Bagging and Rain....

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by jeffthurow, Aug 18, 2005.

  1. jeffthurow

    jeffthurow LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    Ok some more research questions from the new guy.

    How many customers require you to bag grass. That is something I would not have capability to do starting out, and where I would go with it who knows. Do most lawn services forgo bagging or tell your customers you don't do it? Is that mainly for clean up seasons?

    Another question, about Rain. Obviously a lawn service has to mow on wet rainy days as well. As a homeowner, most only mow when it is dry or you deal with the clumping and buildup under the deck. How do you guys handle it? Does the grass mow any worse when wet than dry? Do you just have to clean out the bottoms of the decks everyday? This is probably easier on a commercial machine than under a garden tractor?? Do many commercail machines front decks lift up (vertically) to clean off?

    I have lots of questions... :dizzy: ....answers will be greatly appreciated. I love this site.

  2. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    As a rule I do NOT bag grass, even if it means losing the customer at the time of the estimate because that is why I have a Toro Grand Recycler. To be blunt, I can't get paid enough to do it not because I can't figure out how MUCH extra to charge but because most people are only willing to pay 5 lousy bucks extra (MAYBE 10) and it's fairly double the work so I don't bag. However, nobody is perfect and out of 50+ customers, TWO talked me into it and still I regret it regularly but they are both good customers and their lawns are small.

    Far as when it rains, IF it is physically coming down then I am NOT working because soaking wet grass is ridiculous but also once the traction belts get nice and wet, the mower is a worthless 300 pounds of dead weight. My mowers are ALL walk-behinds with velkes, 48" fixed decks.
    In my first year I started out with two 52" floatdecks but in my 2nd year was able to acquire a 3rd used mower which unknown to me at the time was a fixed deck. As time went on, I fell in love with the fixed deck and recently purchased a brand-new one as well because specifically, the fixed deck weighs about 300 pounds compared to my floatdecks' 500 pounds. THIS makes the biggest difference in wet turf not so much as traction is concerned but more so it leaves LESS tire marks and gets stuck less in the mud. When it DOES get stuck, it is a LOT easier to pull out by hand.
    More than anything, it takes practice thou usually I am back out cutting the very next day after it stops raining and here is what I do:
    - I pick the yards that are LEAST likely to be severely muddy. Since I cut all of them on a regular basis, I usually know which ones are no good for a day or two and I leave those for later. That, and I start a little later, like 10am or noon or even 2pm sometimes - I can still cut 5-6 yards even starting as late as 2pm while the sun meanwhile dries things up half-way.
    - WHEN I SEE a mud-patch coming up, the best thing to do is build up FULL speed and right as the mower enters the muddy area, release SOME pressure on the handlebars - The idea is to 'roll' through it without braking and while gradually losing speed - In addition, I step off the velke and 'walk' (or trot) behind the machine to keep weight off the traction. It takes practice but it usually glides through.
    - When I do NOT see the mud-patch, I stop and step off the velke and simply push or pull (by grabbing casters or whatever) and as carefully as possible get the mower out of there with a minimum of damage as possible.

    There are also times when there is an area SO wet that it is impossible to use the mower. At this point it is sometimes doable that I can skim the area with the weed-eater and over the years I got good enough with the weedeater that I can cut some pretty good size areas with it and you can not tell that it was not cut with a lawn mower - The trick is to skim or hover the head slightly above ground and maintain a steady height at WOT the string will act like a single blade and watch how fast you go (slower is usually better). When I first started doing this I found it to be physically and mentally intense but over time I got better and don't think twice about using the weed-eater as a lawnmower when the case calls for it.

    Absolute worst case scenario, I wait 1-2 days until things dry out a bit for SOME of the lawns, maybe 3 days for the REALLY muddy one or two. Again this is the reason I have a commercial mower, the grass can get pretty tall before I have a problem with it and in this case one reaches a compromise between tall grass and marks in the turf.

    On average during a wet period of time, I leave ONE small mark per yard. No I am not being funny, that's just what happens and I do my best to be very careful because that helps the most.

    Well that's about all I can think of...
  3. Scotts' Yard Care

    Scotts' Yard Care LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 343

    Generally we have to bag most lawns in the early spring and this year we were hit with triple our normal rain fall through Apr and May so it was a tough one. Usually by June we can mulch and do a nice job. As far as cleaning we scrape the deck when the build up becomes a problem so that could be every lawn or once a day depending. Most commercial machines don't tilt the deck up although a few offer this feature but I don't know the particular models. I can reach across our Z turn 34" deck quite easily so this is not a problem for us however our 44" tractor is a lot tougher to clean. Walk behinds might be tiltable but I can't say for a fact as we don't run them. Our lawns mow quite well for the most part even after a drenching rain and we do them on schedule if at all possible. We explain to our customers that if we do leave them they will be an unmanageable mess so the lesser of evils is to mow them as well as possible regularly and pray for the rain to stop.
  4. Guthrie&Co

    Guthrie&Co LawnSite Senior Member
    from nc
    Messages: 784

    why not sell them on the idea of clipping management? saves you the time and money on bagging
  5. bigjeeping

    bigjeeping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 903

    I'm mowing 50 residential and I haven't bagged one.. bagging is extremely time consuming, plus you have to dump the grass somewhere at the end of the day!
    My mulching kit has worked just fine.. Spring time mowing I would scrape the deck everyday. Now I am doing it once a week. I just jack mine up because the deck doesn't flip
  6. MSLandscaping

    MSLandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 59

    Up here in Mass. , I bag all my clients lawns. They seem to want that up here, unless the grasss burned beyond regognition.
  7. burroughslawnservice

    burroughslawnservice LawnSite Member
    Messages: 26

    I have a question related to mowing wet lawns. Didn't want to start a new thread. Anyway, I did one yesterday. What nightmare. I had to spend about 2 extra hours raking the lawn of clumps and cleaning up my mower. I have a discharge blocker on the deck and was considering buying a baffle that allows you to open and close the discharge chute quickly. I've seen this at it's called a blade blocker. Wouldn't this keep your deck from clogging in wet conditions by opening the discharge chute and allowing the clippings to escape?
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    LOL you guys, nowhere except on Lawnsite have I seen more worries about clumps underside of deck thou I must admit in my first 2 years this minor trifle used to bother me as well :rolleyes:
    I would forget the fancy traps and crap thou some ppls spray the underside with PAM and that I guess is ok but as for me, when it gets real bad I take the wb somewhere near an inconspicuous area then with it running and blades engaged, I lift the front of the mower from BEHIND by pushing down on the lower fixed bar as high as it will go and let it drop back down - Do this a few times and the worst of it is gone and the rest of it I don't worry about anymore. Far as it clogging, only time it clogs the exhaust is when the grass is real high and thick and is just as likely to do it when it's dry.
  9. mowmasteruk

    mowmasteruk LawnSite Member
    Messages: 119

    Here in the Isle of Wight, UK, all my customers require the grass to be bagged. British garden owners hate to see the cuttings left on the lawn. It is also a necessity because of the climate which produces heavy growth in spring and autumn (fall) which can continue all summer if it is wet or showery.
    We do not have our own composting facility so we haul the grass to the public tip where they compost all green waste and produce compost to sell. The customer pays extra for this service of course - some have their own little compost heap or bin which saves them money.
    As stated, our climate can sometimes be wet for long periods and my firm uses Etesia rider and walk behind mowers made in France which are purpose made to pick up wet grass. We have to clean the decks at least once per day, often after each job. We work in the rain unless it is coming down in buckets, then we just have to stop.
  10. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,587

    i guess it really depends on where your at, i dont bag unless you want to pay, but if thats what they do in your neck of the woods, i suppose you better play along. Tonight i did a lawn, ladies son had an operation and needed someone to mow in an emergency. Small town everyone knows everyone, or related so i know them, wife knows them, and their family so i though (be careful). It was pretty tall, I used some advice i read here lately, and made the cuts at normal height, then raised the deck 1/2 inch and run her down again in a different direction......(i used to leave the deck at the same hight on double cuts, this worked way better)

    Took a little doing but you can not tell that after the first cut it looked like a hayfeild.

    Charged the red cross emergency service rate of 2.5x the normal cost of 30.00 and made a quik profit in way less the time to have bagged the clippings

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