How to balance mower speed & quality cut

Updated Jul 2, 2018

OPENER_2013_Vantage_X-SeriesThe faster you mow the client’s lawn, the sooner you can move on to your next site. But if you mow too quickly, the cut quality may suffer. So, how can you and your crews avoid this Catch-22 and find the right harmony of speed and precision on your next maintenance project?

“Balancing speed and quality optimally is a matter of studying turf conditions, understanding the environment including obstacles such as trees, decks, fence post, etc., reviewing the topography of the area to-be mowed and learning how to use the comfort, safety and performance features of the mower,” says Daryn Walters, director of marketing, Exmark.

Here’s how to give your clients the quality they expect in the quickest time.

Speed limit

If ground speed is a factor for you when purchasing a mower, you obviously value getting in and out of a site as soon as possible. With the continued pressure to do more in less time, many are looking for ways to provide the best service quicker. And some applications actually require speed over quality, says Mike Simmon, marketing coordinator, Grasshopper.

“These situations are more ‘rough cut’ areas – spaces that do not require a high degree of manicuring – such as open fields and highway roadsides,” Simmon says.

However, the vast majority of applications demands a balance of speed and cut quality to achieve the best results in the shortest amount of time. High-profile, high-visibility areas demand a better cut quality, such as banks and other professional service locations, high-end residential and municipal locations, Simmon says.

lc1110_zm74930_loc_wbl_69So, it’s important to find the right speed for the turf conditions you’re mowing, says Chris Hannan, marketing manager, Toro. “When the grass is wet, tall or thick, it will require the operator to slow down to get that nice after-cut appearance,” he says. “It becomes more difficult to maintain a quality cut at higher speeds. If an operator goes too fast, they may have to double-cut it, which really slows down productivity.”

After finishing a property, you should look at the after-cut appearance to determine if you mowed at the right speed, says Jamie Palmer, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing.

“If you’re mowing too quickly, most mowers will just push the grass over, making the immediate after-cut appearance acceptable,” Palmer says. “But 30 to 60 minutes later, ‘stringers’ will appear, and customers will not be satisfied.”

That’s why it’s important to mow with a deck that emphasizes airflow management under the deck, Palmer explains. High-lift blades combined with excellent airflow management ensures grass blades stand up to be cut at the correct height — delivering that after-cut appearance customers are looking for.

Also, remember ground speed capability does not necessarily equate to cut speed capability. “There’s not much use in a mower that travels very quickly but is not capable of delivering a quality cut at those speeds,” Palmer says.

Mowing too fast can cause clippings to stop efficiently flowing through the cutting deck. “Once clippings stop flowing evenly through the deck, cut quality typically suffers as the clogged deck produces less vacuum effect and blade tip speed slows,” Walters says. “The result can be strips of uncut grass and clumping of clippings that are discharged from the cutting deck.”

Great expectations

Along with taking away the client’s tiresome lawn work, you also provide a quality product they have come to require.

Z915B_8“Landscapers are always pressed to do more in less time,” Walter says, “but the fact remains – you won’t be a landscape professional for long if you can’t produce a finely manicured lawn. So regardless of time or resource pressures, there is a certain quality standard that must be met.”

With the growing trend of referrals and word-of-mouth advertising, it is in your best interest to provide the highest quality of cut and overall value to retain your clientele and attract new customers, he continues.

So whether you’re maintaining a high-end residential or commercial site, it’s important to deliver a flawless cut appearance. And many customers are willing to pay that “little bit more,” Palmer says, for an exceptional cut and have taught and equipped their operators to deliver that level of performance.

To make sure you get the best possible cut, don’t forget to check the cutting blades. “Well-sharpened and well-balanced cutting blades require less power to cut grass and contribute to better airflow under the deck for more even distribution of clippings,” Simmon says. “While dull blades tear grass, which can have a negative effect on turf health, sharp blades cut grass causing less stress and encouraging positive turf growth.”

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