Turf Tech

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Updated Feb 15, 2013

Chances are, even if your maintenance contracts have dropped off a bit this year, you’re still cutting grass at a decent clip. With so many people opting to stay at home instead of vacation elsewhere, homeowners want their lawns to look manicured week after week. You may cut various grass types on a regular basis, which means changing your mower’s deck height to offer the perfect cut for a specific grass. In some regions, to save money or accommodate differences in sun exposure, there are two types of grass per yard – one in front and one in back – requiring two different cutting heights. Be sure to account for these diverse needs when choosing a mower.

“We’ve spent a lot of time determining the perfect cutting heights for our mowers,” says Bill Wright, president, Wright Manufacturing. “Rarely does anyone want to go less than 1 inch; and most people don’t go above 4 inches.” Caveats include lifting the deck high enough to drive over curbs and loading the mower on a truck or trailer for transport.

On the other hand, BOB-CAT customers in Florida sometimes ask for mowers that can cut less than 11/2 inches. “Usually, scalping is a Southern practice where the grass is cut very low so it can be overseeded with ryegrass for winter,” says Tony Weber, product manager, BOB-CAT. “Ryegrass is more tolerant to cold weather, so it stays green all winter. In the spring, when it warms up, the native grass comes back to life to take over again for the summer.”

Mower manufacturers strive to make your job as easy and efficient as possible. With that in mind, consider the following.

Turfgrass trends
“We work with Cornell University when we have questions about turf, but I am really amazed at how many landscapers don’t take advantage of local extension services and universities,” says Roy Dust, product specialist, Briggs & Stratton. “In general, higher grass results in a healthier plant, fewer chemicals needed and a better root structure. Five years ago, 2-inch turf was the trend. Now, 3- to 5-inch turf is preferable.”

Since different types of turfgrass thrive in different conditions, mowing at the right height for the specific grass variety will improve the health and appearance of turf. Often, this means landscapers may need to adjust cutting height from job to job.

“A lawn cut at the proper height tends to require less water and be more drought resistant, prevents weed infestation and produces less thatch,” says Patsy Penner, marketing coordinator, The Grasshopper Company. Cutting cool-season grasses too short intensifies stress and weakens the root system, allowing weeds to become established and increasing the need for irrigation and chemical treatment.

On-the-go adjustments
To maximize productivity, many manufacturers offer on-the-go cutting deck adjustments so you can change the cutting height without leaving the operator’s seat, and in some cases, while continuing to mow.

These designs aim to enhance a landscaper’s ability to create an overall, better-looking lawn for their customers – “a significant contributor to the successful landscaper’s business growth and customer retention strategy,” Penner explains.

Grasshopper’s PowerFold/electric height adjustment option is controlled by a switch on the deck, or on the armrest of the mower seat. Preset cutting heights are achieved by placing one or more moveable stops at the desired position so the deck can be raised higher for transport or curb crossing, then return to the previous cutting height.

Wright says some of their customers prefer fixed-deck mowers in regions where landscapers, and customers, are used to cutting all turf varieties the same height. Wright mowers come with a Rapid Height adjustment option, allowing the operator to change deck heights while continuing to mow. You can also set the deck in transport position (a preset point) enabling the operator to focus on the job at hand, and not worry about what height they were cutting at before they stopped mowing.

“BOB-CAT decks and cutting systems are designed to adjust for different types of grass and conditions,” Weber says. “We offer systems that allow the operator to discharge, collect or mulch. In addition, our zero-turn mowers have an adjustable lift lever to change the cutting deck height, and a quick lift assist pedal allows the operator to lift the deck while he is mowing, without slowing or stopping.”

Briggs & Stratton zero-turn mowers all have foot-activated deck lifts so operators can avoid obstacles while mowing. “However, if you want to adjust the cutting height, you have to put the mower in the transport position and remove a pin,” Dust says. “You cannot switch cutting heights while mowing, but all adjustments can be made from the operator’s seat.”

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