Gardening Smarter not Harder. Are Robotic Lawn Mowers Worth Buying?
The latest trend in garden gadgets is the robotic mower, which is rapidly becoming the mower of choice for land owners and property managers who recognise the benefits of a programmable machine.
However, some assume it to just be a novelty big boy’s toy.
Mowing the lawn is an enjoyable pastime for some and an unwelcome chore for others. Depending on the budget and the size of the lawn in question, the conventional choice has been between a pedestrian ‘push along’ mower and various iterations of ride-on machine for the larger lawns. Making your backyard presentable is just one of the many aspects of raising property value prior to a sale.
Far from being just a gimmick, today’s robot mowers actually boast levels of cutting accuracy that exceed machines of much higher value. As with many tech products, there are several manufacturers and models vying for your attention, but the market leader is Husqvarna. Their range of Automowers are variously suited to different lawn sizes and the higher specification machines have additional functionality. From Autumn 2018, Husqvarna’s X-line models will even be compatible with Alexa.
Robot mowers are used to master landscaping for development of residential gardens, but an increasing number of councils and parks are swapping manned ride-on mowers for these little robots. A recent trial by Edinburgh Council showed that a fleet of Automowers freed up the groundsmen to get on with other tasks around the grounds. Rather than making team members redundant, it actually enhanced the productivity of the maintenance function.
How Do Automowers Work?
The principle cutting method of Automowers is cutting little and often. Instead of trimming several days’ worth of grass at once, the robot mower cuts a much smaller length of grass, which is then distributed back into the soil as a mulch. “There are no piles of grass clippings to collect, as the fine trimmed grass is immediately returned to the lawn. The result is an even surface coverage and a healthy, thriving lawn.” says The Sumo Gardener.
Rather than travelling in straight lines on the same route around the garden, Automowers mow the lawn in an apparently random sequence. The idea behind this is that each blade of grass gets covered, and it doesn’t leave track marks. This technique is inspired by grazing cattle and sheep, who will roam around looking for untouched areas.
Can I Leave an Automower Unattended?
Robotic lawn mowers are designed to operate autonomously once they have been set up. Some people choose to programme their machines to work overnight, and many models have anti-theft alarms and GPS tracking. As there is no noisy motor and the blades are so small, robotic mowers make very little sound when out cutting.
Is my Garden Suitable for an Automower?
Husqvarna Automowers can operate on lawns of all shapes and sizes, and they can handle most slopes with ease. As long as the area of operation is marked out correctly with boundary wires, the machine will diligently mow every blade of grass and return to the charging station once it’s done for the day.
Some models can even be sent out to cut using a smartphone app or the Amazon Alexa smart device, although in reality you would probably use them mainly for monitoring. That could be a huge advantage to alter the value of the entire property.
You will need to establish how large (in square metres) your lawn is, so you can choose the right machine and installation kit. There is an online lawn area size calculator specifically designed for robotic mowers, which uses aerial mapping to measure property sizes.
“Keep in mind these types of mowers are not made to cut through tall grass. If your grass is out of control you will need to cut it the old fashioned way, before deploying your automated mower. The automated mower will keep the desired height with its scheduled routine.” comments Desiree Thomson a professional London gardener..
How do I Install an Automower?
Each Husqvarna robotic mower requires an installation kit in order to function. This consists of loop wire, pegs, connectors and splicers which are used to map out your area of operation. The best way to set up your area of operation is to embed the guide wires underneath the turf layer. Once it’s all installed and programmed, you just have to sit back and watch it mowl! Soon you’ll be wishing they could invent a robot for all your chores!
What About Mower Maintenance?
Automated lawn mowers run on batteries which are designed to last several years, but eventually they will lose their ability to hold a charge. A new battery might be a necessary purchase down the line, if you keep the same machine for several years.
The best chance of getting the most use out of a robotic mower is to keep it clean inside and out. Cleaning the blades and connection points fairly regularly prevents build-up of clippings, and it is recommended that you change the mower blades when they lose their sharpness.
A machine as precise and complicated as this doesn’t come with a small price tag, although it depends which model is best suited to your property. For smaller and less advanced models prices can start from £600, but the higher end, commercial-grade models can exceed £3000.
The sensible way to look at this is that you get what you pay for. If you don’t spend much time in your garden there are other ways to spend £1000, but it’s cheaper than paying a gardener!