Mowing Question for really nice Bermuda lawns

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by coolluv, Apr 22, 2007.

  1. coolluv

    coolluv Banned
    from Atlanta
    Messages: 4,514

    I have a question about cutting hybrid Bermuda lawns. I have seen some really nice low cut Bermuda lawns in some really high end neighborhoods and I would like to advertise in these areas but I'm concerned that I would not be able to achieve the kind of results that I would need to with the equipment that I have.

    I have a 44" super Z Hustler and a 37" Hustler Hydro walk behind. I also have a John Deere 21" self propelled. I don't want to buy a reel mower and I don't want to use the 21' because the lawns are 1/2 to 1 acre or more.

    The lawns are not flat and there are alot of slopes and beds to cut around. I know from experience that my Z would be too big and would slide and tear the grass up. The 37" might work but it may also tear up the grass and I don't know if I would be able to get the results I need to.

    What do you guys use on the 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inch Bermuda besides a reel mower?

    Thanks for your help. Dave...
  2. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    The problem with the ZTR won't be sliding and tearing Bermuda, it's pretty tough stuff, but giving an uneven cut if the terrain is really too rolling/undulating to mow smoothly. But it could be a problem if it's really sloped, in which case the weight would be a problem. The 37" is light enough and the deck width matches the wheels pretty closely,which is what you want when mowing undulating terrain really low.

    But it comes down to technical details like wheelbase(long on the 37", shorter handles undulations better) and location of tires and anti-scalp wheels to know if it's going to mow at 1.5" well. You do NOT want a large overhanging deck (doubly so if it has no anti-scalps on that side) if you're mowing Bermuda, since any dip of a tire leaves a gouge in the grass that shows the brown stems instead of green leafy part of the grass. You want to keep that deck at the same relative mowing height from the ground at all places. 44" decks are often good on Bermuda, since they have little or no overhang.

    You are not going to be able to mow much below 1.5" with any rotary mower. Reels are slow and expensive to operate and 90% of your customers won't be willing to pay what it really costs for that look.

    Bermuda needs to be bagged or mulched to give a nice look. I see some guys discharging on them, but it makes a mess the dense turf means the clippings lay on top, and don't fall to the soil level. A good mulching deck turns them to powder and forces them down below the grass level for a nearly bagged look. Bagging is slow and messy and tiring, I haven't done it in 8 years or so and handle about 75% Bermuda with ZERO complaints about mulching (or any quality issues). It makes you much more cost competitive than bagging. I find I can double cut mulching faster than bagging almost any lawn, ESPECIALLY when it's a little tall. If you are there weekly, you will never have to triple cut when mulching, and only rarely double cut to get a nice look.

    One idea is to set up one mower to discharge/bag and the other to mulch, so you can handle all types of grass efficiently. Mulching on Fescue is unnecessary and slows you down somewhat.

    Mulching also eats power, especially on tough Bermuda, so if you don't have the high end engine on the mower you might want to upgrade. The 17hp on the 37", for example, would be better than the 15hp. On a 44" ztr, 19hp would be a minimum.

    The minimal feedback I've gotten on Hustlers is that they aren't great mulchers on this type of turf. You'd have to experiment to see for sure. I don't think the 37" even had a true mulch kit available until recent years. Mulching Bermuda is different than mulching Kentucky Bluegrass or Tall Fescue or St. Aug, so search for those who have mulched Bermuda or Zoysia with one for feedback. Almost all mower brands give lip service to mulching, but so far the Exmark is the only one that I'm satisfied with. My Gravely lacks suction for mulching leaves, and left a few stringers on taller, more sparse turf that the Exmark gets fine.

    I have cut Bermuda with some crazy angles and slopes with a 36" Exmark floating deck wb mower (metro hp) and it was really nice. The Turf Tracer HP 36" is the same deck. The TT HP 48" has the same deck as my lazer hp, except with even more anti-scalp wheels, so I bet it does a great job on Bermuda. I see a lot of them around here on trailers. The negative is the somewhat inferior steering system vs the Hustler's H bar.

    My '03 Exmark Lazer Z HP with 23hp kawi (replacement for bad 21) and 48" deck does a fine job on almost all Bermuda lawns. I use a 21" for the postage stamps with ridiculous curves. You should just try mowing a Bermuda lawn with your machines and see how it does.

    It's important to match your equipment and lawns well. It's probably a waste of your time to mow 1/2 acres with a tiny mower, which you already realize. Bermuda mowed low is not going to be as fast to mow as a field of tall stuff. Use the best mower possible but remember to charge for the time it takes to handle this more technically difficult type of lawn.
  3. coolluv

    coolluv Banned
    from Atlanta
    Messages: 4,514

    Thanks for the feedback. I have mulch kits on both mowers and they do a good job. You are right about the 37" having a long wheel base. I haven't used it much yet and I'm still trying to see what it can and cant do. Most of the yards in the forsyth area have slopes in the fronts and backs I have found that even if I go slow on dry grass I tend to tear and mark the grass.

    I have practiced going slow and not making abrupt turns, keeping the inside wheel from stopping but just the weight of the machine and the sloping grass makes it almost impossible to not make marks. I found that I can cut better with the 37" on the hilly stuff but sometimes I still leave a mark or two.

    I have seen guys cut the front and sides with a 21" and then cut the back with a Z or Hydro walk behind. I just know that those people with really nice lawns would flip out if I left any kind of marks on the turf.

    I thought about getting a smaller hydro walk behind but I just didn't want to buy another mower for a few lawns. There is a huge subdivision up here (800-900 houses) and I don't think that all of them are being cut with reel mowers. Probably a mix of 21" and small Hydros and reel mowers.

    Anyway thanks again for your thoughts and suggestions I always enjoy your posts as they are very well thought out and helpful.

    Thanks again, Dave....
  4. pclawncare

    pclawncare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 991

    Get a walker!!!!!!
  5. Grits

    Grits LawnSite Silver Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 2,994

    I have one REALLY small Bermuda lawn that I cut and I use a 21" on it.
  6. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,558

    Yes we have a winning particular our 36" deck size Walker will do just about as good as it is going to get in that bermuda. We mulch(plate over outlet) most of the yards that are real flat with Scag Cub 48" and that works well until you get in rough terrain. All of the irrigation lines that weren't propertly filled sink after a few years and that is the main cause of the problem. It is really HARD to keep from scalping when cutting low and once you scalp an area it is done for the year after temperatures get into the 90F plus.
  7. coolluv

    coolluv Banned
    from Atlanta
    Messages: 4,514

    Thanks for the replies. I hope we get some rain soon and the grass starts growing instead of this half brown half green stuff.:laugh:

    Thanks Dave...
  8. Nik_Danger

    Nik_Danger LawnSite Member
    Messages: 45

    Directly across the street from my mother lives a man who is a lawn fanatic. He has princess variant of Bermuda. It was designed for golf courses. It looks absolutely fantastic and I always go over to commend his research efforts in selecting that cultivar. Once a week the most ratty arse crew comes and drops an ariens commercial 21 on it that looks like bomb shrapnel, its black with dirt and deposit and smokes. I'm sure the blades have to be razor sharp though...maybe. Regardless the yard looks like a masterpiece afterwords. Whatever.:hammerhead:
  9. Nik_Danger

    Nik_Danger LawnSite Member
    Messages: 45

    I am going to lowball that yard to the limit next season to get his business. I would almost do that yard for free just for the satisfaction. And I guarantee that my toro or honda with razor edges will do the job even better. Sorry I had to get that off my chest.:weightlifter:
  10. springover

    springover LawnSite Member
    Messages: 38

    use a reel mower...

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