Lawn mowing can be a tiring and time-consuming chore. Every homeowner wants to have a well-maintained lawn without having to spend their hot summer afternoons tending to them. That’s why gardening companies tend to do well in residential areas, where the convenience of having a gardener can be very tempting.
Over the years, companies have developed technologies that offer more appealing ways of tending to our lawns. These include ride on mowers, zero-turn mowers, and now the increasingly popular robotic lawn mower.
The technology behind robotic lawn mowers has been developing gradually over the last 20 years and they are now at a point where the functionality is very good and the price is reducing to an affordable level. Their complete automation with no need for human operation has brought the man vs machine war right into our gardens, bringing into question whether employing a gardener to cut your grass is needed any longer.
Buying a robot lawn mower will be considerably cheaper than employing a gardener to cut your grass, and after the initial setup, there is minimal user intervention required.
The Rising Popularity Of Automatic Mowers
For the majority of household gadgets, the trend is towards more technology, increased automation, and reduced manual effort to complete important household chores. In the case of lawnmowers, the trend is no different, with a general migration from user-operated mowers to fully automated devices underway for quite a few years now.
Although only really available since 1995, it was not until 2010 that sales of robotic lawnmowers achieved any significant traction, due to the increase increasing capability and reducing cost of the devices. The market share for robot lawn mowers still remains small, with only 7% of homes in Europe currently having a robotic lawn mower, but sales figures are currently increasing by 17% per year.
With increasing numbers of people considering the purchase of a robotic lawn mower, it is a good opportunity to analyse how these robotic lawn mowers compare to alternative lawn maintenance options, such as hiring a gardener. It is important to understand the pros and cons of using a robotic lawn mower, versus the benefits and challenges of employing a gardening service. Below is a detailed comparison of the two:
Benefits And Drawbacks Of Employing A Gardener
The gardening business has been around for along time, and it has thrived as it is an important service that people value and are prepared to pay for. There are a number of benefits, but also a number of drawbacks which must be considered.
Employing A Gardener Is Simple
I’ve never found any difficulty in obtaining the services of a gardener in my area. I regularly get flyers advertising gardening services through my door. The local newspaper has adverts for a number of reputable companies, and the internet can be searched to find companies offering gardening services in your area. I have neighbours who use gardeners and I could ask them for a recommendation if required. Employing a gardener should be as simple as making a phone call to agree price and frequency and then letting the gardener work away. Most gardeners can bring their own equipment if needed, so there is no expensive outlay if you do not have the required equipment.
Hiring A Gardener Is Generally Good Value
Gardening services normally provide good value for money. Gardening is hard work and time consuming, and for many people, it is preferable to use some disposable income to create free time to enjoy, rather than having to work hard in the garden. My own lawn is about 400sqm, and lawn care services in my area cost approximately £20-£30 per visit. I would need to employ someone to cut my lawn a minimum of once every two weeks, but ideally once per week during the growing season, so the cost would be between £50-£100 per month. For some people, this represents money well spent to gain freedom from garden chores.
A Gardener Has A Human Touch That Can’t Be Matched By Automated Mowers
Every lawn is different. There are areas where the ground is uneven, and there are often patches of grass that are either very dense and vibrant or thin and unhealthy in appearance. Unlike a robotic mower that will blindly trim the grass evenly in all these areas, a gardener pays special attention to each area. He/she will work on the uneven ground to level it, uproot any invading weeds, and even trim the edge of the lawn to ensure it looks neat and does not encroach on the flowerbeds or path. Areas with patchy or unhealthy grass can be given special attention, to ensure that it is given the best chance to thrive. This is the human touch, which will be superior to an automated robotic lawn mower.
Gardeners Can Manage More Than Just Your Grass
Unlike a robotic lawn mower that will only be able to cut your grass, a gardener is able to do a range of other gardening jobs, such as weeding, trimming hedges, and attending to the flowers and plants in your garden to ensure that everything thrives and looks well throughout the year. If you use an automated lawn mower, you will have to either personally maintain your flowers and bushes, or be contented with having a beautiful lawn and less pristine flower beds and hedges. Obviously, the more work your gardener does, the more expensive the services will be, but it does increase the flexibility and options available to you.
Additionally, experienced gardeners can offer valuable input on how to tend to your garden. They may have solutions to various gardening problems: it may be your lawn is not growing well, or the flowers in your backyard are slowly dying. They will be able to provide advice that you can learn from to improve your own gardening skills.
You Can Socialize With Your Gardener
A robotic lawnmower doesn’t say hello, or engage you in conversation. I may have been known to talk to my robot lawn mower, but other than a few beeps, I don’t get much chat out of it. For some people, the social interaction is part of the enjoyment of employing a gardener. For others, this can be a significant negative aspect.
The Downsides Of Hiring A Gardener
Despite offering the above benefits, there are a lot of challenges that homeowners face when dealing with gardeners. These include:
Trust And Security Concerns
Hiring a gardener means regularly letting strangers onto your property. Many people do not give this much consideration, but there are risks associated with it. When you first employ a gardener, you may have very little knowledge of the people carrying out the work. If the gardening company has many employees, there may be different staff who attend to do the same job. Although unlikely, it is possible employing a gardener could lead to theft or other criminal action due to the trust you give to these individuals.
Timing And Scheduling
Hiring a gardener involves scheduling a specific time during which he/she will tend to your lawn. You will have to ensure that the gardener has access to the property and garden at this time. Some companies may require you to be at home while they work. If you are at home while the gardener is working, you may feel unable to make use of the garden, or alternatively, you may feel obliged to assist or supervise the work, negating some of the benefit which you had hoped to gain.
Gardening Is Skill Dependent
The quality of services a gardener provides is skill dependent. A bad gardener can do more damage than good to your lawn and flower beds. It is unlikely that a gardener will be as attentive and do as good a job as you would yourself. I would consider myself to be quite a particular person, and always try to do a job to the best of my ability. If I could see that the garden was not being managed to the standard I would do myself, I would feel awkward pointing this out, or may end up correcting the work myself after the gardeners left.
Benefits And Drawbacks Of Robot Lawn Mowers
Automatic lawn mowers were designed with the sole purpose of eliminating the need to work on your lawn. However, the machines offer an array of advantages to its users above and beyond this. Below are some of the benefits:
Users Get The Autonomy And Satisfaction Of Caring For Their Lawns
As humans, we derive a lot of satisfaction from personally accomplishing simple tasks. It may be doing your laundry, repairing the fence, or in this case, maintaining your lawn. A huge number of people enjoy tending to their lawns and gardens, which is why gardening is such a popular hobby for many.
Outsourcing lawn care services deprives homeowners of experiencing this satisfaction as the process is completely outsourced to another person. I think that robotic lawn mowers maintain a lot of the satisfaction of personally attending to your own lawn. When you first purchase a robot lawn mower, you have to install it, and this is a little time consuming. Adjustments may be required over the first few days to ensure that the mower cuts the lawn well and does not get stuck at any point. I found this process extremely satisfying and it was so rewarding when it was up and running and I could see how much time and effort this gadget was going to save me.
No Need For Unnecessary Interaction
While some people find interacting with strangers rewarding, a lot of people don’t. Dealing with people, particularly employees can be time consuming and stressful. In fact, this is one reason why people prefer online shopping to going to normal shops. Robot lawn mowers are reliable and always available to work. Unlike a gardener, you don’t need to work around their schedule, negotiate prices, or make do without them when they are on holiday.
Regular Lawn Maintenance
Unlike a gardener, you literally own your robotic lawn mower. It is yours to use anytime, any day. So instead of having fortnightly or weekly lawn services, you can have your lawn maintained much more frequently. Most robotic lawn mowers are designed to be in operation several times per week. My own mower runs for several hours every day, cutting a very small amount each time. This means the lawn constantly looks very neat and freshly cut. Robot lawn mowers use very little electricity. My own model uses only 20 watts electricity in operation and the annual electricity cost is less than £10.
Gardeners usually use petrol powered lawn mowers. This is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, robotic lawn mowers run on rechargeable batteries. Electricity from the grid is generated more efficiently than home power generation, and as commercial electricity generation gets greener, the impact on the environment reduces. Robot lawn mowers will automatically return to their charging stations, recharge without human interaction and return to work when the batteries are full.
Robotic Lawn Mowers Are Safe
Conventional lawnmowers are surprisingly dangerous. Approximately 600 people in the UK are treated in hospital each year due to injuries caused by lawnmowers. Deaths are not unheard of. Thankfully, robot lawn mowers are considerably safer than conventional lawnmowers. There are several reasons for this. The blades on a robot lawn mower are very tiny. Many of the models on the market use blades no bigger than a razor blade. The model that I own uses three razor blades attached to a plastic spinning disc. The blades are not fixed, but will deflect backwards if they encounter anything that it is unable to cut. The mower operates at much lower power than a conventional mower and moves much slower also. The blades are well tucked in under the mower and all robot mowers have safety features so that if the mower is tilted or lifted the blades will stop immediately. If a robot lawn mower runs over a small object that has been left on the grass, there is often very minimal damage.
Regular Automatic Lawn Mowing Results In A Healthier, Better Looking Lawn
One of the main benefits of a robot lawn mower, which I had not really considered prior to making a purchase, was that they make your lawn much greener, healthier and better looking. The reason for this is that they cut the lawn very frequently, cutting very tiny pieces of the grass, mulching them and then leaving them on the grass. The cuttings are so fine you wont notice them on the grass, as they will fall into the base of the lawn. This then returns the nutrients to the soil, to act as fertiliser for the growing grass.
Automatic Lawn Mowers Are Cool
Robotic lawn mowers are very interesting to look at. It gently moves over the lawn, quietly cutting as it goes, until it reaches the edge of the lawn or an obstacle blocking it’s path. It will then turn and move in a different direction. Any time someone comes round to my house, the first thing they want to talk about is the robot lawn mower. I find it hugely entertaining to look out the window and see the mower hard at work, and I have certainly inspired a few friends to make the decision to get one.
The Disadvantages Of Robotic Lawn Mowers
As usual, every machine has a few disadvantages. These mainly involve installation, limitations and in this case, the lack of a human touch. Below are some of the disadvantages of switching to automated lawn care:
Robotic Lawn Mowers Are Expensive
Robot lawn mowers are generally more expensive to purchase than conventional lawn mowers. The cheapest models available cost approximately £400 – £600 and can manage a garden up to 500-1000 m². More advanced models, with advanced features can cost several thousand pounds, which is a serious investment. The good thing is that the maintenance costs are very little, with only a few spare blades required during the cutting season and a new battery every 3-5 years.
When you compare the cost of a robot lawn mower to the cost of employing a gardener, the initial cost is clearly more for a robot lawn mower, but the pay back time can be as little as one year. If I employ a gardener once per week for 6 months of the year at a cost of £25 per visit, it will cost £575, which is more than the cost of my model. Less frequent visits from a gardener will increase the pay back time of a robot lawn mower, but when comparing the lifetime cost of maintaining your lawn, it is worth doing the sums to see what will be better value for you.
Installation Of A Perimeter Wire
In order to prevent the robot mower from wandering away from your lawn, you need to install a perimeter wire that defines the limits of its operation. For most lawnmowers, the perimeter is made of a wire that is held in place by pegs, or buried a few centimeters under the surface of the lawn. It is like a miniature fence which will not be visible once installed. The main downside of the perimeter wire is that it can take a bit of time to install it when you first get your robot lawn mower and you may have to adjust the position a bit over the first few weeks, it the lawn mower is not cutting to the edge of your grass, or if it is getting stuck on obstacles.
You May Still Have To Attend To The Edges Of Your Lawn
My robot lawnmower will cut right to the edge of a the lawn where it meets a path or patio. However, where it meets a sunken flower bed or pond, you must lay the perimeter wire 20 centimetres from the edge of the lawn, which will leave a strip approximately 12 centimetres wide which will be left uncut. This means that I have to go round with an electric strimmer approximately once per month to maintain the edges. A bit of a hassle and it was an unexpected downside when I first got my robot lawn mower.
Both automatic lawn care and gardening services are effective methods of tending to your lawn. Each technique has its own unique benefits as well as shortcomings. Robotic lawn mowing is an automated method that has a number of benefits over classical lawn maintenance, and eliminates the need to deal with gardeners and gardening agencies. However, it is quite costly, and has a number of other drawbacks. The decision on which method suits you best will depend on your individual garden and circumstances. As for me, I don’t think I’ll be contacting a gardener any time soon.
I have written a comprehensive guide to robot lawn mowers, which you can read here. This explains how they work, all the main features, and my experience of using them. I have also provided recommendations for the best robot lawn mowers to buy for all lawn sizes. If you have any questions about robot lawn mowers, please ask away in the comments section, or get in touch through the contact form. I would be delighted to help you if I can.