious.

Certainly easier, you could call a professional. If I don't get to my yard I can usually find someone to mow it for $30 or so. They have very powerful mowers and never seem to care how tall the grass is. My brief experience with the Massachusetts economy, however, makes me fear that your bill will quadruple what I pay here in Virginia.

Also, is it dry? Cutting wet grass is really hard on a mower.
posted by mragreeable at 7:49 AM on May 28, 2004

I'd go for the scythe, shears are much more work. Make sure to keep it really sharp though (and don't get your legs or anyone else's in the way).
posted by fvw at 7:50 AM on May 28, 2004

Lawn mowers take gas. Unleaded should be fine. Weed wackers take the gas/oil mix you mentioned.

You can start with a weed wacker and then go down to the mower.
posted by onhazier at 8:06 AM on May 28, 2004

Scythe? No way. Use a weed-whacker.
posted by LionIndex at 8:08 AM on May 28, 2004

posted by LionIndex at 8:08 AM on May 28, 2004

We do a variety of things. This happens to us pretty much every year around this time. For walking paths and such we usually weedwhack the parts we need to get through, then mow it. The other parts we mow using the slow technique mragreeable mentions. There are two things to know about this technique:

1) it works much better if your blades are sharp and/or free of old dried grass
2) you'll need to rake up all the grass that gets cut down because it will be thick and lay over your new short grass and kill it

If you have the means, I'd recommend hiring someone to do the first pass with a really good mower. They will do it much faster than you and they will have better tools. The $30-50 range works here in Vermont too, and that's for a pretty long and biggish lawn. Here are some more lawnmower tips. Ours takes regular old unleaded gasoline.
posted by jessamyn at 8:10 AM on May 28, 2004

For most lawn mowers made since the 70's, any unleaded gas is fine. If you try to add oil to the mixture, you'll fowl the plug and worse. A few few lawn mowers have 2 cycle engines like chainsaws and string trimmers. Those do require an oil and gas mixture. But, most mowers have a 4 cycle engine and much like a car, they have a seperate oiling system... So, that's the question, what type of engine does it have?

Speaking of gas powered string trimmer, that's your best bet. You can rent one for about $15-20 a day. That'll go thru tall grass like nobody's business. For really, really tall grass and brush, there are special walk-behind mowers you can rent that will literally clear your property clean.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 8:14 AM on May 28, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks a lot for that link, jessamyn. This is exactly the type of project that I need right now. I'm going to do everything on that list -- none of it is too complicated at all, but it'll be enough to get my hands dirty.
posted by TurkishGolds at 8:17 AM on May 28, 2004

Get the most macho of your ape friends around, drink some beer near the offending lawn, wait till one brings it up, tell them you should cut it but that its too much of a struggle with your mower. One of them is bound to prove that it is possible.
posted by biffa at 8:17 AM on May 28, 2004

Response by poster: No biffa. I'm the macho ape that's going to prove it's possible. And thanks to jessamyn's link I'm going to sharpen the blade, change the oil, clean the air filter, and maybe take a look at the plug, making myself look all that much more macho to my technically inept friends.
posted by TurkishGolds at 8:23 AM on May 28, 2004

I like Biffa's solution, but whether you dupe your friends or hire some guy with a big mower for $30, either way you're much better off to get someone else to do that first pass.

Nothing wrong with mowing your own lawn, in principle, but a regular mower just isn't built to handle that amount of grass. Even if you don't really care about the machine, you're setting yourself up for a lot of pointless grief.

(On preview, though, if you're intent on the whole "Captain Ahab" approach--that's cool. Everyone needs to pointlessly drive some obsession into the ground once in a while, just to prove "Logic's not the boss of me!")
posted by LairBob at 8:28 AM on May 28, 2004

My sister just did this yesterday.

Her lawnmower was in the shop for repair. Then it rained too often to mow. So when she finally got around to it, the grass was so tall that the dogs (big dogs) could get lost in it. Really.

It took her about 3 hours to do half the lawn. It's a small lawn. The mower is a mulching mower, so it keeps the cut grass inside, above the mower blade, until it is cut into little itty bitty pieces. This means, of course, that it clogged repeatedly.

Also, with the tall grass, there were unexpected surprises. With three dogs, big piles of poop are neither surprising nor unexpected, but they can be dramatic when hurled by a mower. That might be why the neighbors put up a fence. I guess it was either that or paint their house brown.

No, by "unexpected surprises," I mean things that shouldn't have been there. Like the stuffed bear toy thing. Wow, it looks really cool to see stuffed bear come out of a mower. It creates a snow-like effect. There was also a screwdriver. Not cool. Fortunately, it chose to impale itself in the house wall, rather than in a person, pet, or a window. Yeah, then there were a couple of bones, and tennis balls, and something else -- i know not what -- that made a helluva racket banging around inside the mower before a cloud of yellow dust came flying out.

The poor mower did not survive the abuse. It's back in the shop. The lawn is half mowed.

I'm really looking forward to the continuation of the mowing. I know that somewhere in the back yard is a rotting carcass of a deer that my brother-in-law shot back in December and just never got around to cleaning (yeah, he likes to kill critters, says it's puttin food on the table, but he really doesn't like to clean them - which is why there were dead poultry in the back of his truck for months, and why I found fish swimming in their bathtub one day). My sister is stubborn, determined, and not too observant. I've got to be there when mower hits deer. I'll even take a vacation day from work for it. Maybe pick up a six-pack.

Anyway, she tells me that one of the dogs has gone missing. It's probably out there chewing on that deer.

Hopefully it'll move out of the way when the mower comes.
posted by yesster at 9:06 AM on May 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

Check that the oil's up, if its an old mower you don't know the history of.

(also, check this link out)
posted by sleslie at 9:10 AM on May 28, 2004

A high-wheel mower would be worth considering if the yard's big. I use one to mow a meadow with three foot grass and weeds twice a year. Equipment rental places have them. It'd be overkill for a small plot, though. For a small plot a string-trimmer or scythe would be better.
posted by TimeFactor at 10:17 AM on May 28, 2004

Our grass is also wheat-field-like this spring from all the rain we've had, but we were able to to a creditable job on the front lawn just by setting our mower up as high as it would go (4-inches). Our mower is a mid-range Toro (6.75 hp, with rear-wheel self-propel drive).

I had been contemplating calling a landscaper or lawn service if the mower had not been effective.

As to the gasoline issue, you might also want to put some gas stabilizer in your gas can to keep the gas from turning into gunk. DON'T put the stabilizer directly in the gas tank of your mower.
posted by briank at 11:03 AM on May 28, 2004

I used to mow my parents' big yard every week or so, and sometimes when I got lazy for a week, I would have to deal with this.

My solution was simple, and it worked every time: you push down on the handle, and basically you make the mower do a "wheelie" on its two back wheels. What you have in front of you now is a spinning metal mouth of death. Depending on the height of the grass, either do a low wheelie and then push straight ahead, maintaining the same angle, or bring the mower up and down in a light bouncing motion as you go forward, never letting the front wheels touch the ground. Of course, you have to then go back and mow the lawn again, the normal way.

And the lawnmower I used...this was in the late 80s...took a gas and oil mixture. I measured it out carefully each time. I don't know why you guys are being so casual with all the "just go ahead and use pure gasoline" advice. Google the model number and find out for sure.
posted by bingo at 11:34 AM on May 28, 2004

Weed wacker . . . that's so lame. You should totally go for the scythe. How cool would that be? Get a big black cloak to wear while you're doing it, you know?
posted by aladfar at 12:43 PM on May 28, 2004


If you opt to use a scythe, I'll treat you to coffee or a beer in town if you let me come take some pictures. :-)
posted by sequential at 1:20 PM on May 28, 2004

yesster, honey! you never fail to make me laugh!
posted by Stars Kitten at 2:19 PM on May 28, 2004

Response by poster: sequential, I'd love to, but I don't know how to get my hands on one. I think that I'm going to try bingo's solution -- would pictures of the mower doing a wheelie qualify?
posted by TurkishGolds at 2:43 PM on May 28, 2004

I like the scythe idea but IIRC they're tricky to learn to use. The blade has to be really sharp for them to work properly, and then it's easy to cut your legs. (Hmmm, google turns up more hits than I expected.)

Speaking of self-injury, Turkish, be sure to wear some eye protection if you use a mower.

(Also I want to secod bingo: the last power mower I used, in the late 80s, had a 2-cycle gas-and-oil-mixture engine.)
posted by hattifattener at 6:48 PM on May 28, 2004

yesster, do you think they're consciously mimicking the classic Dogs in Elk Carcass?
posted by NortonDC at 7:52 PM on May 28, 2004

Bingo's idea ROCKS!
I also used to mow at myt old job where it was on a major 4-lane road. So much shit got thrown onto that lawn that I'm surprised I didn't get impaled.
posted by jmd82 at 8:02 PM on May 28, 2004

You could try renting a sickle bar mower.
posted by crunchland at 11:46 PM on May 28, 2004

French Braid it.
posted by y2karl at 5:42 PM on May 29, 2004

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