Tractor Underbelly Mower, Zero Turn or Stand On for Hills

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing Equipment' started by Lil Orchard Man, Apr 17, 2018 at 1:32 AM.

  1. Lil Orchard Man

    Lil Orchard Man LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    Hi. Been a fan of this site for a long time. Just signed up and this is my first post.

    I have a house and small orchard (3 acres to mow weekly). 1/2 acre is a proper lawn, 2 1/2 acres is an orchard. The orchard is my biggest challenge. It has hills varying in slope from 18 degrees (measured) to about 3 degrees. The orchard dirt is not perfectly level. It’s bumpy but not too bumpy to drive a 48” Hustler Zero Trun over. Still a bit bumpy.

    Small parts of the orchard (1/4 acre) are 18 degrees to 25 degrees. I’ve resigned myself to weedeating that biweekly unless I buy a Ventrac, which seems too expensive.

    I now have a Deere 2025R with a 48” underbelly. It does fine on most of the property except for the hillier bits. Since the orchard is now established, I’m finding that I use the tractor now basically for mowing only. So I’m looking to sell that and buy a dedicated mower.

    Specifically I’m looking at a 60 or so inch stand on mower to cut the chore time and maintenance down. I’d rather sit, I’m 57, but still have a few years left and I like the way stand ons do hills. I’m looking at the Skag and Deere (aka Wright) stand on mowers in particular and wondering what the lawn mower gurus think. I’ve researched the heck out to this and are interested in your recommendations.

    I do most maintenance myself. That means belts and blades in addition to the oil grease and filter routine stuff. I’ve cleaned a carburetor a few times, but anything more than easy stuff requires a $500 tow. I’m pretty rural our here.

    Any thoughts welcome. Thanks
     
  2. Ridin' Green

    Ridin' Green LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Michigan
    Messages: 18,339

    Seems like a stand on would be the worst choice in an orchard. Maybe not if the trees are small young yet, but once they grow.......

    I'd be looking to some sort of Z. Most will handle 18 degrees pretty well and some a bit more. I know I can go well over 18 on my JD, and I'm sure others will hang on them too.

    What's available in your area, and how are the dealers?
     
    13Razorbackfan and Dawson like this.
  3. Lil Orchard Man

    Lil Orchard Man LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    Thanks for the input. In the area have Deere, Kubota, Scag, Hustler, Toro, Exmark and Husqvarna. Everything else is too far to be practical.

    I should have mentioned I keep the orchard trees spaced out about 8’ apart and I keep them cut so everything can be hand picked. Getting under the trees would be impossible with anything but a walk behind. I weedeat that now. No real advantage would be had from sitting down.

    I’m a little surprised you can do 18° on a JD Z, but I believe you. Those looked to be pretty high center of gravity at least compared to Scags. Can you do that pretty comfortably or is it pushing it? What model do you have?

    I’m definitely looking for a 60” or so deck model and from memory at the JD dealer the center of gravity got worse with the larger deck models. I would much rather sit then stand, but mowing on slopes of 3° to 18° all the time is the imperative.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018 at 12:52 PM
  4. Ridin' Green

    Ridin' Green LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Michigan
    Messages: 18,339

    Mine is a 2012 Z950A. I have a suspension seat insert kit that raised the COG by 2" which is quite a bit in reality. I have placed a magnetic dial angle finder on top of the deck flats and check several times. It holds that just fine even though the COG is now higher than stock. No slipping or sliding even when wet unless trying to go very fast, like 3/4 sticks or more and hitting humps or dips, but it never breaks loose and/or slides on me.

    The COG on JD mowers is not high at all, so not sure why you felt that way. The way the machine is designed as far as looks or something may have lead to that assumption though. Lots of guys here on LS run them, and you really never see anyone complain about them not being able to hold a hill.

    I have ran Scag Cheetah, TT II and the TC II and the Cheetah feels much higher to me than my Z950, though I doubt it really is. The TT II sits low and has a good COG and wide stance. There are guys here that own and operate both Scag models and some say the Cheetah is better on hills while some say the TT is. Demo, demo, demo is the best advice I can give ya, but if QOC in any condition matters to you a lot, the Scag and JD are at the top of the pile in that aspect.
     
  5. Lil Orchard Man

    Lil Orchard Man LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    After getting this input and doing some more research today, I just placed an order for the JD Z950M, a 60” MOD deck, field jack (for changing blades) and the comfort seat (middle one, not the one with adjustable lumbar support).

    I double checked the specs on the JD Z950 and Skag TTII. Virtually identical on height and width. The gas is a little higher on the JD but it appears balanced side to side. Bottom line, since it was close, being an Oregon grad I had to go with green and yellow rather than orange and black (Oregon State).

    My only remaining question is on front weights. The sales rep at my local dealer said it might be helpful to put front weights on with a lot of hills. Interested in others views on that. Everything I’ve read or seen online on Zs and hills doesn’t mention that, and in fact I’m imagining having front weights on (without grass collection in the rear) may make it front heavy and more unstable going across hills. Any thoughts on that?
     
  6. Ridin' Green

    Ridin' Green LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Michigan
    Messages: 18,339

    If you aren't bagging DO NOT use front weights. All steering and traction is in/on the rear wheels. The JD has a tank only on one side- the left side. I can tell you regardless of specs, riding a TT II and riding a Z950, the TT sits lower in the seat area and has twin tanks.

    If you are cutting northern grass, do not get the MOD. I can tell you that one firsthand. No one in this country has done mor eto try to make a MOD deck cut northern grass without leaving stringers than I have. If you cut below 3", then you should be alright, but that isn't very healthy for northern grass.

    I still have an almost new MOD deck shell sitting in my shop that i took off my 950 to install the Pro deck instead and at great cost to me. I have a thread here on doing it-

    https://www.lawnsite.com/threads/jd-deck-swap-w-pics.427356/
     
    Lil Orchard Man likes this.
  7. Lil Orchard Man

    Lil Orchard Man LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    Thanks for that advice. Read the post and here is some background.

    I live in Hawaii and mow at 2 heights. The lawn area is a zoysia strain that I keep at about 2”. The much larger area I mow at about 5” and it’s a 50/50 mixture of (1) a soft stemmed, small leafed groundcover (perrenial peanut, or golden glory) which acts as a living mulch when cut and (2) just about every type of weed that exists on the planet. Most problematic in (2) is what we call cane grass, after sugar cane, which is a fibrous grass that will grow 5’ tall if left uncut. That has clogged my deck regularly and causes me to replace belts periodically.

    I gather from your other post that the baffling in the MOD and maybe the MOD design itself results in little lift to the blades and maybe clogs the deck up. I had been planning to use the MOD feature around the house, then open it up in the orchard. But I suppose I can mow so the cuttings blow out away from the house. I hate bagging if I don’t have to but that’s obviously another solution.

    Is the MOD deck really so bad for what I described? I realize you can’t see it exactly.
     
    Ridin' Green likes this.
  8. Ridin' Green

    Ridin' Green LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Michigan
    Messages: 18,339

    It may work great for what you are going to use it for. I have never been to HI so can't say. The MOD has plenty of lift. Too much for the baffling actually which is what causes the cut issues with limp bladed northern grasss.
     
  9. Lil Orchard Man

    Lil Orchard Man LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    Got it. Good points and thank for the heads up as well as other input. Good to know and it does seem that many people think the MOD baffle could be designed better. I’ve been using a dedicated Deere mulching deck set up and from that understand what you say. That has worked satisfactorily here, though not super perfect cuts in the orchard. I’m hoping the MOD deck opened up in the orchard might be better than my old dedicated mulcher and at least clears the deck better, but we’ll see.
     
  10. Reedo

    Reedo LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from S.E. Minnesota
    Messages: 711

    In my opinion if a tractor won’t handle the hills you will have a harder time with a zero turn or stand on mower. Granted my tractor is bigger but everything I hear is the tractors will handle hills better than zero turns in every situation.
     
    wishfull likes this.

Share This Page