Acreage Mowers: Walk-Behinds, Tow-Behinds, and Tractor-Mounted Mowers

Find the big acreage mower that’s just right for you.


| May/June 2017



Large-scale lawnmower

Walk-behinds allow for maximum maneuverability as well as easy deck access.

Photo courtesy Exmark

Purchasing our own rural acreage was something my wife and I always wanted to accomplish. After a lot of searching, we were lucky to find the right piece of land and be able to swing the finances to make it work for us. I remember driving out to the property after we had signed the papers, and looking out at the field and open areas with a sense of pride. I also immediately noticed that there was a lot of land to mow, if I wanted to stay on top of the grass and keep the weeds from taking over.

I didn’t have any equipment to handle the mowing on our land. Our lot in town was small and could be managed with a good push mower, and I also had an old Sears riding mower that had seen better days. Both would be woefully underpowered to handle any large-scale mowing. My dad graciously offered the use of his 8N Ford tractor and sickle mower to get us started on maintaining the land, but after the first few mowing attempts, it became obvious that I would have to find a better alternative for mowing the hard-to-reach and uneven parts of the property.

The land we had purchased was hilly and wooded, with several 3- to 5-acre fields interspersed across 80 acres. I knew I needed a mower with a smaller footprint when getting to the backwoods fields. The sickle mower would work great on the flat field portions I had to mow, but the off-set bar did not leave a lot of room for the tight turns on hilly contours. And getting back into some of the smaller fields and meadows with the existing trails was almost impossible with the sickle mower mounted.

Walk-behind mowers

My first attempt to find an alternative to the 8N and sickle mower brought me to my neighborhood hardware and rental store. I had noticed in previous visits that they rented a self-propelled “rough cut” mower I was told was capable of cutting tall weeds and grass, brush, and saplings of up to 3 inches in diameter. The mower had a 26-inch cutting area with a 14-horsepower motor, with electric start. I could tell the mower deck and blades were heavily constructed, so I rented it for the day and loaded it on my trailer for the trip to the land.

As I started to mow an area of tall grass and thick thistle, I was very impressed at how easily the mower cut through the vegetation. There were areas of red willow brush that had crept into the edge of the clearings, and the mower easily cut through the brush in a 26-inch path. There were trails on our land that wound through the woods, but they had become overgrown with vines and small brush. The mower easily cleared the existing trails, and by using a chainsaw on the larger trees, I was also able to use the walk-behind mower to create new trails through the woods.

While I liked some of the features of the walk-behind mowers, such as maneuverability, ease of use, and its ability to conform to small areas, I found that a big disadvantage was the cutting swath of the mower. Although the mower is self-propelled, cutting even an acre of field requires a lot of walking, and a surprising amount of physical labor, to turn and manipulate the mower over rough and uneven ground. After spending the day cutting a 2-acre field, I felt like I had walked miles and was physically worn out. While I do believe the walk-behind mowers are good for trail clearing and some limited open-field work, I decided to look for a better alternative.





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