Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Switching from Reel Mower to Robotic Mower

After 20 years, breaking up with Tru-Cut is hard to do.

While it would be nice to be thought of as a trail blazer, moving from my Tru-Cut to  a robotic lawn mower is a path well-traveled. Europe has been using robotic mowers for over 20 years. Closer to home, the COO of Super-Sod, Ben Copeland, Jr. installed a robotic mower a year earlier, so I was able to learn from him and know what to expect.

Installation was easy. The install team let me help, as long as I promised not to get in the way. The boundary and guide wires were installed just under the soil in less than two hours. We crossed the driveway by using a circular saw with a concrete cutting blade cutting a slit about an eighth of an inch deep. Once the mower was registered, settings checked, and base station plugged in, I said some parting words to my Tru-Cut, gave my new robot a nickname, and off "lil’ mike" went. 

Automower 450x on mike's lawn"lil’ mike" (my robotic mower) in late May after installation just before the second wettest year on record

My goal every year is to keep the lawn below one inch high. Most years I’m able to end the season at one inch to one and an eighth. The lowest setting on my robotic mower is three quarters of an inch, so my plan was to start at the lowest setting and leave it there all season. 

Now that the mowing season is over, I have my list of pluses and minuses:

On the plus side:

  1. Ended the season at three quarters of an inch.

    long shadows in the fall are no problem for automowerLong shadows at the end of the season with the height at three quarters of an inch and the grass looking fantastic.

  2. At no time during the season did I have brown scalping lines caused by cutting into the Bermudagrass stems.

  3. No bagging of clippings as "lil’ mike" cuts the grass constantly. The clippings are so small they just dry up and disappear.

  4. Razor sharp cutting edge. The three cutting blades are two-sided razor blades. It requires a philips head screw driver, replacement blades at $6.90 and five minutes to replace every 30 days. Most homeowners who buy a Tru-Cut give up and sell them because of the requirement to adjust the reel to the bed knife, plus the cost to have the reel and bed knife sharpened.

  5. Head lights. You know why a robotic mower has head lights? Because it’s cool! It really is.

  6. Once a week or two, all I have to do is run my Tru-Cut over the edges where the robotic mower can’t cut. The curb by the street is a drop off so "lil' mike" has to stay about eight inches away.

    (I used a plant growth regulator on the edges to keep the grass from growing. That is why I didn’t have to use my Tru-Cut much at all to cut the edges.)

  7. The robotic lawn mower "groomed" the Bermudagrass by pulling up stems that run horizontally and then cutting them off, which stimulates new growth. While it doesn’t scalp, it does pull up a silver-dollar-size grass clumps and then cuts them off leaving a small light brown spot. However, it’s not visible from the street and grows back within a day or two. The nice part is that it keeps the yard groomed were it stays soft when you walk on it with bare feet and allows air to flow through which keeps diseases down.

  8. No need to head to the gas station for fuel.

  9. Not one ant bed all year. I heard others had noticed this but was skeptical. This was the first year that I didn’t need to treat ant beds.

  10. The moles stayed in the pine straw beds. I did catch a few this year. Normally they come into the lawn. This year they stayed in the pine straw beds. Can’t say for sure it was the robotic mower but I hope for the same results every year.

  11. Shrubs look great. I had more time to procrastinate before I trimmed the shrubs. While I love cutting grass, I don’t like trimming shrubs!

  12. Grease-free hands. No longer have to grease bearings or do oil changes.


On the minus side:

  1. During heavy rain, runoff creates a small creek across my back yard. While it will cut in the rain, I'm always keeping an eye on my phone’s radar app when I’m away from home. This gives me time to send "lil’ mike" back to the base station if heavy rain is threatening. You do this from the phone app. Just about everything can be done from the phone app, which really is a positive.

  2. In late summer and early fall when the grass growth begins to slow, the grooming spots don’t grow in as fast, so the yard looks just a bit off color. While most folks driving by wouldn’t notice, to keep it from happening next year, I will raise the mowing height one setting so it doesn’t groom anymore.

  3. Weight gain. When you aren’t mowing your yard every few days in the heat of the summer, you will put on some weight. To fix this, my wife put a treadmill in my office.


 watching Automower work with a glass of wineStaying hydrated while mowing on those hot summer days

This was the second wettest year on record. There’s no way I could have kept my grass below an inch if I was still mowing it myself. The neighbors around me who have landscapers or mow their own grass ended the year at four inches or more, which is not healthy or aesthetically pleasing. Moving to an robotic lawn mower will pay for itself and keep your grass looking great all season. 

Tru-Cut is still with me and gets to go out every couple of weeks or so to make a quick run around the edges. The robotic mower exceeded my expectations. Go ahead and be a trailblazer in your neighborhood. You will find that breaking up with your current mower is a breeze.



switching from reel mower to robotic mower