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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I've got a serious problem and I'm hoping to get some good advice from the folks here at Lawnsite.com.

I just started 9 months ago in the business and I bought a 32" Ferris Hydro. I run a two man crew which consists of myself and a hired hand. I operate the Ferris 32 and the hired hand operates the stick blade, line trimmer and we usually both grab a back pack blower at the end of the job.

Most crews doing residential run 3 man crews around here with 21" mowers. Because I can cover so much more ground with a 32" mower, I think I've successfully eliminated one man's pay from the crew.

The problem is, I'm starting to see small ruts on some lawns from the tires of the Ferris 32. This photo is one of the first customers I have had. I've mowed her lawn 24 times this year. Her lawn is rutted the worst by far. Only in the front, but no ruts in the back.

I talked to my dealer today and he says I need to be very careful not to run the exact same pattern every time.

Anyway, here's the photo of her lawn. The photo doesn't really do this scene justice. The ruts are really starting to look bad in my opinion. And they're just gradually getting deeper and deeper.

I hate the thought of using 21" mowers. They're so much slower and they have so much less horse power.

Anyone else use 32" mowers on smaller residential properties?

Again, most of the lawns I've been mowing all year don't have this problem at all. But a few are starting to show signs of small ruts developing. Most show absolutely no signs of rutting at all. In fact, in this customer's back yard, there are no ruts at all.

Any advice?

Thanks,
DFW, TX

Plant Property Window Purple Road surface
 

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It is probably from running the same lines like your dealer said. Try crossing the lines. It will feel like you are running over a RR track. This will happen a lot of times on lawns where there is a lot of thatch.
 

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Originally posted by cklands
It is probably from running the same lines like your dealer said. Try crossing the lines. It will feel like you are running over a RR track. This will happen a lot of times on lawns where there is a lot of thatch.
And if there has been alot of rain or irrigation. Roll the lawn flat then CORE AERATE the lawn.
John
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I wonder if different soil types are worse about this than others.

This customer has an irrigation system. Some mornings, the grass is still real wet when I get there. But then, in the afternoons, I have a stop that I do after lunch with an irrigation system. It's starting to rut also. But because it's a much larger property, the ruts don't look half as bad as these on the smaller property.

Again, I simply don't have this problem on 60%+ of the properties I do.

Anyway, I don't think it's because I'm running the machine on soggy soil. I think this is caused from running the machine over the same path each time.

I'll try different mowing patterns. Sure hope it works. I think I'm gonna have to rent a sod roller to fix this one.

Later,
DFW, TX
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
John Gamba,

++++Roll the lawn flat then CORE AERATE the lawn.++++

That's what I was thinking. Perhaps if I roll the lawn, all the soil will be compacted. After that, is it still likely that I'll have this problem again if I run the same pattern over and over?

I run this pattern everytime because it's the most efficient way to do it. I just don't have to turn the mower as often. I mean, if it's 12' in one direction and 30' in the other, it makes more sense to run the mower in the 30' direction. At least it's quicker and easier. Just fewer turns and it stripes a lot better too.

Later,
DFW, TX
 

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I try to mow in at least 2 different patterns, ie; cross yard and diagonal. Change it up every few mowings, some yards dont offer much alternative but try it if you can.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Would you guys expect an upset customer over these ruts?

She hasn't complained about it. In an effort to head off the problem I left her a voice mail today asking her to call me to discus the problem. I just don't want her to cancel service over this.

I'm thinking I'll have to rent a sod roller and do some free work on this one. But if this happens over and over the money I save by not having that third crew member won't be realized.

Again, on the larger properties, this doesn't look bad. But her front lawn is pretty small. Sitting in between two non-rutted lawns, hers looks pretty bad to me. I can't imagine she's happy about it. Maybe she hasn't noticed it yet as it's been a gradually developing problem.

Later,
DFW, TX
 

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Good news is that you’ve figured out the fastest, most efficient way to mow that customer’s lawn, and you’ve been very consistent about executing that pattern each and every time you’ve mowed.

Bad news is that’s just about the worst thing you can do. You’ve compacted the soil where you’re tires run; and every mower (including 21” push mowers) will do that. Obviously some worse than others, like heavy mowers with narrow tires. But this condition is pretty much entirely on your shoulders.

Good news is that you can work those ruts out of her lawn if you pay strict attention and offset your tire tracks each time you mow. It depends on the width of your tires and how well you can hold a line, but you should alternate your tracks by at least a 1/3 of the mower’s cut width. ¼ of the width would be even better. But until those existing tracks come out, AVOID those ruts at all costs.

Bad news is that to fix this condition, it could take an entire mowing season, or more. You could speed it up with core-aeration. It would also help to mow her lawn when the grass is dry, but the soil is as damp as possible without being mushy. Not just lightly watered where just the top inch or so is moist.

Good news is you’ve got an opportunity to show your customer your dedication to service. That everyone makes mistakes, but what sets the good guys apart is what they do about it.

Bad news is these ruts show that you’re new to the business. Although some low-class veterans and careless illegal immigrants seem to make a habit of doing this as well. Before long, the grass will thin in those ruts and weeds will take hold, making those ruts even more obvious.

One last bit of good news; I saved a bundle on my car insurance with Geico.
 

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As far as what your customer thinks; I’ve picked up several accounts like this. Your competition is probably lurking around the corner as well.

Lawn rolling is more for smoothing out freshly laid sod. These ruts require DEEP moisture and a lot of pressure to roll out when they’re that deep. And that could mean a GIANT mess if you try to roll it out when the soil is that soft. If you catch it just right, you can do a little good with rolling, but it’s pretty much a waist of time. As you realize, this was a gradual problem and it will not get fixed quickly.

Changing direction helps to maintain a smooth lawn, but it will not fix these ruts. In fact, it could easily make the lawn look worse. Mowing across those ruts will make your mower bounce and cause the mower to cut the grass very short when you fall down in the bottoms. That will effectively accentuate those ruts.

On long narrow strips of grass, mowing on the diagonal or across the strip is just plain goofy. You’ll waste a ton of time. And each time you turn around you’ll leave a mark, making things look terrible. That’s not the reason for the season.

If you aereate, you’re customer will ask why. And you resonse would be, “Well, to help get rid of those ruts I’ve made.” ??? Best to pick some days just after heavy rains, offset your tracks, and avoid those ruts.
 

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Technically, lower tire pressure would help. But that would be insignificant because softer tires would not be appreciably wider. Too soft and the edges of the deflated tires start to exert more pressure than the middle of the tire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Just thinking of how to solve my problem.

Don't know if this will work or not, but what if I bring top soil to fill the ruts. As the bermuda grows over the soil it should be level.

The problem is, if I still run the Ferris 32 over the same pattern each week, will it rut again? If it won't, I think I'd be willing to do that. As I said, the Ferris isn't rutting all lawns...only about 35% or so of the lawns are getting rutted.

I HATE the thought of running 21" mowers. No horse power. Smaller cutting swath. Basically, that Ferris 32 is saving me a man's pay.

Later,
DFW, TX
 

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The problem is, if I still run the Ferris 32 over the same pattern each week, will it rut again?
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Yes. You need to offset your tire tracks like Bluesteel mentioned.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
++++You need to offset your tire tracks like Bluesteel mentioned++++

Here is the problem with that idea. That sounds real easy to do, but I think it's a lot harder in practice.

If I put the tires of that mower on the sidewalk, the grass growing along the sidewalk will scalp. If I put the tires inside the ruts, the grass growing immediately adjacent to the sidewalk won't get cut at all.

Once I get away from the perimiter, I can avoid the ruts, but that perimeter pass has to he be the same pattern every time, doesn't it? How can I alter the perimeter pass? And the perimeter pass on a lawn this size, which is average size for me, is about 15% to 20% of the entire lawn.

This is a real nightmare for me. My entire business model pretty much relies on being able to run a two man crew with the Ferris. It fits through 90%+ of all gates. It was obviously built for residential use.

I'm convinced it's hit and miss. Some soils are gonna rut like this worse than others. All the rutting I'm starting to notice is on lawns with irrigation systems, though not all lawns with irrigation systems are showing signs of rutting.

But I think you're probably right...filling in the ruts with top soil will only lead to future rutting if I don't stop running the tires over those tracks each week. But maybe there's a limit to how much compaction the Ferris can actually do. Common sense says that if you lay uncompacted top soil on top of compacted soil and then compact it again, the overall soil height has got to be higher than it was previously, right? But then if you continue to compact it each week, will the soil height continue to get lower and lower or it will finally reach a point of critical mass wherein the soil is as compacted as it's going to get and it simply won't go any lower?

What a friggin' nightmare!

Had I known the Ferris 32 could ruin a lawn, and that there would be no way to tell in advance whether it will or won't, I seriously doubt I would have bought it. If only I could get that kind of horsepower, durability, speed and cutting swath on a light weight machine.

It sure looks like I need to go spend a grand on a new 21" and drop my projected daily EBITDA by another $110 or so. (God that SUCKS!!!)

Right now, I'm able to gross about $625/day with the Ferris and one hired hand. There's no way on earth I could gross that much using a 21" with the same two man crew. My only hope is that I can gross another $110/day with a three man crew which would push my daily gross requirement to $735/day which means I need to maintain that many more customers (which are hard as hell to get and keep).

God this is a tough business!!!! I'm starving and it looks like it's only going to get worse.

Later,
DFW, TX
 

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*** If I put the tires inside the ruts, the grass growing immediately adjacent to the sidewalk won't get cut at all. ***

ever heard of a string trimmer? just off set it by 6" and trim the rest. also, just by looking at that picture you shouldn't be scalping if you run on the sidewalk. if you are, then remind me to never buy a ferris.

if this is your worst rutted lawn, then perhaps just use a 22" on this one, whats it going to take 4 more minutes?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
++++if this is your worst rutted lawn, then perhaps just use a 22" on this one, whats it going to take 4 more minutes?++++

Perhaps that's not a bad idea. I can use the 32 Ferris on the lawn until I see that it's starting to rut. I'll notice it before the customer will because I'm looking for it. Once I start to see signs of rutting, I'll have to start bringing out the 21".

Maybe that will work out ok.

By the way, the height of the soil above the curb is a lot higher than it looks in this picture. Yes. The 32 Ferris will scalp most lawns if I run the wheels on the curb or sidewalk. It's very sensitive. In fact, when I mow the little strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb, when I go to turn around at the end of the strip, on most lawns I have to stop the blades all-together or it'll scalp where I turn around.

Later,
DFW, TX
 

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That lawn level is not that severe that cutting with the tire on the concrete will make a difference.

Blue
Gave you the solution. A way to correct it and a way to avoid it. It has nothing to do with Ferris or it being 32" Although 32's tend to rut more cause the smaller drive tire.
 
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