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Nomoslowmow
09-21-2002, 10:55 PM
I read here over and over how you guys use big mowers (36" +) on your residential customers. I have been using 21" mowers for these small lawn for 9+ years - am I stupid?

I use a TORO 32' WB for some larger back yards and the ditches of my 1+ acre customers. Everytime I try the 32" on the smaller (60' X 120' lot size) lawns, the results are embarassing compared to the smaller mowers. We did about 150 lawns this week with the 21" mowers and maybe 8 or 10 backyards with the 32" . The long wheelbase of the 32" seems to promote scalping. Our Bermuda grass lawns show every deviation in cutting height as you dip into the brown stem area - UHG!

The lawns here are rough because of poor grading and shoddy sprinker installations, but I see my competition happily mowing away with big mowers and big smiles, as my employees walk back and forth, back and forth.

Am I being too picky? Are the lawns in your area smoother so you get good results with the big mowers? Are your average lawns larger than mine so the bigger mowers work better? Do alot of customers not care about quality as long as they save money? Is my 32" Toro just a bad scalping machine?

Thanks for your help in advance!

Bob

rvsuper
09-21-2002, 11:02 PM
I used to have two Toro 21" wb's and I got two new 36" Prolines and it cut my time in half. I mainly use my walk behinds. I use the F-725 mainly for my comm. accounts and large open areas...I dont have too many of those anymore though. I'm thinking about buying a ZTR of some kind. Really interested in Toro and eXmark.

rkbrown
09-21-2002, 11:05 PM
Bob:

At what height are you ,owing the bermuda ?

Bunton Guy
09-21-2002, 11:12 PM
I have the same problem i have many bermuda lawns....i cut them at 3.5" and every time i hit the smallest bump it looks like its scalping.

Shady Brook
09-21-2002, 11:19 PM
I will preface this first.... I don't mow Bermuda or anything like it, so my contribution may be worthless.

I will put my 52 rider anywhere it will go. I will do anything to avoid using my 21, anything. All my walkbehinds and rider mow very nicely. I prefer the look of the big mowers compared to the 21 myself.

Perhaps Bermuda only is green near the top of the blade, giving the impression of a scalp when it is only revealing the browner aspect of the blade of grass.

I think if that is the case, and you are not hurting the lawn, I would save a bunch of man hours with the biggest mower I could fit in the yard. That is just my opinon.

Jay

TurfGuyTX
09-21-2002, 11:32 PM
We have 21's, but I put my 61" Turf Tiger on everything possible. It's not an issue of quality. The residential lawns that I'm able to use the 61" look great. Just my opinion. Good luck.

Currier
09-22-2002, 12:16 AM
I wonder if fixed or floating deck would be best for your needs? The Walker deck is floating and doesn't seems to scalp. My jd 36
is fixed and on even ground gives a near perfect cut. Don't have much advice, just something for you to think about/try out...

HarryD
09-22-2002, 12:18 AM
after a few weeks of mowing with the bigger mowers on these lawns you will train the grass to accept the scalping and it wont show as bad.
when i first moved into my house the previous owners used a 21" i used a 60" scalped it everywhere . now you cant even tell now that i ever scalped it

Grasshog
09-22-2002, 12:37 AM
150 Lawns in a week with 21" PM. WOW. How many employees do you have. WOW 150 lawns.

If you went to Exmark"s 36" mowers you could save enough in man hours to cover the expense in no time at all.

Custr do care about quality. I would bet on that. I have found that Exmark"s deck will cut Bermuda grass real well.

I have found that my Lawn Boy mower with the bagger kit does do the best job for quality, but who has the time.

TIME = MONEY No need to say more.

greenman
09-22-2002, 01:16 AM
No, you're not stupid, lol. If you were I don't think you could do 150+ lawns a week. The key is to work smarter not harder. There's no way I could do 150 yards a week, wow! I use a 36" wb on my smaller lawns. The only time is use my 21" is either when my wb wont fit through a gate or an island. There is one residence that I do though that I have to use my 21" because the front is on a steep slope (the one I twisted my ankle on yesterday), and the back yard is sepaated by a 2 ft. rock wall. I cant get my wb to climb up that wall:D , but the customer pays well:) .

Tim Canavan
09-22-2002, 01:19 AM
If you have 150 or more lawns, you need to have some walk behinds. No question. It will save you enough labor hours to pay for new mowers in three months. Demo a couple and crunch the numbers. The numbers won't lie to you. It is a must with that many lawns. All we have down here in Houston is St. Augustine, so the wb's work great. In your situation, you might consider a floating deck. Just consider it soon.

gogetter
09-22-2002, 01:33 AM
Some of my lawns are smaller then what you described and there's no way I would bother cutting them with a 21" mower now that I've cut them with a larger walkbehind.

I started with a 36" and now use a 52". I do still need to use the 21" on some small spots and small back yards, but the bigger mowers have really cut my time down!

My bigger walkbehinds cut better then my 21" too. Yeah, scalping can be more of a problem, but you learn where to be more careful.

Flex-Deck
09-22-2002, 01:41 AM
nomoslowmow - what do you think this would do for yoy - saw some post that said walk behinds may be good-http://52X

Tony Harrell
09-22-2002, 07:30 AM
I have some crappy bermuda creeping into my side yard from my neighbors yard. It'll be dead in about another 2 weeks!!! Anyway, I'd say you're cutting too short or it's an incredibly bumpy yard. Bermuda is funny, if you get the deck just a little off like in a ditch or a rut, it'll look like it's scalped but it's not. It's white underneath. If you're truly scalping, fix it, or learn to handle it from a different direction maybe.

jeffex
09-22-2002, 08:51 AM
IF YOUR NOT JUST PULLING OUR CHAIN!!!!with 21" mower you need at least 1 man hr. per lawn to mow trim an blow off. I'd say he'd have to have 4 people working to do 150 lawns in the 60 x 120 size. My lawns are that size on average and I can do 2 lawns in an hr if the are close together. I have a 48" and a 36" toro and we cut fescue lawns in this neck of the woods. I have some bermuda grass mixed in on a lawn or two and we have to cut those at 2.5 inches. I've seen the brown you are refering to but it is gone in a day or so. If you have 4 workers and they get the job done then your lucky because your equipment costs are low compared to the price tag on some of the big machines. I would like to hire 10 young ladies in bikinis to mow with old fashioned reel type push mowers. That way I could tap into a new market since most of my customers are female now. I'd charge extra if they hosed themselves off with the customers garden hose! comming soon to your neighborhood- HOOTERS LAWN SERVICE whadda ya think?

mcambrose
09-22-2002, 09:20 AM
I have a little problem with this, but can minimize it by scalping the yards to about 1" in the spring. This can take up to 4x as long as a normal cutting and I charge that way. Then I start cutting at about 1.5" in the spring and then increase it 1/4" when I start getting some scalping. The problem you are having is that the green portion of the grass seems to move higher during the growing season. The method I try to use seems to minimize it. You still would be better with a floating deck. I use walkers on all my accounts. Some are really rough, but the quality of cut is good. Wouldn't want a deck over 42" on bermuda. I have a 48" I purchased with a used machine because it was a great deal. It is used 25% of the time.

TurfPro
09-22-2002, 09:44 AM
Macambrose is right,you are probably scalping because your cutting the bermuda too tall. The "optimum" cutting heigth for Common Bermuda in your area should be right around 1". That's right 1". Of course you are hampered by things such as bumpy ground ,lack of an irrigation system, or other problems such as shade trees.So all these things need to be taken into consideration as to how high to mow....... theres some good info from your states ag dept here >

http://aggie-turf.tamu.edu/lawns/mowing.html

cuttingedgelawncare
09-22-2002, 10:10 AM
when common bermuda is maintained at 3 + inches, the underside of the grass tends to not get as much sun because bermuda is so thick. Sun makes the grass produce chlorophyl which makes it green. Have you ever noticed that when you cut w/ the walk behind and go back the next week its back to normal. I have a few lawns that look like **** after i mow them, but the next day they are green again and striped up well, but you couldnt tell that the day i was there. I will admit that these lawns also have irrigation which may help as well. Hope this helps

lawnworker
09-22-2002, 09:06 PM
Hey all, in his post he said the 32" were scalping bad. I have heard from others that the 32 is a bad way to go. Do thirty two inch walkbehinds have a narrower wheel base--then say a 36 or 52? In my opinion a 32 would be useless junk, compared to the productivity of say a 48


As for using a 21" for full time use, there is no way I could make money in this area with 21" mowers. They are just to darn slow, the compitition would kill you around here, on price and speed.

Shady Brook
09-22-2002, 09:20 PM
My 32 does not scalp if at all. It looks to be nearly the same dimensions as the 36, deck excluded. It is far from useless junk to me, especially if all I had was a 48. I have nearly 30 gated yards where only a 36 or smaller will go, and about 8 that a 32 will go but not a 36. With a velke I can hardly tell a difference between a 32 and 36 as far as productivity go. They defineatly have their place in my business.

Jay

lawnworker
09-22-2002, 09:36 PM
Maybe the newer 32s are better then the older ones. Are the drive wheels in back the same as a 36 mowers? To be honest, nobody around here uses 32 inch mowers, for anything. Shady Brook, I can't blame you for liking them. If they go through those gates, thats important ,and it beats a trim mower any day.

Nomoslowmow
09-22-2002, 10:38 PM
Thanks for all the replys!

Yes, we do cut just over 150 of these small lawns a week. My records show that they average .7 manhours total each, so with driving we usually average just over one lawn per manhour. Some of these are so small that we get done in under 10 minutes. This is with string trimming, stick edging, and blowing. We do most of the lawns during the Wed-Thurs-Fri rush - 33-38 lawns each day with a crew of three, then the rest Mon, Tue and Sat with a crew of two. This is a lot of work if we are doing it wrong!

After your input, I am going to carefully experiment with larger mowers and see how they do. The potential time savings seems impossible to ignore any longer.

My Toro 32" WB barely fits through a lot of these tract house back gates, so I am limited there unless I get one of the new gate-optimized machines...My other WB is a 62" which is the worst scalper ever invented on anything but a flat lawn.

I will also look closer at the mowing heights. We currently start low in the spring and move slowly longer during the season.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my inquiry!!

Bob

HacMan91
09-22-2002, 11:09 PM
80% of our yards around here are bermuda. I use a walker and a 52" exmark. If its scalping, try adjusting the front of your deck up about 1/4". We put the walker's front pins on 4 and the back on 3. Its a little more forgiving in bumpy yards, with the exmark we just raise the deck 1/4 if its starts to scalp. The customer cant tell if its 3" or 3 1/4".

dr grass
09-23-2002, 04:55 AM
one lawn per manhour???? hell, i didnt know their were 33 - 38 hours in a day!!!!!!!!!!!!!




shep :dizzy:

65hoss
09-23-2002, 08:38 AM
Originally posted by dr grass
one lawn per manhour???? hell, i didnt know their were 33 - 38 hours in a day!!!!!!!!!!!!!




shep :dizzy:

Man hour! Not clock hour.

brucec32
02-08-2003, 01:21 AM
Originally posted by Nomoslowmow
I read here over and over how you guys use big mowers (36" +) on your residential customers. I have been using 21" mowers for these small lawn for 9+ years - am I stupid?

I use a TORO 32' WB for some larger back yards and the ditches of my 1+ acre customers. Everytime I try the 32" on the smaller (60' X 120' lot size) lawns, the results are embarassing compared to the smaller mowers. We did about 150 lawns this week with the 21" mowers and maybe 8 or 10 backyards with the 32" . The long wheelbase of the 32" seems to promote scalping. Our Bermuda grass lawns show every deviation in cutting height as you dip into the brown stem area - UHG!

The lawns here are rough because of poor grading and shoddy sprinker installations, but I see my competition happily mowing away with big mowers and big smiles, as my employees walk back and forth, back and forth.

Am I being too picky? Are the lawns in your area smoother so you get good results with the big mowers? Are your average lawns larger than mine so the bigger mowers work better? Do alot of customers not care about quality as long as they save money? Is my 32" Toro just a bad scalping machine?

Thanks for your help in advance!

Bob

I have the same problem. Even my 36" Toro wb will leave a less than great cut on many lawns. Much of the problem is the crummy installation by landscapers who don't do it right and builders who don't care or just want it done cheaply. They realize that by the time the poor quality shows up, they have their money, and as long as it doesn't completely die, they don't have to fix it. I too wonder how so many guys here online seem to be able to blaze away on huge mowers...maybe they're all doing either huge properties where cut quality isn't as important , or their type of grasses aren't as difficult in terms of showing flaws. Bermuda here will show a 1/2 " dip by a mower's wheel. But I have some lawns where anything but a 21" leaves it looking just unacceptable. But I did find that my 48" Exmark lazer cuts smoother than the smaller deck on the Toro. I assume it's the wheelbase, but it's still kind of a hazy mystery to me, even after all these years. I also just gave up and started mowing everything a little higher, which also helps some.

I saw one install crew run by a huge fat guy sitting in his pickup with the a/c going , pointing while his Hispanic work force walked one piece at a time over (hey, why use high tech things like wheelbarrows, motorized implements, or carts when you have cheap labor?) and literally droped them into place from waist height and kicked them a bit to make them roughly square, then they're off to grab another piece from the pallet 20 yards away. Apparently bending over was not in the bid specs. This leads to nice 1" to 3" gaps and of course they never come back and top dress it level.

Anyway, much of what I mow seems to be installed that poorly here. Ironically, my brother is president of one of the bigger home building companies here and they're some of the worst (and these are $300,000 plus homes). He says as long as people don't start demanding it, they're not changing. My father was a builder. He can't believe how poorly homes are build today, but that's another topic.

Apparently sod is now seen as an alternative to fine grading. Just cover everything in a layer of poorly installed, unrolled sod, and get the closing done before it dies. I used to have to explain this to customers a lot in the past. One time I took a lady out who didn't believe me and showed her a scalped spot, then reached down and dug out a brick and a tree root where the spot was. This was on a 4 y/o home, not new construction. Her whole lawn was like that. Unmowable. That's why I quit taking on Bermuda lawns about 4 years ago unless they're special and table top smooth. None of these people has $1500 for a topdressing either. They're corporate transplants and won't be here in 3 years, so they don't want to dump too much into a lawn. I've seen sod laid almost vertically up slopes against homes and other obstacles. It's really pathetic.

Unfortunately, the richest and easiest source of new business is new home owners, but I'd rather not grow and stay small than try to teach employees to mow this junk. It takes all my tricks just to get a decent cut on the few I have left with a 21" mower.

brucec32
02-08-2003, 01:36 AM
Originally posted by Shady Brook
I will preface this first.... I don't mow Bermuda or anything like it, so my contribution may be worthless.

I will put my 52 rider anywhere it will go. I will do anything to avoid using my 21, anything. All my walkbehinds and rider mow very nicely. I prefer the look of the big mowers compared to the 21 myself.

Perhaps Bermuda only is green near the top of the blade, giving the impression of a scalp when it is only revealing the browner aspect of the blade of grass.

I think if that is the case, and you are not hurting the lawn, I would save a bunch of man hours with the biggest mower I could fit in the yard. That is just my opinon.

Jay

You hit the nail right on the head, pretty good for never having mowed Bermuda! It is green near the top and as the season goes on more and more if it is "stemy" on the bottom, since weekly mowing isn't frequent enough and few will pay to have it done more often than that, so it outgrows our ability to mow it and becomes more and more like a shrub that hasn't been pruned enough...all stems and little leaf.

you're right it's not hurting the lawn that much. When we say "scalp" we probably mean "uneven cut" more often. But the problem is that it looks bad, and customers often won't put up with a big deck cut on their lawns.

I can mow a really rough Tall Fescue lawn with a big deck and it looks smooth. The Bermuda is something special, though. I switched to mostly Fescue a few years back, even dumping several customers because of it, and life is now a bowl of cherries! Bermuda is physically difficult(emptying baggers or walking behind smaller mowers rather than riding), causes more customer complaints, lower retention rates, has a much shorter mowing season, is often found on new homes packed in close where there is no appropriate space for clippings to be dumped, hence you have to haul them off or slow down to mulch, and it takes a lot more skill to mow well(hard to get employees up to par on this).

Mowing it is a necessity for most companies, but in my experience I couldn't get people to stay happy paying what it cost me to do it right. Now I mow fewer lawns in less time and make more money overall. Instead of business falling off after September, I'm mowing and handling leaves till Christmas on Fescue lawns (remember Bermuda is usually found on new homes where they clearcut before building, and also hates shade, so most of those lawns don't have big trees, hence little leaf c/up business in the fall) Another plus of mowing only Fescue or cool season grasses is that your "busy season" is the Spring, and to a lesser extent, Fall, when temps are lower and it's more pleasant. I work shorter days in the heat of July and August.

I would say that in many cases 1 square foot of Bermuda is equal to 4 square feet of Tall Fescue in terms of effort/time/equipment investment. But if cut quality is not important, it's not a big difference, though still tougher than Fescue.

greenman
02-08-2003, 10:35 AM
Most of the lawns around here are Bermuda. As long as it is cut every 7 to 10 days, and is fairly even, there is no scalping problem. When its allowed to grow tal, then cut way back, thats when its brown. The trick to Bermuda is to scalp the first cut of the season and then gradually mow higher. This increases the length of the blade, and not the stem.

brucec32
02-14-2003, 11:57 PM
[QUOTE]Originally posted by TurfPro
Macambrose is right,you are probably scalping because your cutting the bermuda too tall. The "optimum" cutting heigth for Common Bermuda in your area should be right around 1". That's right 1". Of course you are hampered by things such as bumpy ground ,lack of an irrigation system, or other problems such as shade trees.So all these things need to be taken into consideration as to how high to mow....... theres some good info from your states ag dept here >

http://aggie-turf.tamu.edu/lawns/mowing.html [/QUO

That's the textbook answer, of course. Real world, you can't mow even hybrid Bermuda , on a tabletop smooth lawn, weekly with anything bigger than 21" at only 1" with a rotary mower. You'll scalp the hell out of it. That's what they make reel mowers for. And very few new lawns today are smooth at all. Tract builders want low priced landscaping.

Nobody I run accross wants to pay the $60-$100 it'd take for me to mow their lawn with slowpoke, high maintenance reel mowers. Unless you're doing high dollar homes, there's no demand for this.

Organix
02-15-2003, 12:06 AM
In the winter time, Bermuda goes dormant. So underneath is going to be yellow. Not sure if the temps in your area affect that is much as here. But I bet you won't have as bad a problem in another month or so.

coonman
02-15-2003, 01:50 AM
It always amazes me when I read that you can't make money with a 21. On our 120+ lawns we use Toro 21 Wb's (not push) on about half of them (two of us). We average around a dollar a minute on the lawns and sometimes alot more on the smallest of our lawns. On some of these smaller gated lawns with lots of slopes it is not worth the time to mess with a bigger mower.

brucec32
02-15-2003, 04:57 AM
Originally posted by coonman
It always amazes me when I read that you can't make money with a 21. On our 120+ lawns we use Toro 21 Wb's (not push) on about half of them (two of us). We average around a dollar a minute on the lawns and sometimes alot more on the smallest of our lawns. On some of these smaller gated lawns with lots of slopes it is not worth the time to mess with a bigger mower.

mowing small lawns with 21" mowers can be very profitable. It can also lead to knee replacement by the time you're 50! Lotsa miles walked there. We're always looking for a way to ride or at least stand while doing these lawns.

I prefer small lawns because I do make more per minute on many of them ($22 for 15 minutes is typical), my problem is somewhat bigger lawns that still require the 21" mower because of terrain, not size. At some point, effciency starts to drop off, as does profitability.

coonman
02-15-2003, 12:33 PM
Bruce, sounds like you are one of the few around here that will still do the small lawns. We do use the larger mower on the yards that we can get it on. We are also going get a stander for larger areas also. But I still love the 21 for the small lawns and small strips in front of a business.

AGG Lawn Maintenance
02-15-2003, 01:46 PM
You need to upgrade your mowers. 21" mowers wow I remember those days!!! Check into at least a 36" mower, maybe even a 48" mower. Talk to your local dealer and find out if you can demo a couple of different mowers. You need to reduce you mowing days. You might be able to keep all the guys on and cut the same lawns in less days. On the other days you can trim shrubs, mulch or just rest up. I used to cut about 90 houses all the same size lots (about 7,000 sq ft) in a retirement complex. I used two 21" mowers and a 36" sears rider. I found once I got my first 48" mower I was able to get rid of all the other mowers and also cut down my time by about 5-7 minutes EACH LAWN. (Thats at least 7.5 hours) The time I saved gave me more time to do other things. I know if it rains that must really put you in a hole.
Good luck. Travis

Farmer Jon
06-07-2003, 10:02 AM
if the size of the mower is an issue take a look at walker. they have a ztr with a 36" deck, and you can buy the narrow set-up where it is 36" at its widest point. it cuts great, bags if you want, and the make a speed kit to take it from like 8.5 mph to 11 mph or so, (not sure about the speed). i'd really leave the 21" stuff alone on the yards you can, with the time you'd save, you can expand your yards or drop a couple of employies and save $ !!!
good luck!! :cool: