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View Full Version : ZTR's - better cut quality or just faster?


mschlee
08-24-2012, 08:56 PM
i have a flat 1/2 an acre of cool season grass (perennial ryegrass). currently have a 42" craftsman (2010 i think) garden tractor (24 hp model). very few obstacles

i'm not happy with the cut quality. the challenge is:
i can only mow once a week
Perennial ryegrass grows fairly quickly
As i'm near the coast, the grass is normally slightly damp (very high humidity)
I use mulching blades as recommended by the local extension

combine the above facts and it makes for a challenging mow. i get quite a bit of unevenness especially in turns, but more importantly i get large clumps of grass laying on the lawn when done. i have to then go back over and clean up (or have dead spots a week later)

so my question is, what would be the best mower to give me a quality cut. i cant really do a walk behind because i need to pull around some light duty yard utensils e.g., tow behind sprayer.

thanks in advance

mschlee
08-25-2012, 09:18 AM
no thoughts? or have i worded my question poorly?

gcbailey
08-25-2012, 09:43 AM
typically commercial ZTRs have a higher blade tip speed which results in a cleaner cut, cuts better in taller grass. You couldn't give me a residential ZTR, I'd stick with a regular rider vs. one of them.

White Gardens
08-25-2012, 09:46 AM
Yes, your local extension office suggested mulching blades, but it's not needed.

Just leaving the clippings on the lawn is satisfactory in recycling them.

So, first I would ditch the mulching blades, use a good set of normal blades and discharge out the side. See if that makes a difference first.

Also, the shallow decks of homeowner mowers need to be cleaned more often. Mulching compounds this issue. Take a good putty knife and clean the deck out also when you change the blades.

After that, and you still have issues, then think about a better mower.

......

mschlee
08-25-2012, 03:51 PM
thank you both. i'll try the side discharge and see if anything improves. you are correct in that there is a ton of accumulated clippings under the deck but i clean it out every use (i hoist the front after each mow and it is normally caked with clippings).

i had a similar thought on the hardware store ZTR's - they dont seem much of an upgrade if you dont need the tight cornering. if i was going to switch i would pick up a moderately used commercial unit. exmarks seem to be popular with landscapers here and there are lightly used models available in the $3.5 - 4.5k range which seems reasonable.

i'll try the side discharge next weekend and report back - thanks again for the help.

White Gardens
08-26-2012, 09:38 AM
i'll try the side discharge next weekend and report back - thanks again for the help.

I'd definitively try that first and see how it goes.

I also don't know how your deck is set up, but check to make sure there is no mulching plates or baffles under the deck that need removed also.

...

gcbailey
08-26-2012, 09:41 AM
how much grass are you taking off at a time?

mschlee
08-26-2012, 01:26 PM
taking off a weeks worth of growth each mow - maybe 1.5" or so

there is a mulch plug on the side discharge that i'll remove but other than that nothing else.

Bigfish8
08-27-2012, 08:32 PM
I look forward to reading your report on the performance of the mower with the side discharge chute opened. Personally, I have never been happy with the performance of any of the mulching mowers I have tried on my yard. If you like the way the mower performs with the side discharge chute open but do not like the clippings on the yard the remaining option is to bag!

I have owned several tractor style mowers and now own two Pro Quality ZTRs ( a Gravely Compact Pro and a Toro Z-500). Without a doubt the ZTRs leave the grass smoother but that improvement comes at a heck of a cost. The more significant advantage to me, personally, is the time savings versus a tractor style mower.


Good Luck!

Capemay Eagle
08-27-2012, 08:51 PM
Both!!

When I bought my first ZTR, my wife commented on how nice the cut look compared to my garden tractor. I loved my lawn tractor and I felt it cut very well, However the new Hustler just left a beautiful cut with a nice stripe and did it three times as fast. As GCBailey posted, higher blade tip speed along with a fabricated deck is where the difference is.

IS500Z
08-27-2012, 10:18 PM
Although you are moving away from mulching you might find that a commercial mower mulches better than a residential tractor as well. My neighbor mows with a 300 series JD lawn tractor, but has given up on mulching as he has problems similar to what you described. My Scag will mulch high wet grass and make the lawn looked like it was bagged. BTW your mulching system should also have had isolation baffles installed around the blades - this might have contributed to your problems.

mschlee
08-28-2012, 11:35 AM
thanks all. i'll cut in another day or so (when i get some length to tell the difference).

just out of curiosity, given my craftsman mower has a 24 hp engine, i would assume comparable tip speed? obviously unable to assess (rpm/torque/gearing/etc come into play) but my assumption would be based on the fact that the engine has the power, and the forward speed is slower than ztr (so possibly lower power usage for forward movement)

i of course know nothing about the design specifics so am taking an uneducated guess.

thoughts?

Bigfish8
08-28-2012, 08:26 PM
thanks all. i'll cut in another day or so (when i get some length to tell the difference).

just out of curiosity, given my craftsman mower has a 24 hp engine, i would assume comparable tip speed? obviously unable to assess (rpm/torque/gearing/etc come into play) but my assumption would be based on the fact that the engine has the power, and the forward speed is slower than ztr (so possibly lower power usage for forward movement)

i of course know nothing about the design specifics so am taking an uneducated guess.

thoughts?

Unfortunately, no the blade tip speed of a lawn tractor mower does not come close to the blade tip speed produced by a commercial ZTR. The tip speeds of a commercial ZTR approach 18,000 rpms. When you engage the PTO on a ZTR you will immediately hear the difference in blade rpms.

gcbailey
08-29-2012, 07:55 AM
horse power ratings now days are extremely, how do you say..... full of BS. If you get reading you will find several lawsuits of manufacturers misrepresenting or how they reach their HP rating. I have a few old IH Cub cadets with 10/12 HP cast iron Kohler engines that can outwork "modern" 20 HP machines.

Also you'll notice that on commercial blades most of the time they are much thicker and wider than anything you'll find on a residential machine.

puppypaws
09-03-2012, 11:43 AM
i have a flat 1/2 an acre of cool season grass (perennial ryegrass). currently have a 42" craftsman (2010 i think) garden tractor (24 hp model). very few obstacles

i'm not happy with the cut quality. the challenge is:
i can only mow once a week
Perennial ryegrass grows fairly quickly
As i'm near the coast, the grass is normally slightly damp (very high humidity)
I use mulching blades as recommended by the local extension

combine the above facts and it makes for a challenging mow. i get quite a bit of unevenness especially in turns, but more importantly i get large clumps of grass laying on the lawn when done. i have to then go back over and clean up (or have dead spots a week later)

so my question is, what would be the best mower to give me a quality cut. i cant really do a walk behind because i need to pull around some light duty yard utensils e.g., tow behind sprayer.

thanks in advance

No better cut quality, zero turn mowers just provide better maneuverability and a faster cutting time.

mschlee
09-11-2012, 07:58 AM
so i did the torture test saturday. i had let the grass grow for a week and a half (thus my slow reply here) and mowed in the morning so it was fairly wet as well - so long wet grass. the only change was that i removed the mulching plug per the advice given. huge difference. no big clumps on the lawn and cuts seemed more even. needless to say i'm very pleased.

one thing that was an issue was that the chute (open slot on the side of deck) kept getting plugged up with wet grass clippings so i had to keep shutting down and cleaning it out. it only took a second to reach down and remove it but i'd like to avoid it if possible.

do you think changing blades would help alleviate the clogging? i thought maybe it was caused because the gator blades were pushing up rather than out? if you think a blade change would make a difference, could you recommend a good set?

thanks all for the help. the results thus far are very promising.

thanks again

Dave does lawns
09-11-2012, 09:09 AM
so i did the torture test saturday. i had let the grass grow for a week and a half (thus my slow reply here) and mowed in the morning so it was fairly wet as well - so long wet grass. the only change was that i removed the mulching plug per the advice given. huge difference. no big clumps on the lawn and cuts seemed more even. needless to say i'm very pleased.

one thing that was an issue was that the chute (open slot on the side of deck) kept getting plugged up with wet grass clippings so i had to keep shutting down and cleaning it out. it only took a second to reach down and remove it but i'd like to avoid it if possible.

do you think changing blades would help alleviate the clogging? i thought maybe it was caused because the gator blades were pushing up rather than out? if you think a blade change would make a difference, could you recommend a good set?

thanks all for the help. the results thus far are very promising.

thanks again

I think you said your cutting 1.5" of wet grass.? If that's the case the only option I see is to either bag the lawn or live with clumps.

You could also make 2 passes, taking off .75" each pass, in different directions.

I bet 2 full speed passes, cutting less grass would be faster then 1 pass jamming chute and plugging deck. I personally measure grass before I fire mower up. If I am cutting any more then 1" I make a decision bag or 2 passes.

mschlee
09-11-2012, 08:46 PM
thanks. any thoughts on good non mulching blades?

mschlee
09-11-2012, 10:42 PM
when buying new blades should i get high lift or standard? which type will eject the cut grass better so it does not accumulate around the chute?

Dave does lawns
09-11-2012, 10:47 PM
when buying new blades should i get high lift or standard? which type will eject the cut grass better so it does not accumulate around the chute?

I use high lift, and only cut so much off per pass.

IS500Z
09-12-2012, 09:44 AM
If you removed the chute block and can now discharge then you probably did not have isolation baffles around your blades. This is probably the reason you had trouble mulching. If you want to discharge get some high lift blades and you should be fine.

Rvldesign
09-16-2012, 11:52 AM
Have you ever thought of just mowing more often? Also the rule of thumb is to never remove more the 1/3 the original height of grass anyways and if you cutting 1.5" off that seems like a lot to be cutting every time seems like you would be sacrificing the quality of your turf by cutting the much off and doing it while it's wet versuses waiting a little while for it to just dry. Just my opinion.
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