In Hanna-Barbera’s 1960s sci-fi cartoon The Jetsons, the titular family are waited upon by Rosie the Robot Maid. Although originally hired to do the housework, Rosie proved herself to be more than a mere automaton with her caring but stern approach to serving her human masters and eventually became a beloved member of the Jetson family. Sadly robotic lawnmower technology hasn’t yet advanced to such a level that you can delegate childcare duties to your robot mower like the Jetson parents did, but thanks to the considerable time and effort that a robot mower can save it’ll soon become an important part of family life nevertheless.
This is because an automated lawnmower provides a simple, efficient, low maintenance solution to all of your lawn care needs by automatically patrolling your garden and nibbling away at the grass to ensure a consistently tidy surface, completely eliminating the need to mow the lawn manually. As such you’ll be able to dedicate your free time and energy to other parts of your garden or other chores. These machines will even keep working while you’re out and about, which as an added bonus means that you’ll never come home to an unkempt lawn after a holiday! But even if you’re not going anywhere, a robot mower is a great addition to your garden if you’d rather relax with a cold drink than heave a heavy lawnmower around on a hot summer’s day.
Whatever your reason for needing an automated grass cutting system, however, these smart machines are now available for gardens of almost every size. At the lower end of the scale we find entry level models like Husqvarna’s 305 Automower and Flymo’s 1200R, either of which will capably maintain areas up to 500m2. For medium to large gardens, meanwhile, there are plenty of exceptional options available, ranging from Bosch‘s Indego (ideal for lawns up to 1,000m2) to the Honda Miimo 300 (which can handle gardens up to 2,200m2 with ease). Finally, for the very largest properties you’ll need a machine like the Husqvarna 265ACX Automower, which is capable of maintaining very large, sloped and complex areas of up to 6,000m2 (there’s no job too big for our little robot buddies these days).
The most complicated part of robotic lawnmower ownership is probably setting it up, but even this is a pretty straightforward process. All of the machines mentioned above, for example, come as standard with a perimeter guide wire so that you can demarcate the area within which your mower will mow (though you can also use it to fence off any obstacles/water features that you’d prefer your mower not to bump/plunge into). The only potentially tricky thing here is placing the wire close enough to walls and borders that the edges of your lawn get mown, but not so close that the mower overshoots, though with a little adjustment this is easy enough to work out. Beyond this all you have to do is find somewhere safe for the docking bay (where your mower will return when it needs to charge its batteries) and sit back, as most robotic mowers can be left to work without human intervention for weeks at a time.
To ensure this independence remains seamless, these machines use hi-tech sensors to guide their mowing as they shuttle back and forth across the garden. Most of the time they utilise a random pattern as standard, heading off in one direction until reaching the perimeter wire or an obstacle before turning and setting off again. However, some modern mowers now come with clever navigation systems to ensure greater efficiency. Bosch’s Indego, for example, uses “Logicut” technology to calculate its mowing path and works in orderly parallel lines so that no patch of lawn is overlooked or overworked. Equally handy is the GPS navigation system installed in the Husqvarna 330X Automower, which creates a map of your garden so that the 330X can track which parts of the garden it has covered and adjust its mowing pattern accordingly.
Most automated lawnmowers can also be programmed to work or rest at certain times, so you won’t have to worry about being disturbed by a fussy robot while hosting a barbecue in the summer. Another advantage of this is that you can set your mower to work at night, as the lithium-batteries used by these machines mean that they are typically quiet enough to operate without disturbing the neighbours! (Honda even boasts that their Miimo machines are “as quiet as a standard refrigerator,” so as long as your neighbours aren’t very light sleepers you should be fine.) Different mowing patterns will suit different gardens and different users at different times, of course, so the most important thing is that you can tailor your robotic mower’s work schedule to suit your needs.
The best thing about this “on-patrol” automated system from a horticultural perspective is that your lawn gets mown a little bit all of the time rather than simply all at once every week or two. This is positive, in part, because your lawn always looks great, rather than becoming a little ragged around the edges a few days after mowing. But even better is that frequent mowing is actually healthier for your lawn; tiny amounts of trimming on a frequent basis helps grass to heal more quickly and grow more luxuriously, while most robot mowers also drop the cuttings back into your lawn to recycle valuable nutrients and moisture. As such you’ll notice that your lawn looks better than ever after a few months under the care of your little robotic friend.
As these various clever features demonstrate, automated lawn mowing technology is improving at a pace and the world’s leading horticultural manufacturers are competing to make each generation of machines better than the last. Recent innovations, for example, include Husqvarna’s “My Automower® App”, which once installed on your phone enables you to control your mower remotely! Robotic mowers are therefore now genuinely a practical alternative to routine mowing rather than just an expensive toy for gadget fans, even if they’re not quite up to Rosie the Robot Maid’s standards in terms of sophistication yet. But if all of this superb user-friendliness and practicality means that you do become overly attached to your robot mower and adopt it into your family, try not to get carried away; there’s no point throwing a robot a birthday party, after all, and if you take it out on daytrips to the seaside you’ll only be letting the grass on your lawn grow unchecked. And neither you nor your automated agent would want that.