A Short Guide to the Lawn Sweeper
The lawn is a critical landscaping feature that fixes the aesthetics of a property, yard, or outdoor space. Landscaping specialists recommend that the grass in the lawn needs to be watered adequately and fertilized well – using lawn fertilizers – so that lush and healthy grass can grow.
Likewise, weed control is important because it removes unwanted plants that compete with grass for available nutrients, and could even crowd out the grass in the lawn.
Apart from weed control, the lawn also needs to be mowed so that its grass is of even height, which gives the lawn a beautiful uniform appearance that enhances the aesthetics of the landscape.
It is this value to yard aesthetics that makes the lawn to be designated as a critical landscaping feature.
Even so, weeding and lawn mowing lead to the accumulation of undecomposed grass clippings, rhizomes, stolons, roots, and stems of weeds and dead grass in the lawn.
These undecomposed plant debris, including fallen leaves, twigs, and pine needles are collectively known as thatch and need to be removed from the lawn.
Thatch can not only damage grass blades but can also affect grass growth and lead to denudation – if it kills grass – which results in unsightly bare spots in the lawn.
For these reasons, thatch must be removed as part of yard maintenance and landscaping. The process of removing thatch is called dethatching.
If the thatch layer is less than half-an-inch (0.5inches) thick, a specialist gardening tool called a lawn sweeper can be used for dethatching.
If the thatch layer is greater than 0.5inches thick, then a vertical mower or a core-aerator needs to be used for dethatching. This review focuses on the lawn sweeper.
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This is a mechanical gardening machine that uses a rotating brush to sweep up litter and plant debris/thatch from the lawn and toss it into a collection bin or hopper (attached to the machine). Evidently, this machine mechanically removes thatch and this process is enabled by a rotating brush mechanism.
Also, because it is frequently used to remove leaves that have fallen on unmown lawns in the spring season, it is called a leaf sweeper. It is possible for its collection bin or hopper to filled with thatch and this requires it to be emptied.
This machine needs to be moved around the lawn, and it must, therefore, have wheels and be pushed around by a person or be towed around by an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).
Usually, the lawn sweeper is a two-wheeled machine that requires its rotating brush mechanism to be powered when dethatching the yard.
In gardening and landscaping, the lawn sweeper provides an alternative to manual raking, or the use of garden vacuums, leaf blowers, and grass baggers.
The lawn sweeper has 3 basic parts which are described below.
Parts of a Lawn/Leaf Sweeper
There are different brands, models, and types of lawn sweepers, but they all feature the following 3 basic parts and a power mechanism.
This gives the lawn sweeper mobility and allows it to be driven around the yard. Usually, most lawn sweepers have 2 threaded wheels connected together by a wheel axle. In high-end, self-driven models, there are 4 pneumatic mud tyres or paddle tires.
The tread pattern on the wheels gives them traction and determines how much effort is needed to push, pull, or drive the machine around the yard
The path that the wheels move the machine is called the axis of travel, and it is the direction that sweeping takes place. Evidently, the axis of travel is perpendicular to the wheel axle.
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This is made up of the brush axle, or core, onto which rows of bristles are attached (usually lengthwise) to make a brush.
It also includes the mechanism that spins the brush axle so that it can turn and brush the thatch off the lawn.
Usually, the brush axle terminates into a gear that is mated to the gear attached to the wheel axle.
Still, some models can have multiple gears and a more complex gear arrangement system. Moreover, in power-efficient, compact lawn sweepers, the brush axle serves as the wheel axle.
It is the rotating brush that creates the sweeping action of the machine. The length of the row of bristles on the brush axle determines the width of the sweeping path, that is (i.e), the longest distance in the yard that is swept if the brush rotates in a stationary lawn sweeper.
Usually, the wider the sweeping path, the more effort is needed to complete a sweep round, and the fewer are the sweep rounds needed to clear the lawn of debris.
A sweep round is the sweeping distance one covers without changing the axis of travel, i.e without changing the sweeping direction.
For instance, if the lawn is 100feet (f) by 50feet (f), and it is cleaned in a lengthwise fashion, i.e swept along its (100f) length.
Then a lawn sweeper with a brush length of 30inches will have a sweeping path of 30inches and will require 20 rounds to clean the lawn. 50f is equivalent to 600inches, which when divided by the sweeping path of 30inches results in 20 sweeping rounds.
If the machine has a 60-inch long brush, then it can sweep the lawn in 10 sweeping rounds.
To prevent damage to grass, soft bristles are used; while to sweep wet clippings and leaves, hard bristles are used.
The bristle height is also important as it determines how far the brush reaches into the grass cover when sweeping the lawn, and this determines the thatch thickness than can be cleared. Unlike raking which damages the grass and uproots some of them, these bristles minimize grass damage.
The swept debris is thrown towards the collection bin/bag by the brush, and to prevent this debris from falling back to the lawn, there are baffles that direct the thrown debris towards the bin intake port.
Usually, 2 baffles are used and they are oriented to create a wedge-shaped structure that has a wide inlet near the brush and a narrow outlet where it connects with the collection bag.
Sometimes, the 2 baffles are placed on a flat metal sheet that serves as the floor to prevent debris from falling to the ground.
Raising the brush axle increases the ground clearance, and allows the lawn sweeper to be used in yards that have relatively tall grass.
Usually, a model with a height-adjustable brush axle is suitable if one needs to adjust brush height when sweeping the lawn.
Debris collection unit
This is where the swept debris is thrown into for temporary storage. It is usually a collection bag, bin, or hopper that is attached to the rear of the brush unit in push-behind and tow-behind lawn sweepers.
The size of the collection unit determines how much of the lawn can be swept without necessitating the need to stop and empty the unit.
Normally, the collection capacity of this unit is measured in volumetric terms (how much volume of debris it can handle). The units used can be cubic centimeters (cc) or cubic feet (cu-ft).
Also, the collection bag can be designed to hold different types of debris, and most have a fixed weight of debris that they can carry. The reason for this is simple, different debris has different densities and thus for the same volume, different debris will have different weights.
This describes how the wheels and brush units are powered so that they can rotate. If the brush only rotates when the machine is pushed or pulled, then the power mechanism is described as manual.
On the other hand, if the brush can be rotated without pulling or pushing the machine, then the machine has an automatic power mechanism.
In other words, the brush can rotate in a stationary machine that uses an automatic power mechanism.
The mechanism that rotates the brush axle determines the speed at which the brush sweeps thatch (including dry and fresh leaves) from the lawn. This mechanism features a gear that is rotated by another gear attached to the wheel axle.
This means that the wheel speed determines the speed of rotation of the brush axle, and because a geared mechanism is used, the wheel speed to axle speed is fixed as a ratio.
For example, if the wheel axle gear has 100 teeth while the brush axle gear has 50 teeth, then the brush axle spins at twice the speed of the wheel speed, i.e wheel speed to brush speed is 1:2.
As mentioned earlier, the lawn/leaf sweeper is a wheeled machine that needs to be moved around the yard for it to work.
As expected, moving the machine and getting the brush mechanism to rotate requires power. How the machine is powered determines what type of lawn sweeper it is. Lawn sweepers are categorized into 3 types.
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Types of Lawn Sweepers
This machine can be powered in 3 main ways and this determines its type.
Electrically-powered Automatic Lawn Sweeper
This lawn sweeper comes with an electric motor that powers the wheels and/or brush-rotating mechanism.
As mentioned earlier, the speed of brush rotation is associated with the wheel speed through a fixed proportion so that the wheel speed determines the speed at which the brush sweeps the lawn.
Even so, in this type, the way the wheels and brush axle are connected to the power output shaft (POS) of the electric motor determines if the wheel speed controls the (brush) axle speed.
Or if the wheel speed and axle speed are independent of each other, which is possible if both the brush axle and wheel axle are directly connected to the POS.
Also, the motor powers the suction blower unit that sucks the swept debris into the collection bag attached to it.
The use of the blower means that the debris is pulled (sucked) from the lawn by negative suction pressure created by the blower.
This gives the machine a high pickup capability. This suction blower is made up of housing which encases blades attached to an axle that is driven by the motor.
It is the motor rotation that turns the blades into fans that create the negative pressure in the blower to suck the debris/thatch
As expected, it is the use of the suction blower unit that sucks debris from the lawn that makes this machine to be described as a vacuum cleaner for lawns.
The use of a suction blower unit allows the collection bag to be placed at the front of the machine rather than its rear, and this makes it easy to empty the bag
Moreover, this lawn sweeper can be used to suck dust and small debris from walkways, driveways, and patios.
Even so, how is this automatic lawn sweeper moved around the field because it needs to be directed on where to sweep?
Usually, it is driven around the yard in 2 ways – as part of an electric-powered all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or pushed around by a person.
If the machine is fitted to (or part of) an electric ATV, it can be described as a self-driven lawn sweeper.
If it is pushed (or in rare instances, pulled) around by a person, then the worker does so effortlessly as (s)he only directs the lawn sweeper, unlike the manual model which requires the worker to use his/her body power to drive the machine.
This (push) model is sometimes described as a walk-behind lawn sweeper.
As expected, the self-driven lawn sweeper is the most expensive type. On the upside, it is suitable for use in large yards.
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Manually-powered Push-type Lawn Sweeper
This lawn sweeper requires a worker to push it around the yard as it lacks an engine to power its wheels and brush unit. It usually features a system of gears that allow the wheel axle to rotate the brushes. It is usually lightweight and the cheapest (type) among the 3 types.
It needs to be lightweight so that it does not tire the worker fast. It is also easy to use, silent during operations (as compared to the automatic lawn sweeper), and features a simple, compact design.
This machine is suitable for use in small yards, or for people who want to exercise during yard work. Also, most use soft brushes which makes it suitable for sweeping a dry lawn, as it can be difficult to sweep wet thatch and leaves using soft brushes.
As expected, the pickup capability of this machine is directly related to the speed at which it is pushed, with a high speed creating more pickup capability as compared to a slow (push) speed.
Tractor Attachment Tow-behind Lawn Sweeper
This lawn sweeper lacks an engine and needs to be attached to a tractor so that it can be pulled across the field. It is heavier than the manually-powered machine and hence not suitable for a worker to push around.
It is basically an improved, heavy-duty version of the push lawn sweeper. As expected, this tow-behind machine comes with a tow-bar that allows it to be attached to a lawn tractor, riding mower, or even an ATV.
Attaching it behind the riding mower allows for freshly cut grass clippings to be swept from the lawn which minimizes the cost and tasks of landscaping and yard maintenance.
This also requires the brush to have hard bristles for sweeping the wet clippings.
Now that the main parts of a typical lawn sweeper have been described, along with a discussion of the different types currently in the market, it is time to discuss what one needs to consider before purchasing (or renting) a lawn sweeper.
Featured Image: Carl Fowler, Agri-Fab, Inc. / CC0