Scythe Vs Mower: Which One Is Better For Your Lawn?

“Mowing” has become the substitute word for cutting grass in modern times. With lawnmowers of all shapes and sizes used for private and commercial lawn care, you can be forgiven for thinking that there is no better way to trim your grass…but what if there is?

Mowers are better than scythes for the elderly or people in bad health due to the ease of use. They are also better for larger lawns or ones needing close cuts. Scythes are advantageous for the physically fit, less manicured lawns, or smaller areas. They are also cheaper for the frugally minded.

Today we take a look at scythes and weigh them up as potential challengers to the lawnmower’s throne. We discuss the scythe’s grass-cutting credentials before diving into a good old-fashioned “pros and cons” shootout. By the end, you will know which tool is right for your lawn and lawn care needs.


Can You Use A Scythe To Cut Grass?

The world’s first lawnmower didn’t appear on the scene until Edwin Beard Budding, a British inventor, was hit by a wave of inspiration in 1830.

You can use a scythe to cut grass even though mowers have taken over the lawn cutting tasks in most households. They have less moving parts which leads to less maintenance. They take physical fitness and skill to operate where mowers do not, but can be give a good cut.

Having come across a reel-bladed cloth-cutting machine in his native Gloucestershire, England, Budding’s mind immediately raced to find how the same mechanics could apply to cutting grass. The engineer got to work and, soon, the direct ancestor of all walk-behind mowers was born.

Of course, society’s need to regulate the height of grass and lawns predated the invention of the mower, which makes one wonder what tools were used for the job in those days. Well, wonder no more.

Alternative Grass Cutting Methods

Before Budding’s revolutionary creation, people had to use whatever means they could. The passive approach was to give grazing livestock free reign over areas with overgrown grass. The active approach involved the use of various cutting tools including machetes, shears, and (you guessed it) scythes.

The Birth Of The Scythe

A scythe is a multipurpose tool that is primarily used for harvesting crops and Grim Reaper costumes on Halloween. However, it is equally adept at cutting grass and has been used for this purpose for centuries. Although they have been largely replaced by power machinery, scythes are still used all over the world today.

Scythes have historically been used by farmers as part of the hay production process. They are especially useful for cutting medium and tall grasses, which are ideal for animal feeds.

Before the lawnmower arrived, aesthetic lawns were a luxury for elites and royalty. Teams of scythe-wielding servants would toil for hours to achieve the best possible cut. Because lawns were a symbol of status, landowners were especially demanding of their landscaping “crews”.

The Predominance Of The Mower

In modern times, scythes are no longer the go-to lawn trimming solution. The lawnmower’s post-release popularity indicates how limited scythes and other cutting tools are when it comes to lawn care.  

Scythes require much more physical exertion than most lawnmowers, not to mention consistent angling. Most modern mowers have combustion or electric motors that control blades and, in some cases, mower movement. Lawnmowers also have adjustable cutting heights, as well as several other technological features that contribute to their efficiency and comfort.

If you would like to read more about grass and cutting lawns, I recommend my other articles…

Benefits Of Using A Scythe To Cut Grass Over A Mower

Despite the undeniable perks of a lawnmower, there are a few reasons why one would opt for a scythe in this day and age.

  1. It’s a great workout, for starters. The constant back and forth motion will do wonders for your physical fitness and health. Who needs a gym membership when you can slash your way through dense grass?
  2. Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), scythes are independent of external energy. That means no electric power or fossil fuels are needed to operate them. They run on 100% human power.
  3. Thirdly, there very few repairs that need to be done to a scythe when compared to a lawn mower.
  4. Finally, the rise of environmentalist sentiment is motivating people to play their part in the reduction of carbon emissions. Young people, in particular, are especially enthusiastic about going green and are increasingly gravitating towards traditional tools like scythes. 

Pros And Cons Of Scythe Mowing

Now let’s take a look at some of the perks of using a scythe.

The biggest advantage that scythes have over lawnmowers is the fact that they are much cheaper than lawnmowers. “Cheaper”, in this context, includes the average purchase and running costs. 

An average scythe is cheaper to buy than an average power lawnmower. A scythe’s running costs are almost zero, while power mowers require the purchase of fuel or electricity, as well as oil and spare parts. Scythes do not require any extensive service beyond sharpening the blade.

Sharpening the blade is also a breeze. A few strokes with a whetstone, and the scythe is back in action!

Because scythes are a hand tool, in the traditional sense, they are easier to manipulate than even the most maneuverable lawnmowers. This makes cutting around obstacles easier.

Scythes are also a better option for the environment. No emissions and no noise.

Unlike lawnmowers, scythes are well suited to cutting wet grass. This makes them a better tool for dewy mornings or rainy days.

Did we also mention the fitness benefits?

The biggest disadvantage with scythes is the physical exertion required. Not everyone is looking to get in shape through yard work.

Not only is scything a much more tiring exercise than mowing, but it is also likely to be more time-consuming too. A team of scythe users may still be beaten by a well-equipped mower or garden tractor.

Although scythes are perfect for wet grass, dry grass is a bit of a challenge. The efficiency gap highlighted above is even greater when cutting dry grass. This also limits the times of the day you can cut your grass with a scythe.

Pros And Cons Of Mower

The lawnmower’s biggest advantage is the sheer range of machines available. From reel mowers to self-propelled walk-behinds and zero-turns, there is a mower for almost every property, budget, and personal taste.

The range of machinery available also feeds into the second advantage…efficiency. A single commercial mower, for example, can cover several football fields in under an hour. That’s just not possible with a single scythe.

Modern mowers also have numerous little features and comforts that improve the overall grass-cutting experience. Features like height adjustment make mowers the better choice for precise and consistent cutting. Walk-behind and riding mowers have comfort features like handles and seats that make it easier to mow for hours without compromising cut quality.

Mowers are also great for cutting dry grass, which gives you plenty more cutting time during the day if it’s not raining. 

As far as disadvantages, we have to start with the impact on your wallet. While you can get an excellent scythe for under US$100, mowers can cost more than ten times that amount. The most expensive commercial zero-turns can easily blaze past the $15,000 mark.

Let’s not forget the running costs. With the exceptions of manually operated reel mowers, most lawnmowers require fuel or electricity to run. There is also the cost of service and replacement parts. In a nutshell, everything that can go wrong with a mower is likely to cost you money.

Combustion mowers, in particular, have a detrimental effect on the environment. Not only are they noisy, but they also release carbon exhaust into the atmosphere. With more and more environmental laws coming into play, combustion mowers are certainly on borrowed time.

Which One Is Better For Your Lawn?

While both tools are very effective for lawn care, choosing between them is a matter of personal circumstance.

If you enjoy the physical exertion of manual labor, then a scythe may be perfect for you. You must also have the time to spare, as scything often requires one to wake up early before dew evaporates.

Nine times out of ten, a scythe is a cheaper option. If money is tight, you might have to make do with a scythe until you can afford a lawnmower…and its running costs.

A scythe is also a good choice if your yard has plenty of obstacles. The tool’s manipulability is perfect for close shaves around trees, bushes, and ornaments.

However, several factors can tip the scales in the lawnmower’s favor.

If you have limited time for chores, a mower or garden tractor may be the more efficient choice. This is especially true for large yards.

As we hinted at earlier, some people are not fans of strenuous manual labor. Mowers offer comforts, conveniences, and features that make cutting the grass child’s play. Some garden tractors and zero-turns, for example, have phone charging outlets and even cupholders for maximum convenience!

The conveniences are even greater if money is no object. Deeper pockets will give you access to top-of-the-range mowers with the latest and greatest features. 

Ultimately, while a comparison between scythes and mowers is warranted, you may be surprised to discover that these tools are more complementary than they would seem. Scythes, for instance, are better suited to cutting tall and wet grasses, while mowers are better at trimming shorter and dry grass.

By covering each other’s weaknesses like this, scythes and mowers make the case that the best solution for your lawn is to get both!

The Final Touches On Scythes Vs Mowers…

One solution is to have both and use each when the situation calls for it. Everyone’s lawn is their own personal canvas and the tools you use can help you make it your own.

Scythes are inexpensive and are a great addition to any toolshed.

If you would like to read more, see my other articles…


Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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