Adjusting a reel mower. How to Cut Tall Grass With a Reel Mower

Reel Mower Major Height Adjustment

How to Cut Tall Grass With a Reel Mower

A reel mower is different from other lawn mowers because of the vertical way its blades spin and the scissoring action it employs to chop grass. Typically, golf courses use a reel mower to cut grass, although it can also be used on lawns to give them a healthier and more attractive look.

Hence, if you are looking for ways to remove overgrown grass from your yard, a reel mower is a good option to consider.

One of the most common questions asked by people is whether a reel mower can cut tall grass. Well, let us find out.

Cutting Tall Grass With a Reel Mower: A Step-by-Step Guide

Reel mowers can be used to trim tall grass. Grass is considered tall if it is higher than four inches. This guide includes steps for cutting tall grass using a reel mower.

#1. Ensure That the Blades Are Sharp

Before starting your reel mower, make sure its blades are sharp. Having well-maintained and sharp blades will help you mow your lawn with ease and reduce the time required to cut grass. To keep your reel mower in top working condition, perform maintenance on a regular basis and spray some lubricant on all the moving parts.

#2. Increase the Height of the Blades

How high should the mower blade be? Before mowing your garden, make adjustments so that the mower blades are set to their maximum height. Most mowers can be raised up to three inches, while some can be adjusted even further by an inch or two.

#3. Check the Lawn for Debris

During autumn or windy weather conditions, you might find leaves, twigs, and other debris all over your lawn. If the debris isn’t removed, it can get stuck in the reel mower and affect its functioning. Unfortunately, leaves and twigs are frequently concealed by tall grass, making them difficult to find.

Before you start mowing your lawn, make sure to look for debris strewn about and remove it immediately.

#4. Increase the Overlap

The question ‘How do I know if my lawn is too tall?’ is generally asked by lawn owners and can be pretty confusing. Worry no more. Let us shed some light on the subject.

Mowing Tall Unkept Grass With a Push Reel Mower

A lawn can be considered very tall if your grass is more than four inches in height. In this case, you will need to increase the size of your overlap. Make your first pass by mowing the length of your lawn and overlap your first pass by at least four or six inches.

If the grass clippings in previous overlaps were knocked down instead of trimmed, you will have to increase the overlap even more. If the grass is too long, the reel mower cutting height should also be adjusted accordingly.

reel, mower, tall, grass

#5. Wait Until the Grass Is Dry

This is the most critical step to keep in mind. Often, people mow their lawn when it is wet and then ask, ‘Why won’t my reel mower won’t cut tall grass?’

Why Should You Use a Reel Mower?

There are several advantages to using a reel mower for your lawn. Let us take a look at some of them.

Easy to Use

People who are unfamiliar with mowing grass might assume that reel mowers are difficult to use. However, with a reel mower, you don’t need to worry about things such as rope pulling, idle adjustment, oiling, filling gas, or remembering any keys. The only thing you need to do is push the reel mower through your lawn and chop off all the unwanted extra grass.

Reel mowers are also lightweight. They are usually between 19 and 34 pounds, making them convenient to carry and store.

Excellent Cutting Ability

With a reel mower, you don’t need to worry about your lawn being ripped or torn apart. The blades of a reel mower evenly trim all the grass and disperse the grass clippings as a fine spray over your property. These clippings then act as a natural fertilizer for your garden.

Low Maintenance

One of the best characteristics of a reel mower is it doesn’t require much maintenance. You do not need to worry about oil and other gas mower parts. The only thing to remember is to keep the blades maintained either by spraying them with lubricants, brushing them occasionally, or getting them sharpened from time to time.

Environment Friendly

A reel mower is eco-friendly since it produces less noise and does not need fuel. Cutting grass the natural way is a great way to reduce air and noise pollution while avoiding strain on the planet’s natural resources.

A reel mower is also more affordable compared to other mowers. It is relatively safe and helps you burn calories when you’re using it. For all you fitness freaks out there, mowing your lawn is great exercise!

Can you cut wet grass with a reel mower?

When the lawn is wet, the grass will be slippery, making it difficult for you to cut it. A lawn that’s cut while wet will be uneven, giving it a disorganized look.

There is also the chance that the wheels could lose their traction and end up injuring you in the process. Thus, it is best to wait for the grass to dry.

How to Maintain a Reel Mower

Maintaining a reel mower is not a difficult thing to do. Here are some tips to follow to keep your mower in good condition.

Wash Your Mower Regularly

Clean dirt and debris from your reel mower using a strong jet of water from a garden hose. Allow your mower to dry before using.

Sharpening the Blades

Sharpen the mower blades with cutting oil. Apply the oil to a coarse sharpening stone. Sharpen every blade with even and smooth strokes according to the direction of the angle. This can be dangerous, so wear gloves.

Checking the Blades

To check if your blades are sharp enough, place a sheet of paper on a cutting bar and rotate the reel cage. If the blades can slice through the paper smoothly, your blades are in good condition. If the blades don’t cut through the paper evenly, make adjustments to the cutting bar.

reel, mower, tall, grass

You can do so by rotating the nuts and screws clockwise or counterclockwise in equal measures to move them closer or further away from the cutting bar. Check for even cutting after each adjustment.

Lubricate the Wheel Drive Gear Assembly

You can lubricate the assembly of the wheel drive gear by either removing all the screws or undoing a hub nut with a wrench. This removes all the wheel covers and exposes the gear assembly. You can then lubricate the parts using wheel-bearing grease. Once done, reinstall the wheel or the wheel cover.

Can I Use a Reel Mower on Tall Fescue?

Reel mowers are generally not recommended for grass taller than three inches. Since grass varieties such as St Augustine, Bahia, or tall fescue require mowing above 3 inches, reel mowers are not recommended for cutting them in most cases.

How Often Should You Cut Grass With a Reel Mower?

Mowing a lawn once a week is usually enough. However, some lawns might need to be cut more often depending on the type of grass and much water they get. On the other hand, some lawns do not grow as quickly and may only need to be trimmed once every ten days or so.

What Is the Best Reel Mower for Tall Grass?

Although there are several high-quality reel mowers available, the best one depends on your specific needs.

Some of the best reel mower models include Scotts Outdoor 20-inch Swath, Fiskars 18-inch Swath, American Lawn 14-inch Swath, and Earthwise Push 16-inch Swath.


Reel lawn mowers can trim tall grass and are affordable, eco-friendly, low maintenance, and easy to use. While you’ll need to perform routine maintenance on its blades, you can do away with fuel, oil changes, and additional maintenance that a gas-powered mower requires.

With benefits that outweigh other mowers, you’ll be glad to have a reel mower for your lawn.

How to cut tall grass with a reel mower

Reel mowers have a number of benefits compared to the gas powered mowers. They tend to cut grass evenly as the reeling blade cuts in a scissor-like a manner leaving your yard looking manicured.

The grass is less prone to diseases as it cuts instead of ripping and tearing. You also get to exercise while pushing your lawn mower on the yard.

Reel mowers not only tend to be cheaper in comparison to auto mowers, but they do not use gas which makes them better for the environment. In addition, they are easier to use and maintain, safer than power mowers and quiet.

For you to get the most out of the benefits that they come with, you need to learn how to use a reel mower.

This is because cutting different types of grass requires different adjustments on the reel mower.

If your yard grows tall grass varieties such as pampas grass, Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass, and St. Augustine grass; then you would be better off buying a reel mower for tall grass.

Reel mowers are also important when cutting tall grass. However, for you to do it well, take the following tips into consideration;

Adjust the height

The first thing you need to do is adjust the reel mower height. This will allow to cut grass that is at least 2 inches high. As the grass gets shorter, you can then adjust it downwards to cut the grass even shorter. Make sure the blade level is set at the highest cut level if you want an even lawn in one pass.

Wait for the grass to dry

Do not attempt to mow your lawn while the grass is wet. This will be wasted effort as the slippery grass will be difficult to mow. And you will end up with an uneven lawn. Additionally, the wheel might lose traction and end up injuring you. Wait till the grass is dry before you attempt to mow your lawn.

Sharpening the blades

Sharpen your mower blades prior to mowing overgrown grass. Sharper blades will make the process easier as you will be able to push the mower much easier and cut the grass without exerting yourself.

Additionally, it will be easier on your mower as the other parts of the mower do not have to make up for the blunt blades.

Clean up your yard

Clear the yard and pick up any rocks, twigs, branched, piece of plastic and any other items that may make it difficult to mow your lawn. Also, attach a grass catcher to your reel mower to collect the grass once it is cut. This will prevent it from being caught in the blades making it difficult to mow.

Last but not least, maintain your reel mower on a regular basis to make lawn care hassle-free.

Reel mowers are quiet and don’t spew air pollution like gas engine mowers do. They’re simple to maintain, and sharpening the blades is easier than you might think.

In 1962, when I was a teenager, my father gave our neighbor, Mr. Gruder, 10 for a reel mower of my very own. The ash handle shone with age and use, and it had a canvas grass catcher. Mr. Gruder had built the reel mower from parts — the finest custom-made machine of its kind ever built. Pushing it revved up the blades, a cylinder of curved scimitars that sliced each blade of grass to the same height. Mr. Gruder gave me a lesson on how to safely sharpen the blades to razor sharp. “Wear gloves,” he said, as he demonstrated.

For nearly a year, I mowed lawns with my trusty push mower. I wish I still had it. But two years ago, I found a Super Chief reel mower in an antique store. It had a broken handle but a spotless canvas grass catcher. It was just 75 for a piece of American history, stored indoors for 50 years.

Buying a Reel Lawn Mower

A good vintage reel lawn mower handle should be splinter-free, with solid handles baptized in boiled linseed oil. But if a bad handle is the only thing wrong with a used machine and it has a good price, buy it. For 10, I commissioned a high school shop class to make a handle for the Super Chief.

Old machines in good working condition are rare, but worth the hunt because they’re often inexpensive. But are they worth the hours of restoration? To me, yes, but you may be happier with a more recent model — something you won’t have to repair or restore first. The Mercedes of modern reel mowers is the German-made Brill Razorcut 38, and it’s priced accordingly (250). But you can also find economy models, such as Scotts Classic Reel Mower, priced at a bit more than 100. Tip: The grass-catcher attachment is worth having on all models, as reel mowers don’t mulch clippings.

Maintaining and Sharpening a Reel Mower

You should perform basic maintenance on a reel lawn mower after every third use, and the procedure is perfectly simple. First, put it up on a workbench. If you grovel at its level, it’s easier to be injured by the blades and lose tiny parts in the grass.

If it’s old, the blades probably need to be sharpened, and you need practice to do this right. Moving the wheels forward causes the blade cage to rotate rapidly because of the movement of a series of gears (which might need to be oiled or repacked with grease). Check the rubber wheels. If they’re slick and can’t get traction, the reel won’t turn efficiently. You can temporarily repair this by making grooves in the tires with a three-corner file — until you have time to look for replacement wheels.

Always wear leather gloves when working with the blades for any reason, including debris removal when mowing. To hone the blades, jam a wooden stick through the cage to prevent it from turning. A coarse sharpening stone and a light application of cutting oil will make each blade sharp within seven or eight light (but even and smooth) strokes. Follow the angle of the blade as closely as possible.

Use the same number of strokes on every blade to ensure a uniform distance of all blades from the cutting bar, which should almost touch the whirling blades, leaving room for the width of a blade of grass. You may need to adjust the cutting bar when you’re done. If your blades slice easily through a sheet of newspaper placed on the cutting bar, you’ve done it right.

Some experts advise dabbing the honed blades with grinding paste and pulling the mower backward for 10 minutes. But I tried out this method, and can tell you that death-by-boredom may occur in half that time. A young person, if desperate enough, might do it for 20, if nobody sees them. (Those were exactly my nephew’s terms.)

On most models, the gears in the wheel assembly aren’t hard to access, but you must be careful not to lose any nuts, bolts or pins. (Drop them in a small can or jar for collection and oiling.) Remove the wheel covers and pack the exposed gears with light grease. If you’re lucky, the wheel covers on your model will have lubrication holes. After each mowing, use a garden hose or air compressor to clean the blades and wheels. Then spray everything liberally with WD-40.

Always mow on a dry, clear day — weekly is best.

I don’t miss the pollution, the stench of hydrocarbon exhaust, or the unrelenting decibels of a gas engine mower. Instead, I have the silence, the pure scent of newly mown grass, and the satisfaction of light muscle-powered work. No earplugs required.

If you’d like to know more about sharpening blades on conventional gas-engine mowers, read A Midsummer’s Sharpening: How to Sharpen Your Lawn Mower Blade.

Do you use a push reel mower? Have you sharpened its blades? Share your experience in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев section below.

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Whether you’re new to lawn care or a seasoned expert, our collection of 25 reel mowing tips should help. Enjoy!

The direction of your mowing can have a tremendous effect on how good your lawn looks. This is because grass has a growing pattern that can vary greatly between varieties.

Mow no more than 1/3 of the grass blade, so that a deeper roots are encouraged. A lawn with healthy roots is better able to seek out water and nutrients and can crowd out weeds.

Increase the amount of overlap in your mowing if your lawn reaches a height of 4 inches or more. You can mow in a checkerboard pattern or once up and once back to achieve the look you want.

Mow according to rainfall and temperature, rather than once a week. Warmer temperatures and increased rainfall mean faster growing grass.

Scotts Classic

Produces NO toxic fumes for the environment to absorb.- just a couple of footprints!

Like honesty and hard work, the Scotts® Reel Mower is an American classic. Produces NO toxic fumes for the environment to absorb… just a couple of footprints in a beautifully cut lawn.

During the summer months grass has less moisture and tends to droop. It may be necessary to mow at a shorter height to get the desired appearance.

If you’re an early riser, mow in the morning. Push mowers are quiet and start when you do.

Try not to mow when the grass is wet. It usually produces a very uneven cut.

Walk normally while mowing. Today’s push reel mowers will provide satisfactory results with a single pass or at times two passes — no more walking back and forth.

A reel mower uses a cutting action that does not bruise or damage the blades of grass. Purchase a sharpening kit to keep it working properly.

Reel mowers have difficulty cutting tall weeds such as dandelions. Practice organic weed control and mow before they reach their full height.

Leave your clippings on the lawn when mowing only 1/3 of the grass blade. They compost quickly and release valuable nutrients into the soil.

A push mower only cuts what gets between the reel and the cutter bar. Ensure a proper cut by not allowing your lawn reach a height of much over 3-4 inches.

In the spring, when grass has plenty of water and is growing quickly, set the cutting height of your mower higher and mow more frequently.

It puts less stress on the lawn to mow in the evening or morning than to mow when the sun is pounding down in the afternoon.

Mow at the highest setting to block out weeds like crabgrass.

Deluxe Light

Ideal for ALL grass types including Florida’s thick-bladed St. Augustine grass.

Better cut. Better lawn. The Deluxe Light Reel Mower snips the grass, cutting each blade like a pair of scissors. It’s a precise, clean cut that makes for a healthier and more attractive lawn.

Keep the cutter bar properly adjusted (do not over tighten) on your reel mower. Proper maintenance is important since it cuts like scissors.

Occasionally wipe your reel mower to remove grass, dirt and moisture after use. It will look better, and last longer.

Reel mowers are lightweight and easy to lift. Hang it up and out of the way to conserve garage space.

If turf diseases are found in your lawn, wash your mower between mowings to prevent their spread.

Before you begin mowing, remove all sticks and debris from the area.

Experiment with your push mower to see what looks best. Every yard is different and can vary greatly depending on the variety of grasses present.

Regularly lube (WD-40) your lawn mower’s bearings and cutting edges to keep it working properly.

Alternate the direction of your mowing throughout the growing season to ensure a more even cut.

When using a reel mower, tall grass means more work. It’s better to mow smaller amounts more frequently than it is to let the grass get long.

Reel mowers cut best between a height of 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 inches depending on the mower you select.

What Is a Reel Mower and How to Use It

David Beaulieu is a landscaping expert and plant photographer, with 20 years of experience.

Mary has been a Master Gardener for 30 years and a commercial and residential gardener for 50 years. She is a former Clemson University Extension Agent.

Jillian is a freelance journalist with 10 years of editorial experience in the lifestyle genre. She is a writer and fact checker for TripSavvy, as well as a fact-checker for The Spruce.

Reel mowers appeal to environmentalists, money-savers, exercise-fanatics, noise-haters, and safety-lovers. Simple to operate, a reel mower works well for small areas.

However, with this type of lawn mower, there are some downsides. You must be committed to mowing when the grass is ready, not whenever you get around to it. Sharpening the blades is a hassle. And unless you don’t mind the extra work of raking up twigs beforehand, reel mowers are not practical for large areas with lots of trees, since you can’t ride roughshod over twigs as you can with standard mowers.

What Is a Reel Mower?

A reel mower is a push mower that does not use fuel, electricity, or oil and is powered by the person pushing it. Most have two primary wheels and several sharp blades in a cylinder that spin around to cut the grass.

Reel vs. Rotary Mowers

As with most things, reel mowers are excellent for some situations and users and troublesome for others. Reel mowers lack many of the common annoyances that come with other types of mowers—the smell and noise, the potential risks, and the price—but they also have drawbacks. Reel mowers don’t work as well on tall grass or grass sprinkled with twigs and leaves.

The blades of a rotary lawn mower spin on a plane parallel to the ground. Reel mower blades spin at an angle perpendicular to the ground. While you may be able to get by for years without sharpening the blades on a regular mower, it’s critical to keep the blades of a reel mower razor-sharp.

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Lightweight and safer to use
  • Noise-free
  • efficient at mowing grass
  • Easier to mow larger areas
  • Mulches up debris
  • Handles cutting grass better on uneven ground
reel, mower, tall, grass

Parts of a Reel Mower

Manual or push reel mowers don’t have engines, so they don’t use gas and emit no pollutants. The lack of an engine also means reel mowers are virtually noiseless. No engine also means no tune-ups, and less maintenance: no oil to check, no filter to clean, no spark plugs, saving time and money.

Reel mowers have blades that turn as the mower is pushed. Today’s models have a protective guard to prevent the grass from being blown back on the person pushing the mower. And some models come with a grass-collecting bag. Most models allow you to adjust the blades to cut the grass at a certain height.

Modern models of reel mowers are lightweight and easy to push. Reel mowers are ideal for small lawns with no trees, although pushing one across any sized lawn will still be a strenuous chore, lightweight or not.

Why Should You Use a Reel Mower?

When you think of mowing your lawn, the mental image that comes to mind for most of us is that of a rotary machine, because this type of grass-cutting device has become the standard. Unlike the rotary models that you’re used to, reel mowers don’t have an engine.

Instead, this 19th-century device, invented by Edwin Budding, cuts the grass using sharp blades that move as you push the device along. This isn’t merely a question of the machine being self-propelled vs not self-propelled, it is entirely human-powered. Still, despite the decidedly unmodern functionality, there are good reasons you might want to consider buying a reel mower.

Environmentalists tout reel mowers as a clean alternative to polluting gas-powered rotary models. Reel mowers also reduce noise pollution. A reel mower is safer to use because the blades stop when you stop pushing, They are less expensive to purchase and maintain than gas or electric mowers. Modern versions are easier to use than older models because lightweight plastics and alloys incorporated into their framework have made them more maneuverable.

But reel mowers come with some disadvantages, too. They can’t chop up twigs and the twigs get lodged in the blades, requiring manual removal. Raking up twigs before mowing is advisable, adding time and effort to the task. Reel mowers cannot be used in fall as makeshift leaf-shredders. Rotary models are also better at mowing grass that’s grown too high, an important consideration for those who don’t mow the grass religiously.

Reel lawn mowers are well-suited only to those who tend to small urban lots and enjoy exercise. But if you do have just a small lawn to mow, the reel mower can be ideal. Dealing with all the gas, oil, and noise associated with regular mowers seems like overkill for such a small space.

Another choice other than reel mowers for those who have a small lawn is a rechargeable battery-powered mower. This type keeps mower maintenance to a bare minimum.

Buying vs. Renting

Reel mowers are inexpensive, costing around 100 on average to purchase. Since mowing the lawn is a weekly chore, especially in the spring and summer months, it only makes sense to buy one rather than go through the constant expense and hassle of renting one.

Although reel mowers are relatively cheap, you shouldn’t necessarily buy the very cheapest option. You want to make sure your mower is well-made, and that blade sharpening kits for the brand you select are easy to find because you’ll need to sharpen the blade regularly.

How to Maintain Reel Mowers

There is one regular mower-maintenance chore necessary with reel mowers: sharpening the blades. This needs to be done once or twice every year. You can buy sharpening kits, or you can grab these three basic items: grinding stone, grinding paste, and newspaper. The blades can remain on the mower, and with a little bit of manual effort, you can complete the sharpening process.

  • Grinding stone: Use the stone first to smooth out any nicks or burrs you feel on the blades.
  • Grinding paste: Apply the paste to the blades and cutter bar. Then turn the reel backward. The grinding paste and running it backward will sharpen the blades and cutter bar’s edges. Do this for a few minutes, and you will see the paste going away and shiny edges appearing. If there’s any excess paste, simply wipe it off.
  • Newspaper: Test the sharpness of the blades on the newspaper. If it’s not sharp enough, repeat the sharpening process.


After each use, make sure to wipe/wash off any grass clippings that have built up on the mower. Store the reel mower in a dry place to help keep it from rusting.

When to Replace Your Reel Mower

Reel mowers will last for many years if you keep them clean and sharpen the blades periodically. If you find yourself not having the time to mow often with a reel mower, or you’ve gotten a larger yard, then you should consider replacing it with a powered mower. If your yard is considerably bigger, then a riding lawn mower will save you time and effort.

reel, mower, tall, grass