How best to mow a lawn

Tiffany Daneff / 10 June 2014

A simple sounding question, with no conveniently short answer because, as ever, nothing’s as straightforward as it first seems, writes Saga's gardening editor, Tiffany Daneff in her Sheep Garden Blog.

A year on from first writing about my attempts to get the grass under control here I have come to some conclusions.

These are the machines I have been using:

  • An old and very basic electric Flymo
  • A small handpush rotary mower, the Qualcast Panther 30
  • A 17-inch petrol driven Kensington Allett with various cartridge attachments
  • A Robomow robot mower RC304

I also have been using a couple of strimmers, a petrol-driven monster, and a smaller GTech lithium battery rechargeable jobbie.

So here’s what I have found:

For two small lawns in poor condition: Here it’s a toss up between perfection and sloth. In spring, strimmers are useful around the woodland area where I don’t want to damage primroses and crocus.  

The Qualcast is ideal for a quick pre-cut, or when we’ve been away and the grass has grown too high for the other mowers to tackle, but otherwise it’s not really big enough to make it a regular.  

The Kensington has been brilliant at transforming what was a compacted tangle of couch and moss into something very much on its way to a decent lawn. It has these neat removable cartridges, which even I have been able to change without a hassle. These allow you to dethatch and scarify and aerate and they deliver a huge dose of satisfaction. There are few finer sights than a grass box packed with couch tufts and moss. It has a roller too, so it has smoothed out the bumps as it goes while the cutting blades give by far the best cut.

The Robomow, top right, came into its own once the grass had been tamed. The machine I’ve got was installed for me (which, unless you’re a clever clogs I would recommend). This was very simple operation requiring a thin green wire to be pegged down around the perimeter of the lawn and an electric cable run to the docking base on which the mower is charged when not in use. It was programmed using basic digital button pushing (easier than many alarm clocks) to work Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm. And that was it. Job done.

Since then, the dear thing (yes, one is inclined to anthropomorphosise because it has an ‘eye’ – actually, the button for adjusting the blade height) reverses off its dock and mows away all by itself - see video, right. If you happen to walk in its path it will politely reverse and continue on its strange way, undeterred.

At first it cut the lawn several times a day but now that it has got the grass down to the desired height it might mow a handful of times a week. It follows its own apparently random but obviously mathematically exact route ensuring that everywhere is evenly cut. What can I say? For people who can’t or won’t mow this is just the most perfect solution. I am now hooked.

For steep rough grass banks prone to nettles and thistles: It’s strimmers and Flymo time. You need a strong, powerful strimmer and a Flymo that can get around the awkward slopes and curves.  

The big bumpy lawn: Too big to strim, too bumpy (and too big) for the Flymo or the Kensington (there are anthills and rabbit holes), completely impossible with a handmower.  

The practical solution: After a month or so I gave up on doing this myself and now Mark brings over his ride-on once a fortnight. To be honest this only keeps just keeps the grass under control. But it’s fine.  

The dream solution: Cut it short and set the whopping Robomow RS630 on it. This has very strong cutting blades and in time would save me money. (But in the short term it would mean no sunkissed holiday this year. Whoops. Just realised I’m not having one of those anyway.)

Yard with qualcastFor the yard, which was grassed some while back and was fast losing out to an attack of nettles, thistles, forget-me-knot and goosegrass:  Here the strimmer was my first weapon of choice along with some rigorous pulling of nettles and thistles from rain-softened ground.  I strimmed using the Gtech rechargeable, which I love because it’s always ready to go and doesn’t require wearing protective head gear, ear plugs and the like. Sure, its not as strong and it runs out after a half hour or so, but it’s still a good little doer. I used it for a year and now, finally, I have got the grass back enough to start hand mowing with the Qualcast, right. And that is really all it requires as it’s only the yard.

intoGardens app logoTiffany Daneff is also the editor of the award-winning intoGardens app - the world's first magazine app for gardens. Visit the appstore to download a free sample or go to the website for more information. Gardening has never looked better or been more exciting. Visit for more info. 

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter for more great gardening tips plus recipes, prize draws and much more. 


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.