Both Gas-free Lawn Care and Native Grass Lawns are about Conservation

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I started my bike courier service, my reel mower sharpening shop, my blog and the gas-free lawn care service all to promote conservation, and more specifically, to help use less gas.

I most recently started the Gas-free lawn care service because I have all of the equipment for it, and hod carrying was way too hard on my body. In the middle of May the constant heavy lifting at work hurt my knee. So I had to quit the stone mason job. It was good timing as I was just getting busy in my shop sharpening reel mowers. And I had wanted to offer Gas-free Lawn Care since Enviro Lawn Care left town a couple years ago. It just made sense. So I started :

Rob’s Gas-Free Lawn Care and more

Using Reel Mowers, Hand Tools, and travelling by Bike and Trailer only, to maintain lawns quietly and non-polluting, in North Fort Collins! Human-Powered, Gas-Free Lawn Care;

  • Basic Service – Lawn mowing using a Fiskars Reel Mower (human powered), which cuts the grass quietly, and like a pair of scissors. This is better for the grass plant, opposed to the violent, impact cut from rotary mowers (gas or electric).
    • Trimming grass, bushes, and shrubs with hand clippers or shears
    • Edging the lawn with hand edger, able to create an edge with spade if needed
    • (Quiet) Clean-up using broom and rake, no leaf blowers!
  • Additional Services –
    • Yard waste removal, by bicycle and trailer
    • Fertilize with push spreader using organic fertilizer
    • Hauling by bike and trailer (hourly rates)
    • Garden tilling, by hand, with garden fork or rake (hourly rates)
    • Shrub and Tree (low level) pruning with hand loppers or shears (hourly rates)
    • Compost set-up (hourly rates)
    • Minor Xeriscaping and Native planting help (hourly rates)

No more expensive than traditional lawn care but quiet and non-polluting, without burning any fossil fuels at all! Call Rob for a quote at 970-231-6794.


And other things fell into place too, like finding everything I needed second-hand, at yard sales, thrift stores and on Craigslist. That Fiskars mower I have really does work well, and new it costs $250, but I got it off of Craigslist for $100. Then shortly after that, I sold two mowers without even trying, which paid for the Fiskars. When getting advice from Marty who did this here before, he called that Fiskars mower a “real workhorse”.

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Marty suggested getting an electric/rechargeable line trimmer to make trimming faster. But I can’t do it at this point because first, human power works!, and then there are so many environmental impacts that go with; rechargeable batteries, new plastic products, and products from China.

Plus, I keep finding great lawn and garden equipment really cheap at yard sales and thrift stores.


An example of the “and more” part in the photo below, which includes minor landscaping, xeriscaping, pruning, garden or compost set-up, and native planting.

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Over a thousand pounds of flagstone hauled by bike and path installed with hand tools

Bikes and reel mowers are great, practical tools for saving oil from being extracted, refined, transported and burned. Using both bikes and reel mowers on a regular basis helps keep us fit also.

But greater conservation, especially of water, can be achieved when sustainable concepts like Xeriscaping and planting native grass lawns, are applied first.

We are in a semi-arid, high desert climate with an average of only 12-14 inches of rainfall per year. We also get more than half of our municipal water supply from the Colorado River, on the other side of the Continental Divide. So Kentucky Bluegrass doesn’t really make sense when Buffalo and Blue Grama native grasses grow so well here without nearly as much water. But Kentucky Bluegrass is what’s planted and many folks rent or don’t know how to change their lawns.

Another component of the “and more” part to Rob’s Gas-free Lawn Care and More, is that I offer to help customers take out their non-native grass lawns and plant native grasses. So if you want a turf-like lawn, I think planting Buffalograss and mowing it with a reel mower makes for a very “green” lawn.

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Cody Buffalograss
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This yard is Cody Buffalograss. It is more turf-like, doesn’t need water and can be mowed to look like a lawn.
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Yard with all Blue Grama. It doesn’t need to be watered and the city allows you to let it grow without mowing it. This yard hasn’t been watered, besides rain, all year and the photo was taken in late July.

Push (Reel) Mowers are greener, like bikes, but also cut better!

There are obvious benefits of push (reel) mowers:

  • Push mowers don’t require gas – According to the EPA, Americans use over 800 million gallons of gas per year mowing their lawns and spill over 17 million gallons of fuel, more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
  • Push mowers are quiet.
  • Push mowers don’t pollute or stink up your air – A new gas powered lawn mower produces as much volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions air pollution in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour, again, EPA statistic.
  • Push mowers are similar to bicycles by being simple, human-powered machines that are easy to maintain or renovatecropped-bike-trailer-mowers.jpg
  • Push mowers are lighter than power mowers.
  • They are less expensive and cost less to maintain and operate than power mowers.
  • No cords or batteries are needed.

But also…scissor cut

Reel mowers cut blades of grass just like a pair of scissors would. There is a back blade, the bed knife, and the moving, reel blades. This smooth, precise cut is better for the grass plant than the cut of a rotary power mower, gas or electric, which cuts with a violent, impact cut, leaving the grass blade jagged and rough.

Golf Courses use reel mowers because of how much better it is for the grass plant. But golf courses usually use tractors to pull multiple reels.

Putting Green push mower

Here is a Putting Green Push Reel Mower, it can cut as low as 1/4″. That is why reel mowers are used for putting greens, the grass can be cut that low when it’s cut with a pair of scissors, or something similar.

Then with the simple gearing between the wheels and the reel, you power the mower by pushing it, which spins the reel, mulawnmower gears 2 - Editedch faster because of the gear ratio.

Any reasonable sized lawn can be mowed with push (reel) mowers. Thicker, lusher lawns might need to be trained, meaning it may take a few times. But these mowers work great on lawns with native grasses that don’t require as much water.

In the West, if you incorporate more xeriscapng and native grasses in your lawn, a push-reel mower is the best choice for your; lawn, grass plants, air, ears, and world!


Craftsman, Scotts, & AmericanScott’s, Craftsman, American and Great States are all built by Great States, and range from $90 – $130 new. All four brands are solid, work well, easy to work on and and have the same replaceable parts (that you can get through Great States website).

Brills became popular 10-15 years ago. They are German made, well-built and designed to be very light, which has it’s pro’s and con’s. They don’t work as well on lusher lawns with Kentucky Bluegrass. They slide and don’t cut so well on thicker lawns, from my experience.

Where an older, heavy one will keep it’s traction and power right through thick grass.

The same is true with the heavier, more expensive Fiskars model, the StaySharp Max Reel Mower, which retails for $250. They are more expensive and a little harder to work on, but are probably worth it. I’ve only worked on a couple Fiskars, and although they were harder to work on, they seem very user friendly and customers said they work very well. The Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower has heavy reel blades for keeping momentum and powering through thick grass and it also has inset wheels so it cuts to the edge.

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I had a friend turn a new roller on a lathe for a customer this past spring.

If you can find an older (1930’s – 1970’s), heavier, push mower at a garage sale then have it sharpened professionally,  you are re-using and you have the older quality. The older, heavier ones work really well when sharpened and tuned up, they just don’t adjust to cut as high as newer ones, but don’t necessarily need to.  A larger roller or longer hangers will raise the bed knife, and therefore raise the cut, also.       


Below, on the left, are two push (reel) mowers that work great, one from the 1930’s and one from 1940’s. Then on the right is a reel mower made in the 1950’s, with a motor on it, because we really need a chainsaw to cut butter!

1930's and 40's era mowers

1950's era mower

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading my blog!