Heavy-duty garden tractors are great for powering through thick grass and dense vegetation.
But their high cost and limited availability makes them impractical for many small-scale projects, such as mowing a residential yard, small office, or university campus.
When working with a limited budget, or in an emergency situation, you need a mowing technique that can fulfill many of the same tasks while being much more economical and less obtrusive.
In the absence of a tractor, the following tools and methods are often used to mow lawns:
- Push mower
- Brush cutter
- String trimmer / weed eater
- Slasher tool
- Hedge trimmer
- Prescribed fire
- Spray glyphosate
- Lasagna gardening / sheet composting
- Weeding knife
1. Push mower
Generally, the best mower for cutting grass on a relatively large area of 3/4 of an acre or less is a push mower.
As opposed to riding mowers, push mowers are lightweight and can be easily maneuvered across uneven ground.
In addition, a walk-behind mower is the ideal choice for people who are on a budget and cannot afford to spend a great amount of money on maintenance, repairs and fuel for a tractor.
Although lawn tractors have greater speeds, they are also generally around 10 times more expensive than a standard self-propelled mower.
2. Brush cutter
Versatility is the key word when dealing with brush cutters.
With this tool, you are able to mow along fences, hedges and long grass.
In addition, it is also possible to quickly remove excess undergrowth and weed growth.
Since it’s quiet and lightweight, it is easier to carry around, operate and use than a sit on mower.
Whether you’re landscaping the gardens, practicing agriculture or maintaining an open field turf, a brush cutter is an indispensable tool when dealing with overgrown grass and shrubs.
3. String trimmer
Whether you call it a weed whacker or weed eater, a string trimmer is a handy tool that gives you total control over the shape of your grass, bushes, and small shrubs.
The handheld power tool is great for gap-free and straight lines within your lawn and for cutting grass around the edges of a raised bed or garden patch.
String trimmers are powered by a gas engine, lithium-ion battery, or a DC motor for low-dose applications without outages or downtime.
A height-adjustable handle allows you to control your horizontal reach in a standing or kneeling position.
4. Slasher tool
Heavy grass, stubborn weeds, and thick brush require a healthy dose of pressure and shear force to be uprooted.
A slasher tool can provide mechanical power to remove the most difficult overgrowth, create cuts and openings in dense shrubbery, or carve out paths through the undergrowth.
Components like a sharpened steel blade, wooden or plastic grip handle, and a long arm work together to make your fence line or low-lying plant growth easy to clear.
Although it’s a traditional manual tool, slashers allow you to not only strike at the base of the stalk but also slice through stems and tangle clumps of free-standing, nuisance foliage.
Designed primarily for use on walkways and around flower beds, an edger tapers the end of a lawn or bed to break up sharp, jagged edges.
Also called an edging shovel or knife, the tool is easy to manipulate with a single hand while its sharpened steel blade cuts cleanly along the length of the bed.
The wooden handle with a large double grip allows you to apply even pressure without cutting into your palm when you apply force to the shaft.
Invading grassroots and encroaching trees or shrubs can be stopped in their tracks by making a series of cuts a few inches below the ground surface to sever the roots.
A light, two-handed tool that looks like a medieval weapon, a scythe is designed to cut through big weeds and sprawling grasses while allowing you to stand slightly upright.
Its sharpened steel blade slices through stems and leaves at the same time that it harvests the foliage.
It can also be used for cutting flowers and vegetables.
The agricultural tool does not require any moving parts or fuel, which makes it an eco-friendly choice for mowing without a power tool or tractor, for that matter.
However, the scythe works best in open spaces, where it can be used without the risk of tripping over the blade.
7. Grass shears
Whether you need to snip a few stalks of wildflowers or trim the tips of your fruit and vegetable bushes, shears provide precise results without mowing.
The long handles on garden scissors keep your fingers away from the sharpened blades, designed to tackle grasses, weeds, and dry or dead stems.
Detachable blades allow easy cleaning and maintenance of the cutting edges after use.
An anti-adhesion coating on the blades minimizes the possibility of debris and trimmings clogging the cutting surface.
8. Hedge trimmer
Like a string trimmer and power saw, hedge trimmers are handheld and powered through gas, electricity, or lithium-ion battery.
While hedge trimmers are best for shaping shrubs and bushes, they are also good for cutting grass, small branches in low spots, and more.
Consider them if a power saw is too expensive or overkill and a string trimmer is too slow or inconvenient.
Clear the area of debris (sticks, small branches, rocks, and so on) with a rake or another tool before you begin.
Keep the blade parallel to the ground for maximum cut efficiency, and watch for low-lying branches.
Grass control is critical to keeping herd animals healthy.
If you own cattle, sheep, or goats, you may already know how to mow a field using livestock.
Train your horses and mules to cut grass if fed while working.
Maintaining forage quality through grazing management is essential to meet the nutrient needs of all herd animals.
Except for the trampling action of hooves and defecation, grazing animals can reach areas where a machine cannot, such as bottomlands and rocky, damp terrain.
10. Prescribed fire
A planned fire set by a trained professional can reduce grass growth.
A more controlled burn is scheduled for a time when the fire will not pose a threat to nearby structures, utility lines, or the public.
Prescribed burns are useful in reducing fuel loads and the chance of destructive wildfires, especially when done with mechanical mowing.
After a fire removes vegetation from a field, it will eliminate insect infestation, disease, and aggressive weeds.
Properly timed and planned, however, prescribed burns can reduce these risks and lessen the need for chemical herbicides.
11. Spray glyphosate
Broad-spectrum or non-selective herbicides are best for the job.
Glyphosate, in particular, is suited for almost any field that contains grasses and small herbaceous plants.
As the easiest and quickest way to kill the lawn, glyphosate can be applied by ground sprayer or aerial equipment.
However, care should be taken when applying glyphosate, as it is a well-known active ingredient in Roundup®.
Roundup has some side effects, including vomiting and stomach irritation in sensitive individuals.
12. Lasagna gardening
As described by author and naturalist Ruth Stout, lasagna gardening is a way of growing food that requires minimal soil preparation, laying down compost and topsoil together in cardboard or tray to form a garden bed.
This is one of the best ways to reduce grass.
The idea is that the grass doesn’t have to be removed – kill it when it’s covered with cardboard, compost, or other material that will protect your vegetables from weeds without killing any soil microbes.
Smothered grass and weeds will rot into the soil and have difficulty returning unless you remove the bed and all its materials.
13. Weeding knife
Weeding tools are an essential part of any garden tool collection.
A weeding knife is a small, thin blade used to cut out grass in walkways, driveways, and other tight spots.
Sometimes referred to as a patio knife, this garden tool is easiest to use in places where the grass and weeds are shallow-rooted.
Use a weeding knife to poke weeds out of cracks between pavers and other stone and brick structures.
Their “L” shaped blade can also be useful for sod cutting and other garden tasks.