How to avoid tearing up ground while using a zero-turn?

JokerOfAllTrades

LawnSite Member
Location
Conneaut, Ohio
I'm on my second season now, using a zero-turn. I'd like some techniques for avoiding tearing up the grass when making sharp turns.

While it might be simple enough to say, "just don't make sharp turns", I fail to see how it's that easy. For example, I have a fairly square yard with no fencing. I can only cut it without making sharp turns if I first run two or three passes around the perimeter, and those passes require sharp turns. It seems that any idea I've had about how to avoid sharp turns adds extra time to the job. If I do it in the most time-efficient way, still it seems like even when I keep my lap bar motions fluid and non-jerky, I get spots in the grass where a wheel has skidded in the effort to turn the machine. It was a new machine last year (Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1), and of course, new tires.

I also imagine that the front wheels could make this an issue, though I haven't noticed that so much. It seems to me that the only way to avoid making spots like this is to make only wide turns, but that also seems impractical at times, and what's the point of a zero-turn if you're only going to be making wide turns?

For what it's worth, the majority of the soil in my area is clay.

Any suggestions?
 

Integrity-LC

LawnSite Member
Location
West Michigan
For corners you need to slow down but keep the inside wheel moving through the turn. To avoid these repetitive tight turns around the perimeter of my lawn I just give myself a bigger radius in the corners with my trimmer when Im trimming. For zero turn movements at the end of a run when you turn to go back the oposite direction do a Y turn. The key is to keep both drive tires moving. If one is stopped and the other is turning the stopped tire will tear the turf. Hope all that babble makes sense.
 
OP
J

JokerOfAllTrades

LawnSite Member
Location
Conneaut, Ohio
For corners you need to slow down but keep the inside wheel moving through the turn. To avoid these repetitive tight turns around the perimeter of my lawn I just give myself a bigger radius in the corners with my trimmer when Im trimming. For zero turn movements at the end of a run when you turn to go back the oposite direction do a Y turn. The key is to keep both drive tires moving. If one is stopped and the other is turning the stopped tire will tear the turf. Hope all that babble makes sense.

What's a Y-turn? My first thought is that it's something like turning left after finishing a strip where the uncut grass is to the right, then swinging wide right to beyond the next strip, then swinging left again so that the track would kind of look like a light bulb. I can see that working, and I've done it before, but again it requires several perimeter swipes first (to give you the room to make that turn without getting into the neighbor's yard or hitting the fence) and then what does it do to your "stripes" in the grass? (Really I don't care about "stripes" right now, but if it's something I can do easily and get some better-paying lawns because of it...)
 

Youngandfree

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
VA
What's a Y-turn? My first thought is that it's something like turning left after finishing a strip where the uncut grass is to the right, then swinging wide right to beyond the next strip, then swinging left again so that the track would kind of look like a light bulb. I can see that working, and I've done it before, but again it requires several perimeter swipes first (to give you the room to make that turn without getting into the neighbor's yard or hitting the fence) and then what does it do to your "stripes" in the grass? (Really I don't care about "stripes" right now, but if it's something I can do easily and get some better-paying lawns because of it...)
You tube it. I typically make 1 or sometimes 2 perimeter passes depending on the yard. To clean up the stripes, go back around the perimeter again on the way out.
 

Bigg-Lenny

LawnSite Member
I pretty much do mine like this,...but I make two perimeter passes to give me room to turn around. If not, I’ll end up chasing straight lines when heading back on the next pass,...plus, I won’t throw as much clippings onto unwanted areas. The thing that I learned that’s helped the most is to always keep the rear tires moving. My mower is heavy at 1500lbs. Every so often, I can still see that the tires are wanting to “disturb” the ground a little.

 

jonniesmooth

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Fergus Falls, MN
When I do my head rows, I drive into the corner then back up to make my turn.
You need to trim the corners in a triangle out to where the mower turns.
The only thing I would add to the above video is that if I am along a road I always turn whichever way keeps my discharge side into the yard and not out into the street. Just a CYA move.
 

kemco

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Memphis TN
Ive told my guys to not "zero turn" even if they are on concrete. Wears the crap out of one tire (they seem to always make a counter clockwise turn on concrete as the left tire always wears faster).

But yeah, learn to quickly 3 point turn it to avoid putting large plate sized divots in the customers lawn.
 
OP
J

JokerOfAllTrades

LawnSite Member
Location
Conneaut, Ohio
I pretty much do mine like this,...but I make two perimeter passes to give me room to turn around. If not, I’ll end up chasing straight lines when heading back on the next pass,...plus, I won’t throw as much clippings onto unwanted areas. The thing that I learned that’s helped the most is to always keep the rear tires moving. My mower is heavy at 1500lbs. Every so often, I can still see that the tires are wanting to “disturb” the ground a little.

I appreciate this and the comments others have left. I do have one question though.

Y'all have been saying "keep your wheels moving". Makes sense and I can see why you'd do it. But that Y-turn shown in the video does not keep the wheels moving. I might allow that both wheels stop at the same time and as such there is never a time when one wheel is moving while the other is stationary or close to it, but still, they aren't always moving.

Is this by design? If yes, why then wouldn't you do a turn pattern that would make each pass look kind of like a Q-tip? Come out in a bulb shape at the end of the stripe and circle out wide to get into position for your next stripe. Wheels are constantly moving, sort of like what you have to do when you're mowing with a standard lawn tractor if you don't feel like constantly shifting into reverse and then back into forward.
 

Youngandfree

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
VA
I appreciate this and the comments others have left. I do have one question though.

Y'all have been saying "keep your wheels moving". Makes sense and I can see why you'd do it. But that Y-turn shown in the video does not keep the wheels moving. I might allow that both wheels stop at the same time and as such there is never a time when one wheel is moving while the other is stationary or close to it, but still, they aren't always moving.

Is this by design? If yes, why then wouldn't you do a turn pattern that would make each pass look kind of like a Q-tip? Come out in a bulb shape at the end of the stripe and circle out wide to get into position for your next stripe. Wheels are constantly moving, sort of like what you have to do when you're mowing with a standard lawn tractor if you don't feel like constantly shifting into reverse and then back into forward.

Bolded yes. Rest is a no.
 

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