Problems, problems, problems! Solutions, solutions, solutions?

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by photowriters1, Sep 25, 2002.

  1. photowriters1

    photowriters1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    Let me state at the outset that I hate, detest, abhor yard work of any type. All my 40+ years of adult life I have studiously avoided, shirked, ducked, and ignored by artful, and not so artful dodge, every chance to make the terrain surrounding my dwelling look presentable. I was in seventh heaven when I lived at 9,000 feet in the Rockies where it was well nigh impossible to have a lawn. Currently I live off a private road on the side of a hill and one must drive up my drive some 100 feet before they can see the area that is designated as a "yard."

    For years my wife has been the one to cut the grass, plant flowers, etc., but now she is developing arthritis to the point that it is very difficult for her to do the job that she would like. In addition, our old lawn mower has rolled over, pointed its wheels to the sky, shivered a couple of times, and died.

    Now that I have, hopefully, entertained you and given you a little background, indulge me for a few more paragraphs that will present my resolution and my problems. My "yard" now looks so bad that even I am ashamed of it. Something must be done, and I have resolved to take an active role making the yard attractive, but for goodness sake don't tell my wife.

    My wife and I are both 60 and while we are not immoble, we both know that as the years continue to roll by that neither of us will be able to push or guide a mower around our lot. So we have resolved to get a riding garden tractor with a mower deck. The problems I am faced with are as follows: :dizzy:
    • Which mower/tractor to buy?

      Should we pay the premium to get a new unit or, is it reasonable to invest in a second hand unit with limited use and for which the history is known?

      How to revive or replant a yard in a problem location and environment.
    Which Mower?
    I have researched the various options available and it appears that a 15 horse tractor with a 38"-42" deck makes the most sense. I would prefer a two cylinder 18hp model, but I cannot justify the difference in price for our yard. We have from .8 to 1.2 acres which could be defined as an easily mown "yard" and another two acres from one of which the underbrush could be cleared and grass or a low ground cover planted. It would be a difficult mowing task as there are lots of trees and the terrain is hilly and a bit uneven. I would guess the maximum slope is about 15 degrees.

    Two local dealers have tractors that appear to fill the bill. Both are 15hp units with hydro drives. One is a Massey-Ferguson (built by Simplicity?) that is a year old and probably has a maximum of 25 hours on it. I have tested it, and it is in good condition. They are asking $1800 for it. This dealer resells his trade-ins at wholesale. The second is a John Deere LT(?)155. That unit is from a man who mows a one acre lot and trades in for a new tractor every two years. It probably has about 150-200 hours on it and is priced at $1650. I have also tested this machine, and it is in good mechanical and physical condition.

    Both of the units appear to up to the task of keeping our currently non-existant grass looking neat as well as hauling whatever supplies that are needed to put the yard in first class shape. Both have been serviced, i.e., oil and filter changed, blade sharpened, etc. From the standpoints of cost and reputation, I would say that the Deere is the better buy. I know that Simplicity has a good reputation, but I don't know about the units they build under the MF name.

    • Questions for Problem #1

      Will a single cylinder, 15hp tractor be up to the task I have described, i.e., mow and haul a loaded 7cu.ft. around the terrain that I have described?

      Am I foolish to consider buying a used tractor/mower?

      What sort of reputation do the MF garden tractors have?

      Would you, as I am so inclined, select the Deere over the MF?
    Creating/Restoring the Lawn
    The area designated for our lawn is a rather severe growing environment. Climatology wise, we live in the Kansas City area with the typical hot humid summers and cold wet winters. In addition the lawn is surrounded by mature trees which limit the amount of sunlight that the lawn can receive. The trees and thick underbrush also significantly reduce the air circulation.

    The soil offers perhaps an even tougher challenge. The "lawn" portion of the lot apparently was created by leveling the pile of rocks and dirt from the excavation for the basement. It is chalky and rocky. It is not top soil by any stretch of the imagination. Also the lawn area has enough of a grade that runoff and erosion are a constant problem. There was grass planted in the yard when we bought the house, but it has all but died out and there is little left but dirt and weeds. The basic question is, "What do I need to do to create/recreate and maintain a lawn?"

    • Questions for Problem #2

      What type of grass is best for the for the conditions described?

      What is the best method of dealing with the weed?

      Should the entire "lawn" be plowed under/tilled, releveled, fertilized, and seeded, or will weed killer and new seed be sufficient?

      Will a coating of topsoil be required, and, if so, to what depth?

      Can a couple of enthusaistic 60 year old novices do the job, or will I have to call in a professional?

      If I have to let the pros do it, what will it cost?
    I am sure there are important details which I have overlooked, so don't hesitate to ask. I will post some additional facts and/or questions as they come to mind. I will applogize in advance for my lack of knowledge in the area of lawn care and obtuse questions, but I will also thank you in advance for your advice and understanding.

  2. Catcher

    Catcher LawnSite Member
    Messages: 166

    QUOTE]Let me state at the outset that I hate, detest, abhor yard work of any type.[/QUOTE]
    Get a condominium.

    I purchased a zero turn mower a few years back and sold my 'lawn-tractor'. This left me with the need of something to pull lawn-rollers, aerators etc.
    The reason I sold my tractor and looked for something else is simple, the tractor was a piece of crap. It had a twin 18hp motor alright, but the frame and transmission of the unit was build like a childs toy. Folded sheetmetal for a frame with punched holes in it for mountingpurposes.
    I am now using an old tractor I bought 2 years ago, the tractor was build in 1969. It has a 10hp single cylinder Wisconsin in it.
    I use it on a regular basis to pull a homebuilt roller (~ 3' tall x 4' wide), blow snow, rototill and for all other yard/ lawn implements.
    It runs circles around the 18hp tractor, the way this unit is build it is virtually indestructible.
    I paid $75.- for the tractor and some of the attachments. If something does break it is very easy to repair (usually belts etc.) even without a manual. Tractors were build heavier and simpler back then.
    So, to kill 2 flies with one swat: if you get the right machine you will not need a lot of hp, and - there's nothing wrong with buying a good used machine.
    Of course, if money is no object or if you want something newer that requires less attention, I would just make sure that the unit has a heavy-duty fabricated frame, a good gear-box, axles etc.
    Also take a look at how it is build, how easy it is to get to things and replace parts, because sooner or later you will have to.
    I was kind of disappointed to see manufacturers like Deere and Simplicity change their designs to the cheaper sheetmetal machines. I guess these units are aimed at consumers just wanting to mow a flat lawn, not much else.
    The larger Deere units still feature the heavy duty designs.
    So, I don't think there's anything wrong with buying a used tractor, I actually believe that you can get a better machine for a lesser price.

    As to revitalizing your lawn, sounds like your climate is similar to the one we have here in Michigan, see if you can find a local Co-Op or Farm Bureau, they can perform soil test and recommend seeds proven to excel in your area.
    I feel that a couple of 60 year olds - as you put it - with a little motivation (and a tractor) would probably find it quite enjoyable to tackle this project.
    You may want to consider pruning some of the tree's lower branches to ease mowing around them as well as allowing sunlight to reach the turf.
    When you go to level or grade the soil be careful not to 'dig up' the roots. The same applies to top-dressing, heaping a bunch of top-soil around trees can kill even mature trees, so you'll have to be careful there. Pending the nature of your lot and the desired effect, you may want to consider spreading topsoil over the 'lawn-area' while leaving big open circl;es around the trees. This will create a change of level which you can fill with mulch to bring it to the same level.
    Good luck, I hope you will enjoy the results and maybe even enjoy doing the work ...........
  3. photowriters1

    photowriters1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    Very good! But there are a couple of problems with a condo. I enjoy an attractive well landscaped house, and I would not be able to have either my current woodworking shop or my rather large darkroom in a condo.

    That's what I thought, but it is nice to get a little conformation.

    I don't think I am willing to pay the premium for a new unit, and although I have found a couple of used Deere GX(?)455 models, one of which is a three cylinder diesel, they are really too expensive and too big with their 60" mower decks. Both units are well built with from 74 to 275 hours on them, but they are priced at $6750 and $4995 respectively.

    Good idea. We have considered the Missouri Conservation Service, but I had not thought about the farm bureau. In Missouri the School of Agriculture at the University of Missouri is also a good source that I could tap.

    My only concern is that my spouse will suffer

    • a stroke,

      a complete nervous breakdown, or

      a heart attack
    when I join in with the yard work, but I agree that it we could certainly tackle it successfully. Moreover, it would be a good project to do together, and it would be quite rewarding.

    Most of the light sheld comes from the canopy of mature trees that do not have many lower limbs. Most of the lower "sun shield" is from either young trees that are 10'-15' tall or bushes. Clearing them out would be a lot of work, but it could be done. I would really like to clear out and seed the aditional acre I discussed above, but I am not sure that is within our limits of patience and endurance.

    Thanks for the advice. While I knew that care would have to be taken with any actual moving of soil to save the large tree in the front yard, I was not aware that applying a topsoil cover would be a problem. I will talk to the farm bureau or conservation service for specific guidence.

    Fortunately, the roots of the only significant tree in the yard area are buried fairly deep and there are no surface roots, or whatever they are called, which should lessen the possibility of damage to the tree by the application of some top soil, if that is the solution to revitalizing the lawn.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply to my post and for the advice.
  4. Catcher

    Catcher LawnSite Member
    Messages: 166

    If you're stuck on Deere, check for any 'old' 318 units. I don't know how much you enjoy working on stuff, but since you have a large workshop it may present a good project to restore one over a winter.
    The unit I am using is a Bolens, there are many others out there one can buy for (sometimes very) little money, pending the amount of restoration you will want to perform.
    The added bonus is that they often come with a variety of attachments.

    Well, let her work in the front while you do the rear or something like that .....

    Well, believe it or not, it took a bit longer than a day to build Rome.
    Why don't you section off the work into chewable (comfortable) chunks that'll allow you to work at your pace while giving you a sense of satisfaction when you enjoy the fruits of your labor over a (insert your favorite beverage here) .
  5. dothelawn

    dothelawn LawnSite Member
    Messages: 15

    Hi photo,

    I can comment on Massey Ferguson vs. Simplicity. They are essentially one and the same, differing only paint color and labeling. Agco tractors are also built by Simplicity. Why do they make the same machines under three different names? I guess it's just one of those corporate things.

    I just bought a new Massey Ferguson 2516 lawn tractor (same as the Simplicity Regent) and I really like it, no make that, I love it.;)

    I was using a little John Deere RX75 for the past few years and thought that it was a nice machine, but the 2516 makes it seem like a tinker toy.

    Good luck with your new adventures.

    HOWARD JONES LawnSite Member
    Messages: 233

    I used to live relatively close (Wichita) - the books tell you this is the "transition zone" where no kind of grass really does great - too far north for bermuda and too far south for fescue! Seriously - I'm only trying to warn you - the "experts" pretty much agree this is not a one-time thing, you should "look forward" to overseeding every year, because roughly 1/3 dies out annually. Also, a suggestion - with the description of your property, you may find a riding mower really rough - I'm 10 years behind you and I have found some equipment extremely uncomfortable. Try to demo a prospective mower!
  7. photowriters1

    photowriters1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    I am really not stuck on Deere at all. It is just that in the used equipment I have located it seems to be the biggest bang for the buck.
  8. photowriters1

    photowriters1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    Gosh! You are just full of good news! Actually that makes sense because it has taken about seven years for the lawn to go from semi decent to public disgrace. I did overseed a couple years when we first moved in and thought I had the problem licked. Now I know I should have kept it up. Thanks.

    Thanks for the suggestion. One of the mowers I tried out I drove over terrain very similar to our yard. It was a bit rough, but certainly easier than pushing a power mower or guiding a walk behind over the same terrain.
  9. Catcher

    Catcher LawnSite Member
    Messages: 166

    I think you're on the right track.
    If you're not pressed for time you can see which brands of used equipment offer the widest variety of attachments and spare parts. just don't buy a plastic one.
    Don't be discouraged with the lawn, I'd still consult the local Co-op, you never know. Once you topdress it the ride will be nicer too ....
    Just have fun with it.
  10. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Messages: 1,578


    No such thing as a problem ... only challenges.

    If I hated yard work as much as you I would look at landscaping with minimum maintenance. Perhaps seed with a wild flower mix.. Forget the lawn ... forget the tractor.. ask a local professional to design it for you and either tackle the job or hire a reputable contractor.

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