Push lawn mowers come in three versions: non-motorized reel-mowers, gas-powered rotary mowers and electric-powered rotary mowers. Choosing a mower will depend on yard size, grass growth and your stamina. Using your push mower effectively takes a little planning, so that you can spend more time admiring your grass than cutting it.
Walk around your yard before mowing. Remove visible stones, branches, toys and trash from grass. Keep children and pets indoors or at least 15 feet away from the mower while you are cutting the lawn; even a reel mower can kick up a pebble into a child's eye. Do not let children or young teens operate power mowers.
Select a reel-type non-motored push mower for small yards. Plan your cutting path before you mow, to avoid lots of pullbacks. A reel mower cuts only when pushed forward; on the backstroke, blades rest. Plan to cut in a forward-motion circle around trees, for instance. Aiming toward the trunk risks damage to the tree and means you get only one forward cut for each push-pull motion.
A yard with lots of mowing obstacles--trees, rocks, play equipment--will be tiresome to cut with a reel mower, even if the grass area is small. Set mower blades to cut the desired height, remembering that reel mowers do best when they are not used to cut high grass, which can jam around the wheels. Wipe blades and wheels clean when you finish mowing, to prevent rust and keep blades sharp. Use clippers or a power edger to neaten up lawn margins.
Choose a gas-powered rotary mower for large yards. Engine and fuel combine to make the gas mower the heaviest option; some models can run to 80 or 100 pounds. Mow all margins of the yard first; the mower will do some edging as you go. Use overlapping strokes back and forth across the yard in a forward direction for the quickest cutting. An overlap of 4-6 inches per stroke lets you cut new grass without leaving lines or missed patches behind. The rotary mower will continue to cut if you pull the mower back. Do this as little as possible, however, because it is hard to see your work and puts your body off balance, risking accidents.
Divide a very large yard into sections; cut margins first, middle second. Run the mower briefly on the driveway or other non-grass surface when you finish. In some models, turning the blade by hand while cleaning can restart the mower and cause you serious injury. Let the blades blow off grass on a dry surface and rake up remainders. If you must clean the underside, use a long-handled broom to protect yourself from accidents. Further edging is optional.
Cut grass with an electric-powered rotary mower if you want to keep noise and fumes to a minimum. Lighter than a gas-powered mower, the electric mower can go as far as the end of its cord and can usually be used with a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord.
Avoid wet grass and mowing during rain showers; electricity and water mix to produce dangerous shocks. Cut in the same patterns as you would with a gas-powered mower. Unplug, even if the engine is turned off, before brooming off the blades.