Can a Reel Mower Cut Tall Grass?

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A reel mower is a certain type of lawn mower that is used to cut grass really short. It’s a great option if you’re going for a manicured look in your yard. Most people will use a reel mower on a lawn that’s already short so you may be wondering whether you can use it to cut the grass when it’s tall too.

In general, reel mowers have difficulty cutting tall grass. Manual reel mowers don’t have a powerful engine to cut tall grass efficiently. There are motorized reel mowers but these still cut the grass in a perpendicular fashion making it hard for them to cut the grass when it’s tall.

Contrary to what many people think, there are actually a few advantages to using a manual reel lawn mower, including:

  • The way the blades work makes cutting with a reel mower healthier for the grass
  • They are usually less expensive than other lawn mowers
  • They are usually safer to use and result in fewer accidents than other types of mowers
  • They are usually smaller and take up less space
  • They are very low-maintenance and cost little to nothing to keep going
  • They are very quiet because they have no motor
  • They leave a much smaller carbon footprint because there is no gas or electricity used

Nevertheless, if you’re one of these people who lets your grass get quite long before you go outside to cut it, you might want to consider using another type of mower. Reel lawn mowers do not always efficiently cut grass that is too high.

How High Can a Reel Mower Cut?

If your grass is just half an inch or an inch higher than it usually is, you can usually cut it with a reel mower and still get good results.

As with other types of lawn mowers, you can adjust the height setting on a reel mower, but because of the way it cuts — again, much the same as a pair of scissors would — it’s best not to let the grass get too high when a reel mower is what you plan to use to cut it.

Most experts recommend that you use a reel mower only on grass that is four inches high or shorter. In essence, grass that is more than four inches high is going to be either very difficult or impossible to cut with a reel mower, especially if you’re using a manual one.

Even with a motorized reel mower, you’ll likely have a hard time cutting grass that is super tall. In short, it’s best not to count on a reel mower of any type to cut extra-long grass. If you do, you’ll have to make sure that you cut it several times until it gets down to the length you want it to be.

Why a Reel Mower Will Struggle to Cut Tall Grass

Part of the reason why a reel mower struggles to cut tall grass is because of the way the blades do the actual cutting. As mentioned earlier, reel mower blades will cut your grass much the same as a pair of scissors would. This is because the blades cut the grass in a perpendicular way and not a horizontal way like regular mowers do.

Regular mowers have blades that are parallel to the ground and therefore sit on top of the grass, so to speak, so that they do a better job of cutting the blades.

In contrast, the perpendicular action of the blades on a reel mower means that tall grass won’t be cut efficiently. Not only is it much harder to push the reel mower and cut the blades of grass, but the blades of the mower aren’t actually on top of the grass; therefore, they don’t cut off as much of those grass blades at a time. This is why when you cut high grass with a reel lawn mower, you’ll have to go over it several times to remove enough of the grass blade tops.

What Is the Best Mower for Tall Grass?

While most lawn mowers can be used to cut tall or semi-tall grass, there are a few types that make cutting tall grass a lot easier. These include:

  • A reel mower that has a rotating blade of 14 inches. You should also look for one that has a height that can go up to 1.75 inches. Heat-treated alloy steel blades also work best when it comes to cutting tall grass. So, what you’re looking for in your reel mower are high-quality blades that are longer than usual and a height setting that goes up to 1.75 inches or higher.

  • A self-propelled engine in your push mower. Even with the best mowers, it can be a challenge to cut grass that is extra-long. A self-propelled mower practically pushes itself and allows you to cut your grass without a lot of physical work on your part. Does this mean that you won’t break a sweat while cutting your grass if it’s tall? Not necessarily, but it’ll be a little easier if the mower is self-propelled.

  • A riding lawn mower. Let’s face it; when it comes to cutting all types of grass, you can’t beat a riding lawn mower. This is especially true when cutting grass that has gotten too tall, but a riding lawn mower makes the task a lot easier on you.

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