Based in Florida, Kimberly Sharpe has been a full-time web writer since 2006. She specalizes in writing on the topics of gardening and organic produce. She also writes for numerous online sites and publications from around the World.
Sometimes, the best lawn equipment is the simplest. You dont need a fancy gas or electric lawn mower to keep your yard looking pristine. A reel mower is simplicity, peace, and nostalgia combined. The design and ease of use harken back to a simpler time when the basics mattered not the bells and whistles. Why not pick a quiet, eco-friendly choice for cutting your grass?
In this article, were going to explore the best reel mowers for your yard. Each one has its pros and cons, but all are ideal choices for keeping your lawn well-manicured and your grass healthy. Well help you choose the best reel mower, ensuring your lawn looks sharp and green all season.
Are you in the market for an authentic reel mower for your yard? Keep reading to learn our top recommendations. For homeowners with larger yards, you may wish to look at our list of the top riding mowers.
Thicker grasses cut better with more blades; thin grass types can be cut with fewer blades. Also, look at the kind of blade. Tempered alloy blades need sharpening annually and can be done by the homeowner; hardened steel can go for a decade before needing sharpening, but this maintenance needs done professionally.
There's nothing like a little muscle power to keep your yard looking amazing. The Great States Push Reel Lawn Mower goes right back to basics. Looking at this model, you'll believe you've been whisked back to a simpler time. It'll feel just like the 1950s when every suburban home had one of these beauties.
This manual-push reel mower features an adjustable cutting height from 0.5" to 2.5". You'll get a clean, crisp cut every time you push the mower across your emerald landscape. The cutting width is 16 inches, so you don't have to make as many passes as you do with a smaller mower. The Great States 415-16 is well known as one of the best reel mowers on the market.
What We Like About It:The Great States push reel lawn mower is easy to assemble, and you don't need an excessive amount of space to store it - the handle pushes down to conserve space. The wide width of 16 inches means you make fewer passes when mowing with this classic 5-blade lawn mower. With quiet operation, you don't have to worry about disturbing your neighbors.
The Fiskars 18 inch cutting reel mower has been specifically engineered to be 60 percent easier to push - you'll swear you're operating a gas-powered self propel mower instead of a reel mower! With the InertiaDrive reel, it boasts twice the cutting power of other mowers. Its StaySharpe cutting system provides long-lasting performance. There's even an innovative grass chute that directs the clippings forward so they're not thrust back at your feet.
What We Like About It:We fell in love with the Fiskars StaySharp Max cutting system. It minimizes manual contact. You don't have to worry about sharpening the blades because the system ensures cutting sharpness. Imagine the money you'll save on costly blade sharpening or - if you have a push mower - blade replacement. The steel blades on this model are always sharp and ready to trim grass into a lush carpet. Never having to sharpen the blades is a great perk!
The American Lawn Mower Company has been in business since 1895. They focus on creating lawn mowers that require very little, if any, maintenance. They're also affordable. This classic push reel mower is quiet and eco-friendly. It's also easy to maneuver with a 14" cutting width. It will effortlessly slice through grass up to 4 inches tall. From the minute you receive this classic push reel lawn machine, you can quickly assemble it - there's no waiting around! The handle features cushioning, which is comfortable to grip and hold even on a hot day when your hands start to sweat. This gas-less mower scores great mower reviews. It's a definite return-to-basics model that's sure to please anyone seeking a simple machine.
What We Like About It:You can mow your yard quickly and easily with this lightweight model. It's not difficult to maneuver and works great in small yards with tight turns and spaces. It has a scissor action cutting ability that effortlessly slices through most grass types, making mowing your lawn effortless.
A more narrow reel cuts less grass per path, so it may take longer to mow your lawn than a wider model. Bigger isnt always better, though. A smaller reel is lighter and you can walk faster, covering ground quicker. Consider your storage options, too; a larger reel takes up more room when not in use.
The Snow Joe is easy to push and maneuver, which makes it ideal for small lawns. You can pick from a four-position manual adjustment. It has a maximum cutting height of 1/81 inches and a minimum cutting height of 0.88 inches. You can even tailor the cutting height to 1/81 inches deep. The grass catcher effortlessly cradles an impressive 6.6 gallons, detaching quickly for effortless emptying. The two large 8.8-inch wheels let you zip around your yard without getting bogged down. The metal deck has even been treated for rust resistance, so the reel mower stays looking fabulous year after year.
What We Like About It:We love that this mower is maintenance-free and easy to operate. The model is lightweight at only 22 pounds. It has an acceptable 16 inch cutting width that's perfect for small to moderate-sized yards. It comes with a full two-year warranty, making it one of the best choices.
With a five-blade cutting power, this mower cuts a path of 14 inches wide. Its 8.5-inch polymer wheels turn easily so you can effortlessly cut around flower beds, foundations, walkways, fence lines, and driveways. Adjust the mower height from 1- 1.75. It can cut through four-inch-tall grass blades without difficulty. The scissor cutting action slices through a variety of grass types, like a hot knife cutting through butter. The alloy blades have undergone heat treatment, so they stay sharp for years.
The Fiskars 6208's smart design is more new age instead of traditional, but we love its aerodynamic appearance. It screams modern and eco-friendly with its bright orange color. It's also 30 percent easier to push, thanks to its Fiskars StaySharp Max Reel Mower design. It boasts a patent-pending InertiaDrive reel, giving 50 percent more cutting power. It can slice through weeds and twigs effortlessly with the Staysharp cutting system.
This classic Scotts 20-inch rotary mower features five blades on a ball-bearing reel. It also features large, 10-inch dual tracking wheels. The 1"-3" cutting height adjustment lets you determine how tall you want your lawn to be. The blades stay sharp due to their alloy steel treatment, so you'll rarely have to sharpen the blades. The ergonomic handle has a soft cushioning, which lets you grip the mower with ease, preventing your hands from becoming tired.
When this model arrives, assembling is effortless - it requires no tools. You can quickly get to mowing your lawn. It's built to be solid, but the reel mower's design is not overly heavy (at 34 pounds), meaning you won't get tired when mowing.
What We Like About It: The 20-inch cutting width means fewer passes when you cut your lawn. The quick snap height adjusters let you easily yield the adjustable cutting height. This will ensure you get the optimum height for your grass type. Adjust it from one to three inches. You can choose from nine different height slots. The five-blade reel cuts the grass into a fine mulch, helping to promote a healthy lawn. Dual wheel tracking lets you maneuver the machine over the toughest, most uneven terrain, making this one of the best reel mowers on the market for challenging landscape. The blades neatly slice the lawn, leaving the grass looking fantastic.
The Great States manual reel mower is a classic charmer with its bright, fire engine red color. Adjust the height from 0.5" to 1.75" to create a clean and precise cut every time. The 14-inch cutting width is ideal for small yards. It has a 5 blade ball-bearing reel with 8.5-inch composite wheels. The blades are fashioned from heat-treated alloy steel, ensuring they hold their sharpness for years. Your hands will effortlessly grip the cushioned, T-style handle with its remarkable comfortable design. When this mower arrives, you don't have to worry about a complicated assembly process - it requires no tools to put it together.
What We Like About It: We love the classic look of this reel lawn mower. It has a nice t-style cushioned handle and is easy to assemble. The 14-inch cutting width makes it easy to maneuver through compact yards.
The Remington mower cuts an impressive 18-inch path, making it a good choice for a medium-sized yard. The 5-blade adjustable reel lets you pick your grass height. The dual-lever height adjustment is easy to use. It has a special high-quality two-in-one mulching feature so you can collect the clippings as you mow.
What We Like About It: The adjustable reel and lever let you quickly pick the grass height for the perfect shear every time. You can remove and dump the clipping bag when full, so you don't have to worry about shedding the clippings on your lawn and an unwanted buildup occurring. This mower comes with a two-year warranty.
This Greenworks mower is one of the best reel mowers available. It boasts a 20-inch cutting path, making it ideal for a moderately sized yard. The 10-inch front wheels and six-inch rear wheels make this one of the best for maneuverability. It's also remarkably easy to push. It has nine positions for an adjustable cutting height - choose cutting heights from 1 3/4" to 2 3/4". This range makes it ideal for all types of grass.
The mower is a two-in-one because it has both mulching and rear bag capabilities. You decide if you want to bag the grass or spread it across your landscape to act as a mulch. The contact-free 5-blades are very quiet, so you never have to worry about bothering your neighbors.
What We Like About It:We love the design. The large 10-inch front wheels and the smaller six-inch rear wheels are great. You can easily push this mower over rugged or uneven terrain without getting stuck or bogged down. The helical blades cut different grass varieties well. The contact-free blades also provide peace of mind. This easy-to-use reel mower works well for a moderately sized yard with its wide 20-inch cut.
There are benefits to both plastic and metal components. Plastic is lightweight, making it easier to mow, especially if you have back or shoulder problems. But plastic can become brittle and break over time. Metal is heavier and can rust if not corrosion-resistant, but the added heft works well for thicker grass types.
Have you started researching reel mowers? Perhaps you want to get back to basics and use a simple-to-operate mower that gets the job done efficiently. Reel mowers have a lot to offer anyone, but if youre environmentally conscious, crave something thats easier to push than a gas model, and value quiet operation, then this might be the type for you. If youre interested in the importance of mowing read the study here.
Reel mowers are traditional grass mowers. The reel mower was one of the first commercially available lawn mowers. People in the suburbs used them to keep their grass sheared in an eye-pleasing fashion. The mower doesnt have a motor but instead depends on manual pushing power.
The reel mowers reel is attached to drive shafts located on the mowers wheels. When you push the mower, the drive shafts spin the cutting reel, which turns the blades. It does take effort to push a reel mower, but the machine cuts better due to the scissor cutting action and is healthier for your lawn. In general, you achieve a much better cut than with gas-powered or electric mowers. The reel mower cuts the grass cleanly.
Youll find the reel mowers blades in an overhead rotary position. Theres no suction effect as there is with a gas-powered mower. The cutting reel quickly trims the grass in its standing position. It produces an even cut thats very clean and fresh in appearance.
Most reel mowers feature five to seven blades but, occasionally, you might encounter a four-blade mower. The additional number of blades provide a much cleaner cut than a gas or electric mower. The grass takes on a very relaxed and finished appearance after being mowed with a reel mower.
The best reel mowers rely on a ball-bearing system. This is attached to the cutting deck, which spins. The system features a bed knife (multiple cutting blades). When you push the mower and the wheels turn, the bed knife on the ball-bearing system starts to spin. The tapered and swirl-designed blades move the grass towards the machines rear when cut.
The cutting action on reel mowers is significantly different than that of a traditional engine-style mower, which creates a vortex beneath the cutting deck as the blades spin. The vortex creates suction so the lawn mowers blades can cut it in a circular motion instead of a side-to-side fashion. The cutting angle of gas and electric mowers tear the grass blades instead of shearing them.
Where the reel mower creates a nice clean cut, machine mowers make ragged cuts in the grass. With the best reel mowers, youll enjoy a fresh, clean-cut. But with an engine mower, the grass takes on a rougher look. The reel mower truly creates a manicured lawn, favored on estates around the world. Its bed knife leaves the grass looking soft and inviting.
The only significant drawback to reel mowers is that you have to physically push them. Theyre not self-propelled, and you cannot ride on the apparatus. However, most people who find the reel mower the best choice overall have a small to modest-sized yard you wont be walking a great distance when using it. Remember that modern reel mowers now have gear-assisted pushing, so theyre easier to push than the classic reel mower from 50 years ago.
Many people also complain about the height of the cutting deck. If your lawn becomes too long (usually over 4 inches), the reel mower will not cut through the lawn, and youll need an electric or gas-powered mower to shear the grass. When the grass is too long, even the best mower cant cut it. Instead, it just pushes the grass downward and bends it. Make sure you mow your grass before it reaches that high of a height. Typically, the longer the grass, the greater the friction on the cutting reel, so youll have a hard time pushing the mower.
Reel mowers are lightweight and easy to operate. You dont have to worry about rope pulling, push-button starts, keys, gas, oil, or harmful emissions. Most reel mowers weigh between 19 to 35 pounds. You can effortlessly push the mower and lift it when needed. Many teens, women, and the elderly favor the reel mower.
Unlike an electric mower, the reel mower requires no extension cords. Youll only need your push power to operate the mower. Reel mowers come complete with electric mowers, you are constantly battling extension cords. Both offer great grass-cutting ability, but who wants to deal with the headache of electric mowers?
The best reel mowers provide an optimum cutting ability for your grass. The rotating blades dont rip or tear your lawn but instead shear each blade of grass for a truly pristine and manicured appearance. The clean scissor cut created by reel mowers is hard to beat for appearance. In addition, the cuts fine precision helps the grass hold in moisture and prevents disease or damaging organisms from harming the grass blades. The discarded grass forms a fine spray and does not clump it decomposes quickly to create a natural fertilizer for the lawn.
A gas-powered mower can be dangerous, kicking up rocks that turn into deadly projectiles. But the reel lawn mower is noted for great safety. If you encounter a rock or debris, the blades stop instead of throwing the item.
Walking behind a reel lawnmower is a great back-to-basics form of cardiovascular exercise. Youre out in the fresh air, enjoying the sunshine while you walk behind your mower. It doesnt require a great deal of arm or upper body strength, so its still perfect for either built individuals or the elderly. Youll burn unwanted calories while giving your body a workout.
You dont have to worry about maintaining an engine with the reel mower. Theres no need for gas, oil, or spark plugs. When spring arrives, your reel mower is ready to start cutting your grass. Keep the mower clean and oil the blades on occasion to ensure the reel mower remains operating nicely.
With the threat of climate change, many individuals are looking for ways to make a difference. Saying no to dirty fossil fuels is a step towards cleaning up the environment. Reel mowers are eco-friendly.
If you live in a suburban area, then youre probably familiar with the roar of a gas-powered lawn mower in the early morning hours of Saturday and Sunday. Many people find the engine noise annoying and disturbing. Luckily, the reel mower provides a silent operation. You dont have to worry about disturbing your neighbors. Its one of the best choices for suburban neighborhoods.
The manual reel mower is one of the best choices for small yards. Its maneuverable in tight spaces. It also works well on medium-sized lots. Youll need only your reel mower each season for optimum grass.
The best reel mowers are throwbacks to the first reel mower design, originally invented by Edwin Beard Budding of Gloucestershire, England. He was issued the first reel mower patent in 1830. Almost 200 years later, the design and appearance of reel mowers have not changed much.
One of the first things to look at when checking out reel mowers is the cutting deck width and height. The term cutting deck refers to the area that contains the blade reel. The length of the blades is how you measure the cutting deck width. Reel mowers are available in numerous widths. Youll find small ones that are only 8 inches wide and large ones that span as much as 24 inches.
The wider the deck, the harder the mower is to push and maneuver. However, some mowers feature a Staysharp max reel mower design that makes pushing a little easier for big models. Fiskars Staysharp max is an example of this. With the Fiskars Staysharp max reel, the models are 30 to 60 percent easier to push, even when large.
Reel mowers have a variety of designs, but all have a cutting deck with a blade reel. The blades are often fashioned from coated carbon steel or alloy steel for strength. The coating prevents the blades from rusting. With the adjustable cutting height, you determine how close to the grass the blades get.
Typically, most reel lawn mowers have five to seven blades. Theyre easy to push and maneuver to get the job done. Models with a higher number of blades have an even finer mowing action. According to most mower reviews, even if you buy a reel lawn mower with seven blades, its still easy to handle. The easy-cutting action guarantees grass-cutting success. All youll need is a bit of muscle.
Most homeowners are happy with a 5 blade function. This will make a cutting path through any type of grass. With five high-quality blades, operation is easy all you have to do is pick the cutting heights. Most of the best reel lawn machines have 5 blades.
You might think youre getting the best reel lawn mower based on the high number of blades. But if the blades move slowly, then your lawn wont look as good compared to how it would look if the blades revolved quicker. Youll want to factor in the quality of the cutting reel before picking a model.
The durability of the cutting reel is an important factor. If the blades become dull or end up coated in rust, they wont shear the grass blades as well. This will leave the lawn looking jagged and ragged. Ideally, you should buy a reel lawn mower with coated carbon steel or stainless steel blades.
The reel lawn mowers wheels impact how the machine handles rough terrain. If the mower has large wheels, itll be easier to maneuver on a small lawn or larger landscape. Larger wheels reduce friction.
Whether youre mowing a small lawn or an extra-large manicured yard, youll want a comfortable handle with cushioned grips. This way, you can control the reel lawn mower without making your hands sore or tired. Try to look for adjustable or collapsable handles.
Adjustable handles let you tailor the machines build to any body type. A collapsable handle lets you store the reel lawn mower when not in use. Its usually easy to collapse the handle. The best reel lawn mowers store in a compact fashion.
The best reel mowers will have grass collection bins attached to the mower. This accessory is a superb feature if you dont want to rake your grass. However, its not always a necessity. With reel mowers, youll have to mow your yard frequently. You wont want your grass to get too long, or youll have a hard time cutting it this means grass clippings are not always a problem.
If you have a small lawn, then you might not need to collect the grass. However, for many people, a grass collection bin is a must-have item. Just remember, leaving the trimmings on the lawn is okay too. It actually helps mulch the grass for a healthier landscape.
Reel mowers should be light. Whether youre purchasing an American Lawn Mower Company mower, the Staysharp cutting system, or some other brand, always look at the mowers weight. A heavy model is going to be harder to push and will wear you out sooner during operation.
A good reel mower is an asset for anyone who has a small to modestly-sized yard. Its an eco-friendly choice that reduces your carbon footprint significantly. You never have to worry about wasting money on costly fuel and oil or the machine breaking down.
The reel mower lets you quietly mow your grass whenever you want. If you would like to learn more, check out our related posts. For a supposedly easier option, you can opt for a string trimmer (see here). Or view the top gas string trimmer tools.
Reel lawn mowers are ideal for small lawns. They are environmentally and budget-friendly. Moreover, it doesnt emit any fumes or noise. It also helps maintain a healthy lawn. Instead of other mowers rotating blades that chew up and whack off the top of the grass, the reel mowers blades act like a pair of scissors that cut off the top of the grass efficiently.
It depends on lots of factors, like in the mowing time when the blades meet with small stones, rocks, and any kind of hard obstacles it loses the blades sharpness. But generally, Mowerslab experts recommend every 20-25 hours of usage take an interval and sharpen the blades. But some people do it once or twice a year. Conversely, if you use a reel mower in a commercial location, we recommend sharpening mower blades once a week for optimal performance.
The rest of the machine exists to support those two main parts. Wheels drive a gear that spins the 5-7 blades and the blades angle snip the grass better. Also, there is a roller behind the bed knife that allows adjusting the cutting height.
Press carefully to the toothed end of the metal mill on the dull edge of the first blades. Now use the file to scratch the edge of the blades, and always ensure that you go forward and backward throughout the length of the blades. And also dont try to make the new cutting angles.
Once you have sharp the edge of the blade, now you will need to remove the broom handle and carefully rotate the mower cylinder to fully access the next blade. Then re-secure blades and repeat the sharpening process for all the dull blades.
Step 2: Spin the reel with your hand several times to determine the type of adjustment required. If you do not hear any kind of metal scraping sound, everything is fine. But if you hear metal scraping sounds, find the position and adjust the blades aways from the horizontal cutting bar. Now, If the blades spin freely, move it closer to the reel cylinder.
Step 3: If you think they are not in the right position, take a screwdriver and tighten the blades and make it right positioned. Also, if you need to bring the blades closer, simply tighten the screws.
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Reel mowers might look like throwbacks to the mid-20th century, but they provide an efficient and environmentally friendly way to mow your lawn. Most use no engine, just sharp blades and your pushing power to cut the grass. The time between blade sharpenings varies based on your mower as well as the size and condition of your lawn.
Reel mowers might look like throwbacks to the mid-20th century, but they provide an efficient and environmentally friendly way to mow your lawn. Most use no engine, just sharp blades and your pushing power to cut the grass. The time between blade sharpenings varies based on your mower as well as the size and condition of your lawn.
Some manufacturers offer suggested time frames for sharpening your reel mower blades, but these recommendations vary significantly -- anywhere from one to eight years. Instead of following specific time frames, consider how you use your mower to determine when your blades need sharpening. With a small lawn, your blades should stay sharp longer than with a large lawn. Rocky yards or ones with many twigs and sticks shorten the time between sharpenings. If you usually mow damp grass, your blades will wear down faster.
When it's time to sharpen your blades, you'll notice your mower becoming harder to push, and it might be noisier than normal. Also, the blades will start ripping off the ends of the grass rather than shearing them cleanly. The blades will often show nicks along the edges when they need sharpening.
Properly maintaining mowing equipment is essential to successfully maintaining turf. While the principles behind responsible equipment management are dogmatic, the methods of blade and reel sharpening are more widely debated. GCI reached out to equipment industry leaders to find out what works, what doesnt, and how superintendents get the most out of their reels and blades year.
When turf managers and technicians run into with quality-of-cut issues they often overlook the most basic question: Is the mower operating with a sharp reel and bedknife? Going out to mow with dull reels and bedknives is like running a stock car race with improperly inflated tires, says Lynn Westbrook, principal engineer at Jacobsen. Youll never get the performance you need and the results will be less than perfect. Its amazing how many guys either forget or neglect reel and bedknife sharpness.
Unfortunately, technicians often leave relief grinding out of their normal routines. The key to relief grinding is to stay on top of it and not wait until quality-of-cut issues present themselves in the grass, says Klasie Baard, Jacobsen sales training manager. Technicians should supplement their spin grinding with relief grinding at appropriate intervals. When you lose the relief grind on the blade edge, it creates additional contact and friction between the bedknife and reel blades, which demands additional horsepower. In fact, studies have shown that five reels running without relief use significantly more horsepower than five reels with relief. Maintaining a relief on the blade edge does more than save on wear-and-tear and horsepower. A good relief angle will also throw grass into the baskets more effectively, says Baard. A flat grind will actually fan the grass rather than cut it effectively.
If there are any two parts you should buy directly from the manufacturer its the reel and bedknife, says Westbrook. They are designed to work together and have very precise metallurgy to ensure the highest performance. When you add in a may-fit reel or bedknife into the mix, the performance of the machine will be sacrificed and the results will show up in the grass. Another benefit is having the backing and support of a manufacturer if you run into any issues.
While technicians typically focus on grinding the reel and bedknife, its important to not to overlook the rollers, roller bearings, and reel bearings to ensure a stable grind. Any wear in the rotating components can cause the reel or bedknife to move during grinding.
A brand-new $60,000 grinder will give you a bad grind if your $5 bearing is shot, so make sure everything is working properly, says Baard. While you have the machine off the floor, its also a good time to check other things like hardware, seals, etc.
Its another simple step that technicians often skip. After youve married the bedknife to the backing, the top and front faces of the bedknife need to be ground to make sure they are straight and true.
OEM reels are designed to work within certain parameters. Going beyond the manufacturers reel diameter tolerance limit alters the original geometry of the reel and bedknife setup, says Westbrook. For example, on a 5-inch reel, you dont want to get below a 4.5-inch diameter. When you see the reels worn past that diameter, the reel is simply unable to provide a good quality-of-cut.
One of the biggest mistakes is not fully understanding that the reel and bedknife are not properly prepared for the task they are being asked to do, says Jim Letourneau, Foley Uniteds president and COO.
Using dull reels and expecting a perfect cut will not result in the reels meeting the expectations of the user, he says. Doing a partial overhaul and sharpening job and expecting the reels to stay on cut for the entire season will also lead to disappointment.
When it comes to reel grinding, Tracy Lanier, John Deere Golf product manager, says everyone has their own method that works best for them. But that doesnt mean a program should be inflexible. The most common problems that we see are on courses that use a grind-only program, says Lanier. These courses tend to grind too much, which can lead to increased cost due to reduced life of reels or bedknives. It can also lead to cut issues during times of stress.
There are a large number of parameters and variables to evaluate to find the best course of action on any given day, says Foley United's Jim Letourneau. Making the decision to completely refurbish reels in the winter is an easy decision. What needs to be done to correct a poor quality of cut situation for a short period of time requires more complete evaluation.
"In most cases the manufacturers have tested and developed cutting units that will stay sharp, use the least amount of horsepower, and stay on cut the longest amount of time if they are returned to the manufacturers specifications," Letourneau says. "However, there are many methods that work and produce a high quality of cut and the best program may use a combination of all practices."
Letourneau recommends a program established by the team, not an individual, unless that individual is truly capable of understanding every facet of the reel maintenance program as it relates to the overall course maintenance program.
When the TV show Dirty Jobs first hit the airwaves in 2005, I was mildly amused by the idea of this actor guy who subjected himself to performing nasty tasks like hog castration, snake sexing and bird vomit inspection. We yukked it up along with Mike Rowe and his crew as they got very, very dirty and we learned about the weirder side of Americas lesser-known workplaces.
But, along the way, the stinky and gooey parts of more than 300 different filthy jobs began to take a backseat to another aspect of the show: getting to know typical Americans who work hard behind the scenes and do important things that benefit others.
Over the years I became a regular viewer of Dirty Jobs, but I also became a fan of Mike Rowe himself. Heres a guy who faked his way into an opera singing job 20+ years ago and since then has become an iconic TV host, voiceover king, corporate spokesman for Ford, CAT and others, big fan of the Green Industry and, more recently, an advocate for the idea that not everyone needs a college degree and that labor hard work using ones own hands is a rewarding and valuable thing.
In short, I think Mike Rowe is far more in touch with the pulse of America than any member of Congress or big city mayor. I also like the fact that hes apolitical. Its not about politics... its about common sense. You can learn a lot of great stuff about his foundation and what hes trying to accomplish here: www.profoundlydisconnected.com.
I decided I had to talk about Rowe this month after a simple Facebook post he wrote last month pretty much blew my mind because it perfectly captured the whole Millennial angst problem but it also speaks volumes about America today. A young person wrote him for career advice and he responded... well, read it for yourself. Heres a shortened version. You can find the whole thing on his site:
Hey Mike! Ive spent this last year trying to figure out the right career for myself and I still cant figure out what to do. I have always been a hands-on kind of guy and a go-getter. I could never be an office worker. I need change, excitement, and adventure in my life, but where the pay is steady. I grew up in construction and my first job was a restoration project. I love everything outdoors. I play music for extra money. I like trying pretty much everything, but get bored very easily. I want a career that will always keep me happy, but can allow me to have a family and get some time to travel. I figure if anyone knows jobs its you so I was wondering your thoughts on this if you ever get the time! Thank you!
Consider your own words. You dont want a career - you want the right career. You need excitement and adventure, but not at the expense of stability. You want lots of change and the freedom to travel, but you need the certainty of steady pay. You talk about being easily bored as though boredom is out of your control. It isnt. Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting. Its one thing to love the outdoors, but you take it a step further. You vow to never take an office job. You talk about the needs of your family, even though that family doesnt exist. And finally, you say the career you describe must always make you happy.
Stop looking for the right career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on whats available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But dont waste another year looking for a career that doesnt exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way thats consistent with those beliefs.
Many people today resent the suggestion that theyre in charge of the way they feel. But trust me, Parker. Those people are mistaken. That was a big lesson from Dirty Jobs, and I learned it several hundred times before it stuck. What you do, who youre with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you.
This is remarkable advice on a bunch of levels. First, its a nice slap upside the head to a generation of young workers who arent particularly interested in working. Second, it reminds us that the simplest things matter most: Ill take someone whos hard-working and reliable over someone who crushed their ACT or interned someplace fancy anytime. Finally, he really nails it by stating flatly that happiness doesnt flow from your title... it comes from walking the talk.
When it comes to irrigation maintenance and repair the responsibility at most golf courses usually falls to the assistant superintendent or second assistant. Why? Because repairs and troubleshooting need to be done by someone who is responsible and has the ability and understanding of how important the irrigation system is to the overall maintenance and operation of the course. If water management is a factor, due to limited water supply or public perception, there is even more reason to have a management-level employee dealing with the irrigation system. Have you ever thought of designating someone to perform all your irrigation maintenance or hiring an irrigation technician instead of letting it fall to the assistants?
An irrigation technician is a great asset to not only the golf course, but also to the irrigation system. Having a staffer who is solely responsible for maintaining the irrigation system helps the system operate better, have fewer problems and most likely save water. Irrigation technicians are proactive with maintenance as opposed to being reactive, which is the case at most courses.
Most high-end courses have irrigation technicians, with some facilities employing more than one. Whether there is an irrigation technician (or technicians) is usually dependent on how large the irrigation system is or how much trouble it is causing.
Intuitively, the more sprinklers the system has the more maintenance it requires. Likewise, an older irrigation system needs more maintenance. Consider designating an irrigation technician if system maintenance is taking too much of your or your assistants time, or if it is taking more than 75 percent of one of your staffs time.
Theres no hard and fast rule. I know many 18-hole courses without an irrigation technician, and at least one course with three. One irrigation technician can maintain approximately 2,000 or so sprinklers with their associated controllers, valves, wiring and piping, but this will vary by course and number of holes.
What duties will an irrigation technician perform? First and foremost, addressing issues as they occur. These will include: broken pipes, leaking fittings, weeping sprinklers, non-operating sprinklers and controller or wiring issues. Routine work includes troubleshooting the system as necessary, as well.
When immediate issues do not have to be addressed, the technician can level sprinklers and set them to grade, check sprinkler arcs and nozzles and perform audits to improve irrigation scheduling. They can perform preventive maintenance, such as cleaning out controllers, exercising gate valves, tightening grounding clamps, replacing and leveling valve boxes, and cleaning and painting the pump house and pump station.
Above all else, patience is necessary to provide these services. Troubleshooting a strict sequence and customer service as the irrigation technician is always out among the members and players making repairs.
Of course, being mechanical oriented and not being afraid to get dirty doesnt hurt, either. Wire tracking and fault finding is a necessary skill, but unfortunately it is one only perfected with experience. With new technologies such as integrated decoder type systems and the use of HDPE pipe more skills and training are needed because these systems use more sophisticated equipment.
Most superintendents determine the watering schedule and have the irrigation central control system in their office. However, in some cases, the irrigation technician may be watering or implementing the schedule. Usually the technician maintains the irrigation system central controller database. As we have discussed in this space before, it is essential to have an accurate database. The irrigation technician is best positioned to ensure that the correct sprinkler, nozzle and arc that they have serviced in the field are reflected in the database. By performing audits, they can also use the data collected to fine tune precipitation rates and runtimes.
Unfortunately, good irrigation technicians are hard to find and they are beginning to earn higher salaries. There is no real training program other than experience. Much like a spray technician, if you can identify someone on your staff with the right skillset you can train them on irrigation repair and send them to electrical troubleshooting or auditing classes.
If you have the budget to hire or the available staff, an irrigation technician will improve the operation and lengthen the life of your irrigation system. It should also provide for better playing conditions as the irrigation system will cause less issues on the course and have improved uniformity when compared to an irrigation system only maintained and/or repaired when necessary.
Brian Vinchesi, the 2009 EPA WaterSense Irrigation Partner of the Year, is president of Irrigation Consulting Inc., a golf course irrigation design and consulting firm headquartered in Pepperell, Mass., that designs irrigation systems throughout the world. He can be reached at [email protected] or 978/433-8972.
Funding has been an issue for as long I as I have been in the turf profession. The lack of industry financial support was the catalyst for the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association in the early 1980s. A serious turf disease was having a negative impact, especially on sod production, and a group of sod producers visited the University of Wisconsins college of agricultural and life sciences dean for action. In a nutshell, his response was: Youll have to help with funding.
The WTA is an umbrella organization that covers golf turf, sod production, lawn care, sports turf, cemeteries, manufacturers, and distributors. From the beginning, there has been a broad base of support. Our success is due to our focus and hard work supporting turfgrass research at the UW-Madison, just like the dean suggested. We zero in on faculty need. In addition to membership dues, we started a field day, a winter conference and a golf fundraiser. Various turf groups now have their own events to raise money for the WTA.
We started giving scholarships and making research grants. The amount of funding wasnt large, but we had priorities in mind. We had our eyes on a really big project to conceive, design, build and gift to the university an agricultural research station for turfgrass like most other states already had. Being the last to build a turfgrass research station allowed us to learn and build the best. Due to good timing and fortunate politics, we acquired the land we needed contiguous to the new university golf course that was underway. Once fund raising started and was well known, we had an anonymous donor step up and match what we raised, which shortened our time frame. Before we knew it, the building was designed and The O.J. Noer Turfgrass Research and Education Facility was open and ready for business. By the way, we didnt deed the farm and all the amenities over to the state until we were completely finished. We did it all our way.
Our support of faculty has covered other areas. Over the past 25 years weve averaged half a dozen scholarships each year. The WTA has funded the first-year salary and benefit package for two new turf profs to secure their hiring. Weve funded individual projects, purchased all kinds of equipment from computers and data loggers to mowers and trucksters. Equipment and soft goods manufacturers have been extremely supportive as well. Our ARS has hosted urban field days, our own WTA Turfgrass Field Day, Grandparents University and even the TPI Field Days. The Noer Facility houses our turf diagnostic lab, a development that happened only after we built the station. The WTA also funds half of the program assistants salary.
Another big step was taken when we established a relationship with the UW Foundation. This organization helps with fundraising, manages our money and deals with legal and investment issues. The WTA now has four WTA Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowships, each one supporting a grad student. This fellowship fund gives access to the earnings of our $2 million corpus and is accessible only to turfgrass faculty for grad students. We also have a WTA Turfgrass Research Sustainability Fund in the UWF to support research requests. And we are initiating a legacy endowment fund in the UWF to help industry people with estate planning, legacy gifting and similar needs. This fund does not allow any invasion of the principal; only the earnings support research.
But I do know in a relatively small state, Wisconsin turf professionals have done an excellent job in support of our land grant university and its turf program. Our mission is to keep it going; after all, we are only helping to help ourselves.
Monroe Miller retired after 36 years as superintendent at Blackhawk CC in Madison, Wis. He is a recipient of the 2004 USGA Green Section Award, the 2009 GCSAA Col. John Morley DSA Award, and is the only superintendent in the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame. Reach him at [email protected]
This was a tough winter for most turfgrass managers. The discussions surrounding winterkill in both cool- and to a lesser extent warm-season turfgrasses was prominent throughout the industry. Many shared their stories of death and destruction while others were happy to be able to post images of healthy greens.
Winterkill on annual bluegrass putting greens was rampant on many courses throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northern US. Even our research plots at the Valentine Turfgrass Center were pretty much a total loss. Thankfully, I didnt have any ongoing research in these areas and we hope to have them back to full capacity by the time our anthracnose trials begin in June.
The bad part about our death and destruction is that we had originally thought that we made it through with minor problems. We did exactly what we preached to all of you out there and pulled samples from various areas, placed them in a greenhouse and waited to see if anything survived. Surprisingly, we observed pretty good recovery in nearly all samples that we pulled in early March.
Unfortunately, the winter didnt want to let go and the damage had yet to be done. Despite what appeared to be relatively unharmed in March, April thaws and refreezes coupled with prolonged periods of cold weather put the final nail in the coffin. We ended up with 100 percent death. It was like an episode of Game of Thrones when Ned Stark was about to be freed only to have his head chopped off. So much hope killed with one swing of the sword.
Just like us, many of you who thought that you made it through the season in decent shape didnt come up with a contingency plan to deal with the death. This means unexpected increases in labor and budget to get the turf back in playing conditions. It also means delayed openings, reduced rounds and decreased income for the club. Based on this, members will be pushing to get things back to normal.
For those superintendents that had to deal with (or are dealing with) dead turf, there will be nothing normal about this season. While overseeding and resodding may have taken place and the putting surfaces now look like they are in prime condition, theyre likely far from it.
If you were one of the fortunate ones who got the go ahead to resod with creeping bentgrass, you will probably be in the best spot. However, you will still be dealing with very young and relatively shallow rooted turfgrass as we head into the summer.
For those that did what we did in our research plots and simply poked as many holes as possible to allow the existing Poa seed to germinate, you may be in for a struggle. These young seedlings have about 1-2 months to become as healthy as possible before the summer stress wallops its punch. Theres a reason we dont open a golf course 2 months after seeding.
They need to know that this was one hell of a winter and youre not alone in your struggles. They need to realize that theres a reason the course down the street didnt lose turf and you did. They need to realize that theres a real difference between the creeping bentgrass greens on the neighboring course and the annual bluegrass on yours. They need to realize that the hybrid Bermudagrass they thought was a bulletproof choice on their greens may be challenged in a winter like this.
They need to know that its not your fault that one of the greens on your course died while another didnt. They need to understand that variation in drainage or shade on golf course surfaces as well as microclimates from one green to the next can have a tremendous impact on plant health and survival.
Hopefully one thing that will come out of a winter like this one is that clubs will start to realize the potential negative impacts of a harsh winter (similar to harsh summer) and allow for modifications. These may include converting from annual bluegrass to creeping bentgrass or installing internal drainage to improve water movement. Each case is different and the only person who knows what best for the course is the individual superintendent managing the course.
Although the golfers will likely feel angry and upset about the conditions and/or delays in course opening, I can assure you that the superintendent and their staff will be feeling 10 times the pressure and stress. Believe me, they hate losing turf more than you.
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