What are you doing for the rest of the day? The carpet cleaners are coming at 10:00, and your daughter has orchestra practice at 3:00? I see. Do you also need to mow 3 acres of grass? Wow. Depending on what you are cutting it with, you might want to reschedule the grass or cancel one of those other plans.
My girlfriend asked if I would help her parents by mowing their grass. I liked her, so I asked how big the yard was. My eyebrows raised when she said 3 acres. That sounded like a lot. She assured me they had a good mower, though, so I took it all in stride. Then, we got to her house. Do you have any idea how big 3 acres is?
No. How Big Are Three Acres?
It’s big, okay? I mean, it is [deleted expletive] big! Let me put it in perspective for you.
A square acre is 208.71 feet on each side. That and any acre otherwise shaped is 43,560 square feet. Multiply that by 3 and divide it by 9. That calculates the square yards in 3 acres. If we find the square root of those square yards, we get the dimensions of a square 3-acre plot.
It would be about 120 yards on each side. That is the length of a football field (including the end zones) on all 4 sides.
That Doesn’t Sound That Big To You?
It may not be as big as Texas, but the emotional impact of looking out on a space that size spoke much louder than the dull voices of mere numbers.
First of all, It wasn’t a square. It was much longer than it was wide. I couldn’t see exactly how long it was, as a matter of fact.
It wasn’t a flat grassy field. There were trees liberally planted in small groups, small hills, a drainage ditch, and some interior fences. The property lines were anything but straight.
What Do You Use To Mow That Much Land?
My girlfriend told me the mower was in the shed behind me. Shed? It looked more like a 3-car garage to me. I opened the door and walked inside.
Leaning on the wall in front of me was one of those old push mowers. Remember the ones with a horizontal cylinder of several curvy blades spun around by the wheels as you push it?
A Push Reel Mower?
I looked at the antique, thinking it would take me a week of 16-hour days to mow this yard. My girlfriend saw my jaw drop and bent over with laughter. “No, no, no,” she said. “Grandpa used that one around the house before the property was cleared and landscaped.” She pointed to the left. “The mower is over there.”
Sure enough, they set another mower behind a wheelbarrow. It was a gasoline-powered manual push mower. “22-inch” could barely be seen in the scratched-up paint.
An Old Push Mower?
I looked at the mower. I looked at my girlfriend. I looked back at the mower, back at her, and stuttered unintelligibly. She giggled and pushed me toward a door. “Through there.”
Yes, this “shed” had multiple rooms. I walked through the door and saw two dirt bikes beside an ATV. I started to like this girl a whole lot more right then. On the other side of the bikes was an old rear engine riding mower. I breathed a sigh of relief, and then I saw it,
This Is More Like It!
“Daddy bought it so I could mow, but I don’t like doing it. It isn’t any fun.” It was an almost new, pretty orange, all-wheel drive, articulated riding mower with a 48-inch cutting deck. She cocked her hip, looked at me coyly, and said, “Would you do it for me, please?” I’m not sure if she or the mower caused it, but I melted.
What Would The Mowing Time Be For All Those Mowers?
The selection of mowers in that shed ranged from about $40 to almost $4,000. As mowing time goes down, the price goes up.
Push Reel Mower
For this job, I’m not going to discuss this mower. It is all manual labor and designed for minimal areas, but its advantages are that it is cheap and produces a well-manicured look.
Gasoline Manual Push Mower.
I wouldn’t consider this mower for anything larger than ½ to 1 acre. It’s a chore to push the mower, and it has a narrow cutting width. Hills and ditches will be hard work, and you will have to walk back and forth again and again to complete the job.
Let me give you some perspective again. This property was an average of 3 acres long (626 feet) by 1 acre wide (208 feet). A 22-inch cutting deck has an effective cutting width of about 18 inches. We know there are close to 140 18-inch lanes across an acre. Walking 626 feet down each of 140 lanes is a distance of 87,640 feet.
That is over 16.5 miles. An average person can walk that distance at a speed of 3 to 4 mph, but dealing with hills and ditches while pushing a mower will slow a person down. So, say you move 2½ mph. It will take 6½ to 7 hours to mow three acres. I might have done that for a girl when I was young, but not now.
Gasoline Self-propelled Mower
The numbers are almost the same as a manual push mower. The difference is its speed. Self-propelled models travel 4 to 5 mph. At a fast pace, it will take less than 3½ hours to finish the job. At the slow end, it will take a bit more than 4 hours. Again, not bad when I was young, but I think 3 acres over-reach this mower’s capability and mine.
Rear Engine Riding Mower
Numbers change with this mower. The average deck is 30 inches. That is a 26-inch effective cutting width. That means there are only 96 lanes, and the distance traveled is reduced to less than 11½ miles. Speed remains around 4 to 4½ mph, but the larger cutting width enables this mower to take less than 3 hours to cut 3 acres – and you would be sitting down the entire time.
The Beauty Of All The Beasts
This articulated (that means it is hinged) all-wheel drive riding mower cuts the numbers down to size. With a 48-inch deck, the distance traveled drops to a mere 6¾ miles. Powered by a 20 hp engine, it moves along at 5½ mph. It will mow 3 acres in about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
You can have the carpets cleaned, mow the grass, and get your daughter to orchestra practice on the same day.
And We All Lived Happily Ever After?
The sparkplug just wasn’t meant to keep firing, however. I mean, the mower was fine. A tornado moved across those 3 acres and knocked down several trees right before fall arrived.
I mowed this girl’s lawn while she stole my heart all summer, and at the end of summer she dumped me for a tree trimmer.
Hi, I’m John Stephens, chief editor and writer for Totalgardener.com. I’ve been gardening and raising animals for over 15 years starting with a small backyard plot in Northern Virginia where I grew corn, potatoes, squash, and using a high mulch technique called the Ruth Stout Method. I also raised ducks and small mammals for meat and eggs in a movable pen similar to the ones used by Joel Salatin. I later moved to Colorado where I experimented with growing greens using aquaponics inside. I eventually added a microgreens setup and home sprouting operation. I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned plus more from the other local gardening and animal raising experts I know.