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What is a High-lift Mower?

by Brian Barth

The technical jargon of power lawn equipment is a language of its own. The advertising of manufacturers and the colloquial expressions of local lawn-maintenance providers may leave you perplexed about the meaning of a "high-lift mower," but this is not as complicated as it seems. All you need is a simple explanation of lawn mower blades and their uses to clarify the confusion. In essence, a high-lift mower is one equipped with a special blade that creates extra force to propel the grass clippings into a bag.

Approaches to Lawn Mowing

You have three main choices in how to cut the grass. The simplest, most old-fashioned way is to let the clippings blow out the side chute onto the lawn. Depending on how thick they are, you may choose to leave them where they fall or rake them up afterwards. Then there are the mulching blades. These aim to chop the grass up as fine as possible, so it doesn't have to be raked but can decompose in place and nourish the soil. Finally, there is the option of collecting the clippings with a bagging attachment as you go along -- the only situation where a high-lift blade is in order. The design of a high-lift blade creates a strong force to vacuum the clippings into the bag and reduce the clogging that otherwise is common with bagging systems.

Rationale for High-lift Blades

If you like to bag your grass clippings, you should consider a high-lift blade for your mower. Bagging means you won't have to come back to rake later -- plus, the grass clippings are useful for other things. Chopped grass is ideal for mulching around tiny vegetable plants, for example, where it will help to conserve moisture and add nutrients to the soil. The fine texture of lawn trimmings also makes a perfect ingredient for compost piles. Whenever you add food scraps to the pile, cover them with a layer of grass clippings and there will be less odor and more efficient decomposition.

The Right Equipment

There is no reason to bother with a high-lift blade unless you have a bag attachment on your mower. They're actually a bad idea if your mower is one that shoots the grass out the side, because they will eject any material that you mow over at a high rate of speed -- including small rocks and sticks that can injure anyone standing in the way. It's also important to realize that a high-lift blade doesn't do much on the smaller push mowers. You need the horsepower of a riding lawnmower or a self-propelled walk-behind model to spin a high-lift blade fast enough for there to be a noticeable improvement over an ordinary blade.

High=lift Blade Characteristics

If you want to see if your mower is equipped with a high-lift blade, have someone push down on the handlebars to raise the front end of the mower while you look underneath. On a high-lift blade, the back side opposite the sharpened part intended for cutting is curved upward. Other blades are flat in comparison and it is this simple difference that creates the extra force that prevents the mower chute from getting clogged -- saving you time and headaches when you're cutting through a thick stand of grass.

About the Author

Brian Barth works in the fields of landscape architecture and urban planning and is co-founder of Urban Agriculture, Inc., an Atlanta-based design firm where he is head environmental consultant. He holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. His blog, Food for Thought, explores the themes of land use, urban agriculture, and environmental literacy.

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