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Marked-down mowers that are good for fall clean-up

Consumer Reports News: September 16, 2010 02:47 PM

The next time you're at a big box store, meander over to the section of marked-down mowers and tractors and you may find a bargain. “It’s a little-known practice, but I always see groups of mowers and tractors on sale at the two Home Depots near me," says Peter Sawchuk, our yard-equipment guru. "Once a product has been used at all, the retailer must reclassify it as a refurbished model and mark down its price.”

While grass-cutting season is coming to an end, you can still use your mower to mulch leaves this fall so it's not a bad time to buy. Among the mowers Sawchuck saw recently at a substantial discount were a Honda HRX2172HXA self-propelled mower that usually sells for around $700, and the Toro Recycler 20300 that retails for $300. The Honda was one of only two mowers to be rated excellent at mulching and bagging in Consumer Reports most recent tests, while the Toro proved excellent at mulching and very good at bagging.

Whether you choose to mulch or bag, raise the mower deck to the second-highest setting (the suction is not as strong at the highest setting) and then mow your lawn. If leaves are wet, make the first pass with the mower in the side-discharging mode to lift and loosen them. Then switch to the mulching or bagging mode and go over the leaves again. Mulching will leave a visible layer of leaves that will enrich the soil once they decompose.

If you’re using a lawn tractor, Sawchuk advises a first pass in side-discharge mode to lift the leaves and reduce their volume, then attaching the bag to suck them up. “In the fall, leaves are often wet and this dual-pass method helps,” he says. “Mulching also seems to work well as a second-pass alternative.”

Sawchuk says homeowners should be patient when mulching: “Leaf removal with a lawn mower or tractor is never going to proceed at as fast a pace as grass cutting; if you find it’s too slow, my advice is to consider one of the excellent, well-priced leaf blowers we found in our latest tests."

—Gian Trotta

More on mowers: Buying guide. Ratings. Recommendations.

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