Long time JD owner - new mower question

Gr8tsmkymntns

LawnSite Member
Location
Western NC
Hello - need help with some analysis paralysis.

I currently mow with a JD X540 garden tractor with a 48'' Xtra Edge deck and the JD mulch kit. The JD mulch kit utilizes plastic baffles and my experience is that the grass sticks to those plastic baffles like velcro.

I currently mow a little over an acre of very thick tall fescue that is watered/fertilized regularly. The property has a slight slope. Maybe 10-15* max.

I have been searching for a replacement that would mow/mulch much better. My local JD dealer was kind enough to let me demo a Z930M w/MOD. After reading all 210+ pages of the John Deere thread I think I might have to concur with those had trouble with the MOD deck. During summer I mow at 5'' and the MOD deck had a tremendous amount of blowout and the cut was very uneven to my eye. The Z930 has a Kawasaki FX801V 25.5hp motor and even with the MOD discharge open the motor was lugging and I was going relatively slow.

I would like a recommendation for a mower, not married to JD, that will mow very thick tall fescue. Preferably a mulcher because I have several flower beds to contend with and also have been mulching with pretty good success for decades; albeit KBG though. I'm beginning to think maybe a 29hp or greater is what I'm looking for?

Thanks to all the members that have taken the time to build the info on this site. The reading has been immensely helpful!
 

Ridin' Green

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Michigan
I posted plenty in the JD owners thread about my experience with the MOD. I would never recommend it for grass in the north. That said. I have a Z950 with the same engine block, but 27 HP and I rarely find it to need more power, even in very thick and/or tall grass. The Pro deck would make a much better choice on a 930 due to being a lot more open underneath. The MOD as it comes has to removable baffle plates under the deck that open it up quite a bit from stock, but it still isn't as open as the Pro deck, so the MOD requires more juice to run If you can, demo a 950 with the pro deck and see if that isn't enough for you. If you still need more, you will have plenty with a 960 or 970 and the 60" deck, though I seriously doubt you will need either one for normal weekly mowing no matter how thick the grass.

To be honest, not many decks cut well at anything above 4". However, if your grass is in fact extremely thick it isn't impossible to get a nice cut at 5" due to having enough grass to seal the deck skirt.

I know you want the mulch option, so take a look at the Pro deck and then if it is cutting the way you want, look at getting a chute blocker like a grass flap etc. that way you can keep the clippings out of areas you don't want. I have used all sorts of mulch kits, including the same one you have and while they work for what they are really intended for, which is taking off small amounts at a time, especially dry grass, they are more of a hindrance than a help 90% of the time. An open deck with a chute blocker gives you the option to go either way in seconds.

Good luck!
 
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Gr8tsmkymntns

Gr8tsmkymntns

LawnSite Member
Location
Western NC
Thanks RG ... as I mentioned I read that JD thread front to back. Thank you for sharing your experience. It allowed me to look for the problems you noted when I demo'd the MOD deck. Might have saved me a huge headache!!

Somewhere here a member noted (I looked but couldn't find the post) that in their mulching experience they found that they needed about 16cc of engine per 1 inch of deck width. I believe that's pretty good advice based on what I've experienced.

IMG_8959.jpeg

Here's a pic of the Z930M demo using the MOD deck in the closed position. 5 days of growth. Lots of clumping at the chute I found.

IMG_8960.jpeg

Another pic mulching with MOD deck in closed position. 5 days growth

IMG_8962.jpeg

Z930M Demo with MOD deck chute open. 5 days growth

I'm not sure if these pics are clear enough to help anyone else but I thought it worth a shot.

I've also demo'd a Wright X and ZK model. The ZK with a larger motor seemed to side discharge smaller clippings. But that could be my ocd kicking in!

I demo'd a Walker with dedicated mulching deck in the spring. It mowed well but the deck mowing height max was only 4''. My property is sloped south/southeast, no shade, longer mowing height really helps on many fronts.

This spring things the mowing got away from me do to wet weather. This pic may indicate the thick nature of this particular yard.

IMG_8280.jpeg


I really wish I could find the ultimate mulcher. 1st world problems ... :usflag:
 

Garrett1234

LawnSite Senior Member
Maybe time to give some advice on turf growing! That lawn is insanely beautiful from the photos shared! Wow. Truly wow! Sidenote:
I’m a side discharge fan. And love to mow. So double cutting wouldn’t be an issue for me. I’d get ya a big ole JD 960 side discharge and rock and roll that thing and forget all this mulch talk. But that’s what I like and not what you asked. So sorry about that.
 

Ridin' Green

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Michigan
Yes, I agree, but I'd get the 970 and skip the 960. Though to be honest and fair I have cut some stuff like that with zero issues with my 950. I had to double cut to get rid of the clippings, which is to be expected from any deck in grass like that, but I had no trouble mowing it in one pass. In fact, I cut down a huge area that was all field rye with stems that were about 3/16" thick and 32" tall and that crap was thick! I went slow, but even with the MOD deck on my 950 at the time I cut right through it. Still though, if you have to deal with it like that regularly and have a hill, get the 970 with the 60" deck and you will never lack for power.
 

Garrett1234

LawnSite Senior Member
The reason I like the 960 vs the 970:
The 960 gets ya 6 ish Hp more than a 950 for about 800 bucks.
The 970 puts you about another 6 ish hp above the 960 (which is cool) but adds an additional 3k ish on top of the 960 price.
Not saying it isn’t badass, but bang for the buck, 960 seems like the sweet spot.
 

Ridin' Green

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Michigan
Not sure where you got all those numbers from? They are not correct regardless as far as HP or pricing (in my area anyway). Don't go by JD's site.

There is a 4 hp bump between the 950 and 960 and a 4 hp bump between it and the 970 (27-31-35). here, the price jump is in a linear line too, so not a big deal to go from the 960 to the 970 if you are going to go above the 950 anyway.
 

Garrett1234

LawnSite Senior Member
Id never argue with you ridin on JD stuff (or most stuff) as you know your stuff. A bit shocked on whatcha just said however. I’ve started to arrange finances to purchase a 960 based on what I researched (HP vs dollar). So that changes things quite a bit for me.
A 930 I demod got it done. But never ever want to lack the HP again. So then through what I read deducted the 960 is their sweet spot. Still bummed what I learned wasn’t accurate. Back to the dealer / drawing board. Prices vary greatly across the country, however the % spread between model costs are usually about the same. Not the case here then?
 

Garrett1234

LawnSite Senior Member
Okay. Called the local dealer as soon as I finished typing the last post. I’ve learned on this site the dealer isn’t always right. Which seems crazy, but y’all have proven it true time and time again.
But I just asked them again to clarify the HP differences and he stated what’s on the website
(25.5 -950 / 31 - 960 / 35 - 970)
I asked about pricing and the spread and he told me based off a 950 as the base price that:
960 is about 10% more
970 is about 35% more
This is a big tractor dealer for farmers, and maybe they just read Off the website. But what he shared mirriors closely enough the website.
Pays to be a member on this site. Thanks for the help
 

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