The Insider: Lawn order is the way to deal with unruly gardens

Everyone wants their lawn to look great throughout the summer, but few of us have time to spare to keep it looking perfect. But, choose the right mower for the size and shape of your garden, with the right features for your requirements, and you could cut the time needed to maintain the garden and have more time to enjoy it.

For small-to-medium lawns, electric lawnmowers with a 30cm-40cm cutting width are best. Cylinder mowers, either powered or hand push, are good on neat, frequently mowed lawns but struggle with longer or rougher grass. Hover mowers are good for awkwardly shaped, well-used family lawns where a quality finish is not the priority, as they're quick and easy to use. Wheeled rotary mowers are the best option for a typical family lawn as they're better at coping with longer grass, most will collect the clippings and some have a rear roller for a striped finish. People with bigger lawns should consider a small petrol mower, which start at about 40cm wide.

"There's such a range and variety of lawnmowers out there that it's easy to choose the wrong one for you and your garden," says Ceri Thomas, editor of Which? Gardening. "But, make the right choice and you could cut the time and energy you use, as well as the grass."

In Which? Gardening's latest tests, the highest-scoring electric mower was the Wolf-Garten Power Edition 37E. This mower is great for small-to-medium-sized lawns as it's nippy and manoeuvrable, and it powered through all the tougher tasks in the trials. It has some good features, including an adjustable handle, a padded switch bar and a single-lever blade-height adjuster. The grass collector is easy to use, and a switch converts the mower from collecting to mulching the clippings.

For larger lawns where you need a little oomph, the Mountfield 461HP petrol mower came out on top in the Which? Gardening tests. This mower isn't particularly heavy for such a powerful machine, and it performed well on all the tougher tasks. The wheels are offset on one side so you can cut close to edges, and it has some nice features, such as handles that fold twice for easy storage, and a comfortable switch-bar moulded to the handle.

Where to buy

Lawnmowers are available at garden centres, nurseries and at DIY stores, as well as online. You can check stockists and compare the latest prices using Which?'s price comparison service www.whichcompare.co.uk

Grass-roots: Mulch for results

* Mulching mowers are a great way to feed your grass. They re-cut the clippings into tiny pieces and blow them back on to the lawn, where they break down and feed the grass. *A choice of cutting heights is useful if you have more than one lawn of different qualities of grass to cut, or want to cut at different heights throughout the year. A single height adjuster is easier than adjusting each wheel in turn.

* A long switch is a bar that runs the width of the handle or a double switch, allowing you to use both hands to prevent wrist strain. This is better for left-handers too.

* A big grass collector saves numerous trips to the compost heap. A window in the top or an indicator to tell you when it's full is also useful.

* Rear rollers are great for giving a striped effect, and make it easier to balance when you cut over lawn edges. All hand cylinder lawnmowers have a small rear roller, but most aren't heavy enough to give pronounced stripes.

The Insider is written by 'Which?', the independent consumer champion. For more information on lawnmowers, go to www.which.co.uk/gardening. To get three issues of 'Which?' magazine for a special price of £3, call 01992 822800 and quote INADVICE

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