ZTR's - better cut quality or just faster?

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by mschlee, Aug 24, 2012.

  1. mschlee

    mschlee LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    i have a flat 1/2 an acre of cool season grass (perennial ryegrass). currently have a 42" craftsman (2010 i think) garden tractor (24 hp model). very few obstacles

    i'm not happy with the cut quality. the challenge is:
    i can only mow once a week
    Perennial ryegrass grows fairly quickly
    As i'm near the coast, the grass is normally slightly damp (very high humidity)
    I use mulching blades as recommended by the local extension

    combine the above facts and it makes for a challenging mow. i get quite a bit of unevenness especially in turns, but more importantly i get large clumps of grass laying on the lawn when done. i have to then go back over and clean up (or have dead spots a week later)

    so my question is, what would be the best mower to give me a quality cut. i cant really do a walk behind because i need to pull around some light duty yard utensils e.g., tow behind sprayer.

    thanks in advance
  2. mschlee

    mschlee LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    no thoughts? or have i worded my question poorly?
  3. gcbailey

    gcbailey LawnSite Silver Member
    from WV
    Messages: 2,758

    typically commercial ZTRs have a higher blade tip speed which results in a cleaner cut, cuts better in taller grass. You couldn't give me a residential ZTR, I'd stick with a regular rider vs. one of them.
  4. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Yes, your local extension office suggested mulching blades, but it's not needed.

    Just leaving the clippings on the lawn is satisfactory in recycling them.

    So, first I would ditch the mulching blades, use a good set of normal blades and discharge out the side. See if that makes a difference first.

    Also, the shallow decks of homeowner mowers need to be cleaned more often. Mulching compounds this issue. Take a good putty knife and clean the deck out also when you change the blades.

    After that, and you still have issues, then think about a better mower.

  5. mschlee

    mschlee LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    thank you both. i'll try the side discharge and see if anything improves. you are correct in that there is a ton of accumulated clippings under the deck but i clean it out every use (i hoist the front after each mow and it is normally caked with clippings).

    i had a similar thought on the hardware store ZTR's - they dont seem much of an upgrade if you dont need the tight cornering. if i was going to switch i would pick up a moderately used commercial unit. exmarks seem to be popular with landscapers here and there are lightly used models available in the $3.5 - 4.5k range which seems reasonable.

    i'll try the side discharge next weekend and report back - thanks again for the help.
  6. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    I'd definitively try that first and see how it goes.

    I also don't know how your deck is set up, but check to make sure there is no mulching plates or baffles under the deck that need removed also.

  7. gcbailey

    gcbailey LawnSite Silver Member
    from WV
    Messages: 2,758

    how much grass are you taking off at a time?
  8. mschlee

    mschlee LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    taking off a weeks worth of growth each mow - maybe 1.5" or so

    there is a mulch plug on the side discharge that i'll remove but other than that nothing else.
  9. Bigfish8

    Bigfish8 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 56

    I look forward to reading your report on the performance of the mower with the side discharge chute opened. Personally, I have never been happy with the performance of any of the mulching mowers I have tried on my yard. If you like the way the mower performs with the side discharge chute open but do not like the clippings on the yard the remaining option is to bag!

    I have owned several tractor style mowers and now own two Pro Quality ZTRs ( a Gravely Compact Pro and a Toro Z-500). Without a doubt the ZTRs leave the grass smoother but that improvement comes at a heck of a cost. The more significant advantage to me, personally, is the time savings versus a tractor style mower.

    Good Luck!
  10. Capemay Eagle

    Capemay Eagle LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,752


    When I bought my first ZTR, my wife commented on how nice the cut look compared to my garden tractor. I loved my lawn tractor and I felt it cut very well, However the new Hustler just left a beautiful cut with a nice stripe and did it three times as fast. As GCBailey posted, higher blade tip speed along with a fabricated deck is where the difference is.

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