How Robot Mowers transformed our Garden

ALL of my preconceptions about robot mowers were shattered in a few hours one spring evening a couple of years ago,...

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robot mower, robot, autonomous

Here at Apple Court, it’s the same as every gardener’s garden the world over,  it’s simply not practical to get to the end of your to do list – there is no “done”.  Visitors to the garden frequently comment on how it must be such hard work, and stressful.  Which gardening isn’t as soon as you accept that the fun is in the journey, that there is no final destination – there is no “done”.  That said, the lawn, and the need for it to look great for paying visitors, was always the area most likely to create something which could resemble stress.

Don’t get me wrong, I find mowing the lawn therapeutic and intensely satisfying.  It’s when a cut is overdue – very easy when it is growing faster than fertilised bindweed – during the peak growing season.

“I  REALLY must do it later today” – and then it rains for 3 days – by which time it’s too long to cut all in one go, and needs the tips cutting and then cutting again and multiple wheelbarrow trips to the compost to get rid of the vast quantities of clippings – which need mixing with brown waste to avoid a grassy gloop.

What I have to say about Robot mowers is so gushingly positive, I need to explain that we are not paid to write this, and haven’t received any free products from manufacturers etc.  Like the rest of the reviews on the Apple Court website, it’s simply the result of us researching, buying and heavily using things we need to keep the garden looking wonderful for paying visitors – and ideally minimising our effort, time and money, whilst  maximising our enjoyment!  We only review things which have consistently worked well for us, if something we bought was pointless, difficult to use or fell apart sooner than it’s time, you wont find it mentioned here!

Like many people, I really couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a robot mower and had assumed that Apple Court with all of it’s garden rooms and grass corridors was far too complex.  One day when the Apple Court lawns and our own lawn at home were simultaneously starting to resemble Shaggy from Scooby doo, I decided to try one at home where the lawn is 300m2 and consists of two nice simple rectangles.   What an absolute revelation, ALL of my preconceptions were shattered in a few hours one spring evening a couple of years ago:

  1. Burying the cable would take ages – it took about 90 mins as it doesn’t need burying, the grass grows around it in a couple of months and it is green so not a problem in the interim.  Use the supplied measure to keep it a fixed distance from the edge (and don’t cheat to try and get it closer), a mallet and some little black pegs and it’s done
  2. It would be difficult to program the mower – it took about 10 minutes and it did everything itself (see below on pros and cons of an “intelligent” mower like we opted for to cope with Apple Courts krypton factor challenge layout vs a simple mower with a Trump level IQ).
  3. It would be too noisy – you simply can’t hear it unless you get really really close – it cuts with 3 small blades and uses a very quiet motor
  4. High maintenance – I change the blades every month or so (takes a few mins and about £1 for 3.  The connector at the back needed reconnecting after winter.  Conclusion – far less maintenance than any of the mowers I have owned before and I’ve had them all – a big petrol Hayter, 240V cable mower, 2 battery mowers (the next best thing)
  5. It would get in our way – when the kids want to play on the lawn you either just ignore it – it moves so slowly and the blades are safely out of reach below and in the centre of the machine (the cutting diameter is about 20cm so doesn’t come anywhere close to the edge, or just press the big red stop button and it will sit where it is until you restart it, or you can simple press the home button and it trundles back to it’s base and awaits further instruction.
  6. We would miss the stripes – perhaps we did for about 5 days, but I’d never swap back – that ‘just mowed; look is now every hour of every day – the grass is ALWAYS the perfect height – simply trim the edges every month or so for a truly beautiful looking lawn all of the time.
  7. Surely the grass cuttings would be annoying – it was simply too difficult to imagine how the large barrows of cuttings could simply disappear from my life – they do, because it cuts every day the cuttings are so small you cannot find them – they don’t stick to you on a damp day like regular mowed cuttings that were left behind.  They just mulch away, feeding the lawn at the same time

 

 

Our Mower in The White Garden

So what are the downsides – after 4 seasons of use of 3 different mower types over multiple different lawn layouts )we have everything, trees, water features, narrow paths, interconnecting zones, – there really are no downsides!  Except the up-front cost which pays for itself by freeing you up for a multitude of other fun things or perhaps use the time to improve your flower beds or other parts of the garden which are even more therapeutic and rewarding than mowing the lawn.

So which one to buy – I did weeks of research across the different types as we had such a variety of areas to tackle – our own house, two holiday lets and the extremely complex lawns at Apple Court and I believe it’s a very easy decision:

If you have a simple shaped lawn without lots of paths and interconnecting areas – get either of these two (both are owned by Husqvarna and use all the same components – e.g. The McCulloch actually comes with a Husqvarna branded power supply, without the Husqvarna price tag.  If you can afford it I’d go for one with capacity for roughly twice the size of your lawn – the capacity is driven by two things – the battery capacity and the cutting area – larger batteries mean less frequent trips back to base for a recharge which means the mower needs to run for less hours each day – the cutting area is similar for most except the much larger ones for larger lawns (which makes even more sense as the big ones cost less than a ride on).  Trust me on this – you don’t need apps and the extra hassle connecting to wifi as you really wont need to use them after initial setup – it just cuts away every day.

For a complex lawn (or a remote one e.g. A holiday let) – same points apply re capacity, but I highly recommend the Landroid Worx.

The app is superb – the mower crashed a few times after initial setup (our lawn layout is incredibly complex – see the aerial photo!) – by “crash” I mean a wheel has gone off the lawn – the mower stops, no damage done and if it happens more than once in the same place, simply needs the wire moving slightly which is easy to do as these things become apparent early on before the lawn has grown over the wire.  The Landroid app sends me a notification telling me which mower and which zone – incredibly helpful.

I can very easily change the mowers work hours remotely using the app (and more quickly than doing it on the mowers interface)

The mower is smarter than Trump – it has some clever artificial intelligence – don’t worry it wont start taking over other devices in your home, like all mowers it cuts the lawn randomly but is able to sense some helpful things – e.g. When it is on a narrow path you can watch it randomly turn a few times after encountering the boundary wire and then gradually re-orientate itself to allow it to drive straight down the path – a “simple mower would take an age to zig zag randomly down a narrow path.

It is very easy to set up separate zones and change what % time it spends in each zone (top tip, don’t overthink it – a couple of zones is enough, it’s most useful if you have interconnecting areas, where it will follow the guide wire into an area it would never find randomly.  Then just trust the AI to take care of the rest.

The AI clearly improves all the time and it can even do over the air software updates (like a Tesla!) when it’s range of your Wifi (note it’s not an issue if it only comes close enough to get wifi some of the time)

I thought the ability to add on extra’s later was a gimmick, but again I was wrong, even though the mower will stop if it bumps into something on the lawn (e.g. Wheelbarrow), in the case of our holiday let, people would frequently leave chairs etc on the lawn 

so I tried the Worx Anti Collision System, which is amazing, it effortlessly steers around anything you leave in its way, including people and it great fun to test!

Other things which might be useful

Some extra cable
Spare pegs

I recommend using these heat shrink connectors rather than the expensive ones they recommend – they are far cheaper and will last much much longer, and if you don’t already have the required heat gun, buy one of these, you can have fun with it in the kitchen afterwards

Heat Shrink Connectors
Heat Gun

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