Why am I still mowing my lawn? For the past 30 or so years I have had to push a lawn mower around a yard in some way, shape, or form. Granted, there were a few years in college where, when I was living in a dorm, I didn't have to do yard work. However, when I got a house, I naturally had to get a lawn mower, keep it filled with gas, change the oil, park it in the garage and, on occasion, take it in for repairs.
Just this past weekend I had to break out the lawn mower to mow my yard. Welcome to January in Texas. Where others were/are predicting record snow falls, I'm working out in the backyard. Surely there has got to be a better way.
My consideration of riding mowers was the first thing that popped into my head. They are faster and can cut more than a standard walk-behind mower. Riding mowers still require me to be present. I was hoping for a solution that would take "me" out of the lawn maintenance equation. Additionally, you still have to keep it filled with gas, change the oil, park it in the garage... and so on. The average cost of a new riding lawn mower starts at $1000.
Hiring somebody on a regular basis is another popular option. It's an option that takes "me" out of the equation and somebody else maintains the equipment. I figure $50-75 every other week would be the expected cost of services or $150 per month. From April to October that cost would be about $900 per year.
Before the technology was common place, farm animals were used to keep the grass tidy. Goats are currently being used in Chicago and San Fransisco airports to keep the areas around the runways trim.
I am not familiar with the livestock or farm animal ordinances in my area. However, owning two dogs and a cat are enough to keep me busy. And, I am not sure how our pet sitter would react to the notion of looking after a goat while we were away on vacation.
I have seen various versions of the self-propelled mower and a rope trick. Seems a bit unsafe, but it's not like the mower is moving that fast. I would imagine a few strategically placed trees might help with deploying this idea. Then you could just come along and get the straight areas that the mower couldn't reach.
During one of our family visits in the early 1990s to Disney World in Florida I saw something that, even then, I thought was "the future." There was a robotic mower (John Deere if I recall) mowing one of the small lawns near one of the E.P.C.O.T. Pavilions. Guided by a small wire as a reference, the mower went around in a random pattern keeping the grass short.
Flash forward to 2015, I was hoping that by now, these would be common place. I thought surely in the past 20 or so years, we would have developed and perfected this technology so it affordable and reliable. Well, perhaps not.
Researching robot mowers I found there isn't much to really choose from. Some of the advantages of robot mowers are low noise and no emissions. Husqvarna did, what appears to be, a fair comparison between their automated mower against other competitors. Because, they created the video their mower, naturally, came out on top. However, what I think can be gathered from the video are the metrics to measure when evaluating these devices.
In their video they state customers want a, "Perfectly cut lawn. Every day in every corner and without any tracks. Minimal operator support. It should be the silent "invisible servant." They track recommended area, sound (how loud the mower is at 2 meters), slope compensation for an even cut, grass quality, does it leave tracks and manual restarts.
They mapped out a course for all the mowers they tested. They were tested for 4 weeks, Friday - Monday, and were checked twice a day.
Here are their results. I included the prices of each mower as found online.
Robomo RS 360 $2820 (Found in the U.K.)
Recommended area: 3000 meters squared Sound: 74 db Slope Compensation: Pass Grass Quality: Pass Tracks: Fail Manual Restarts: Pass (0)
John Deere Tango E5 $1915
Recommended area: 1800 meters squared Sound: 69 db Slope Compensation: Fail Grass Quality: Pass Tracks: Fail Manual Restarts: Fail (4.1)
Honda Miimo $2255 (Found in the U.K.)
Recommended area: 3000 meters squared Sound: 62 db Slope Compensation: Pass Grass Quality: Fail Tracks: Pass Manual Restarts: Fail (4.7)
Stiga Autoclip 520 $2619
Recommended area: 1900 meters squared Sound: 75 db Slope Compensation: Fail Grass Quality: Pass Tracks: Fail Manual Restarts: Could not operate due to test area slope.
Husqvarna Automower 330x $2399
Recommended area: 3200 meters squared Sound: 58 db Slope Compensation: Pass Grass Quality: Pass Tracks: Pass Manual Restarts: Pass
One Final Option
One last option is to decrease the amount of surface area that I actually have to mow. Additional pavers and landscaping will help to not only make the yard more beautiful but easier to maintain. At least that's the hope.
For the weekly chore of keeping a lawn mowed and that takes "me" out of the equation, it appears for the moment, that riding mowers or lawn services is the most economical. The notion of automation there, it just hasn't caught on with those who are responsible for maintaining lawns. Perhaps as vehicle automation becomes more popular, there will be a greater demand for automation in lawn maintenance, thereby driving costs down and making it more affordable. Personally, I thought some of the challenges regarding irregular edges, foreign objects, slopes wouldn't be an issue for these devices. I look forward to one day I can test one of these and finally achieve "the future" that was promised many years ago.
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So, what do you think? Did I miss anything? If you have a suggestion please let me know.