Mowing machine mania: a cutter exists for every occasion.
Folks were maintaining lawns and cutting meadows long before the advent of power tools--motor-powered tools that is. Lawns belonging to early European aristocrats were kept trim by gangs of gardeners wielding grass-trimming scissors. Peasants who tilled those same estates made hay with scythe and rake. That work, which was every bit as tedious as it was grueling, stimulated the minds of 19th-century inventors who, lucky for us, spawned entire industries aimed at offering better ways to manage rank vegetation.
Today, whether you are interested in maintaining a nicely manicured lawn, managing native grasslands, improving pastures or just beating back the weeds, there are literally hundreds of mower models to choose from. We've included a roundup of a few of the latest and greatest here (and at www.Grit.com) to help get you started.
A mower by any other name
As with many fully evolved creatures, the amount of variation in mower types boggles the mind. Some mowers make the cut with a multibladed reel that sheers the grass against a fixed bed knife. Indeed, this so-called reel-type mower was first invented in the early 1800s. The reel mower is specifically adept at making fine cuts suitable for formal lawns and golf courses. In today's terms, the reel mower is one of the finest finish-cut mowers available. Reel mowers can be human-powered or motor-powered, and, in the case of large estates and country clubs, gangs of connected reel mowers are pulled, pushed or otherwise powered by tractors.
Most other types of finish-cut mowers utilize engine- or PTO-powered horizontally spinning blades. The smaller of these devices are pushed by the operator; some are self propelled (operator walks). The next evolutionary step in finish mowers involves some means for the operator to ride along. These riding-type finish-cut mowers include zero turning radius (ZTR) machines, three- and four-wheel dedicated riders, and lawn tractors with a dedicated mowing deck attached. Larger rotary-type finish-cut mowers tend to be mounted on a compact tractor's three-point hitch, although many trail behind, and some mount between the front and rear wheels. Large finish-cut mowers that mount to the front of equipment like tractors and utility vehicles are also available.
Rough-cut mowers are at the opposite end of the extreme compared with reel mowers. These brutes are all powered with their own engine or through a PTO (some are hydraulic) located on the vehicle to which they are attached. These machines are capable of munching tall weeds and grass, crop residue and saplings up to several inches in diameter. Most rough-cut mowers use heavy, horizontally oriented rotary blades that cut, shred and pulverize their way through vegetation. Some rough-cut mowers are flail-type (see below). Rough-cut mowers are perfect for managing meadows and ditches and, in places where the climax ecosystem is forest, keeping it out of your open fields. If you are looking for that nicely manicured look in your back 40, a hybrid mower might be in order.
There aren't that many hybrid rough/finish-cut mowers out there. Some of the largest capacity hybrids make the cut with a series of small-hinged hook- or T-shaped blades (flails) attached to a heavy, horizontally oriented shaft or drum that rotates at high speed during operation. This so-called flail mower works by slinging the legion of little cutters at sufficient speed that they sever, shred and pulverize coarser vegetation. When spun fast enough, some of these mowers make a cut that's clean enough to please all but the most discriminating lawn owners. Other hybrid mowers tend to be beefed-up rotary-style cutters with strong, fixed blades that can be turned fast enough to make a clean cut on the lawn and are strong enough to stand up to coarser material.
Choices, choices ...
In all likelihood, you will need at least two mowers and possibly three, depending on how big your yard is and how much open land you need to keep trim. If you have a relatively small yard--say a half-acre or less--you can probably get away with a walk-behind motor-powered lawn mower. This, of course, depends on how ambitious you are and whether mowing grass is part of your exercise regime. Even if you mow an acre or more of lawn, you will probably want a small walk-behind mower to get into tight areas, trim around trees and shrubs and use in other places where you don't want to drive a rider--like a steep bank or the edge of your pond. Walk-behind mower choices are many. If your lawn is postage stamp-sized, then you should consider the human-powered reel mower or a cordless electric mower and skip the hassles associated with maintaining gas engines.
Once the lawn grows beyond half an acre or so, you will want to consider a larger self-propelled mower. ZTR mowers are available in sizes suitable for lawns up to several acres. These machines are usually steered with a pair of levers, can turn in place and make short shift of the mowing. Until recently, the ZTR was a dedicated mowing machine. Manufacturers now offer attachments such as blades and rear hitches to help homeowners get more out of them, but they are definitely not yet as versatile as lawn and garden tractors.
If your yard work goes well beyond mowing, then you might consider purchasing a garden tractor with a mower deck, in addition to other implements such as tillers, blades, carts, rakes, you name it. The garden tractor isn't as maneuverable as the ZTR, but it is good at going straight and pulling tools through the garden. The lawn tractor is a lighter-duty version of the garden tractor. It makes a good riding mower and trailer tow-vehicle, but, in general, its transmission isn't up to the task of heavy garden work.
As the lawn gets larger, you will look for larger and more powerful finish mowers. Several manufacturers offer trailing mowers that can be pulled by small tractors, ATVs and UTVs. If you already own an ATV, a self-powered trailing mower makes an excellent choice. Likewise, if you already own a compact tractor and have acres of lawn, you might consider purchasing a finishing mower deck that mounts to the tractor and is powered by it.
Depending on the amount of open area you need to maintain, you should add a rough-cut mower to the mix. If you have only a few field acres to mow, a self-powered mower pulled by an ATV or UTV is ideal. This is also where you might consider a hybrid--but rough country mowing is hard on any mower and can affect the finish performance negatively. Your garden tractor can also motivate pull-type mowers over hill and dale, but its relatively short stature makes it difficult to see over tall grass and weeds. That tractor's lack of suspension will also make for a rough ride, which will invariably lead to frame damage or worse. As the acreage you need to mow grows, it would be best to step up to a rough-cut mower that attaches directly to your compact or full-sized tractor.
Before you take the plunge
As you research mowers of various kinds, you will notice a broad variation in prices for what appears to be the same capacity cutter. Mowers are rated by their cutting width, engine power and/or gearbox power rating. Look more closely, and you will discover that similarly rated mowers can vary in weight by more than 100 pounds, and they might have very different sets of added features, such as a manual height control vs. hydraulic.
In general, you will find good quality mowers wherever you look, but some (typically lighter and less costly) "consumer grade" machines are designed for relatively light use where other (heavier and more costly) "professional grade" models are designed for more frequent and longer operation. If you mow an acre of grass once a week for five months of the year, the lighter duty machine will work and last well. If you mow more often or substantially more acreage, you will want to choose a heavier-duty model. Marketing departments are savvy to the whole image thing, so you might find some models touted as "prosumer grade," "heavy-duty," you name it. Ask the sales person how much it weighs, how much it costs, its spindle bearing size, and the length of its warranty if you aren't sure just how heavy-duty any machine in question is.
For best results, talk to friends, read everything you can, scour the Web, and find a knowledgeable salesperson at a trusted dealership to help sort through the choices. As with any tool, spending a bit more up front can lead to real economy over time. Since there are so many makers and so many different mower models, we've included only a sampling below. More options are available at www.Grit.com.
SUB-COMPACT AND GARDEN TRACTOR MOUNTED FINISH MOWERS NEW HOLLAND T1010 AND 60CMS DECK New Holland's (www.NewHolland.com); 866-639-4563) incredible lineup includes highly capable sub-compact tractors that make great heavy-duty estate mowers. MSRAP $12,043, including deck Cutting Width 60 in Power 20 HP 3-cylinder diesel Cutting Blades 3 Cutting Height 1 to 4 in Weight 1,455 lb tractor only [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
MORE LAWN AND GARDEN TRACTOR OPTIONS
White Outdoor (www.WhiteOutdoor.com)
Cub Cadet (www.CubCadet.com, 800-800-7310)
John Deere (www.Deere.com)
Massey Ferguson (www.MasseyLawn.com)
Snapper (www.Snapper.com; 800-SNAPPER)
SMALL CAPACITY FINISH MOWERS LAWNBOTT 3500 ROBOTIC FINISH MOWER The LawnBott (www.LawnBott.com 770-237-0364) line of robotic mowers now includes an even larger 1.5-acre capacity LB3500 that can be programmed and controlled from any Bluetooth compatible device. Sit back, relax and let the robot mow the grass. MSRP $3,249 Cutting Width 14 in Battery 2 lithium ion Power dual drive and single blade motors Cutting Blades 4-blade disc Cutting Height 1 to 3 in Weight 28 lb with batteries [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] NEUTON POWER EQUIPMENT CE 6.2 Neuton (www.DRPower.com; 800-798-2921) takes the conventional horizontal blade, rotary-style mower and makes it into an easy-to-use rechargeable electric unit. MSRP $499 Cutting Width 19 in Battery 36-volt, 10-amp hour, sealed lead/acid Power 36-volt, 50-amp permanent magnet electric motor Cutting Blades 1 Cutting Height 1.2 to 3 in Weight 69 lb with battery [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] SUNLAWN EM2 REEL MOWER Sunlawn's (www.Sunlawn.com; 970-493-5284) EM family of mowers is perfect for lawns large enough to warrant a little extra power in the form of a rechargeable battery coupled to an electric motor. MSRP $379 Cutting Width 16 in Battery 2 12-volt, 7-amp hour, sealed lead/acid Power 24-volt electric motor Cutting Blades 7-blade reel, flame-hardened Cutting Height 0.4 to 2.25 in Weight 39 lb with batteries [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
MORE SMALL MOWER OPTIONS
Mantis (www.MaintisMower.com; 800-366-6268)
Cub Cadet (www.CubCadet.com; 800-800-7310)
Snapper (www.Snapper.com; 800-SNAPPER)
TRACTOR- AND UTV-MOUNTED FINISH MOWERS McCORMICK MS60 FINISH MOWER McCormick's (www.Mccormick-intl.com/us) new lineup of finishing mowers is perfectly suited to their compact CT series tractors. The decks are available with cutting widths to 72 inches. MSRP NA at press time Cutting Width 60 in Power 20 to 50 PTO HP Cutting Blades 3 Cutting Height 1 to 6 in Weight 400 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] BUHLER/FARM KING Y650R FINISH MOWER Buhler/Farm King (www.Buhler.com; 204-822-4467) has been building top-quality finishing mowers for 15 years and has refined them to be among the best in the industry. MSRP $1,950 Cutting Width 72 in Power PTO rating NA Cutting Blades 3 Cutting Height 1.75 to 4.75 in Weight 618 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] BOBCAT 72-INCH FINISH MOWER Bobcat's (www.Bobcat.com; contact local dealer) hydraulically driven attachment is designed specifically for the front of its ToolCat, select loaders and the A300 all-wheel steer mower. MSRP $1,950 Cutting Width 71.5 in Power 15-22 GPM hydraulic flow Cuffing Blades 3 Cutting Height 2 to 5.5 in Weight 695 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] CUB CADET YANMAR MM60RS FINISH MOWER Designed to take advantage of all that the Cub Cadet Yanmar (www.CubCadetYanmar.com; 877-282-5055) EX3200 tractor has to offer, this heavy duty deck easily makes the cut. MSRP $1,297 Cutting Width 60 in Power 20 to 50 PTO HP Cuffing Blades 3 Cuffing Height 1 to 6 in Weight 361 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
MORE TRACTOR-MOUNTED MOWER OPTIONS
Montana Tractors (www.MontanaTractors.com)
TRACTOR-MOUNTED ROUGH-CUT MOWERS BUSH HOG SQUEALER SQ172 ROTARY CUTTER The Bush Hog (www.BushHog.com; 800-363-6096) brand was built on a tradition of quality and literally millions of hours of rough-country mowing. MSRP See dealer Cutting Width 72 in Power 30 to 45 PTO HP Cutting Spindles 1 (2 blades) Cutting Height 2 to 12 in Weight 764 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] RHINO 172 ROTARY CUTTER Rhino (wwvv.Servis-Rhino.com) is a leader in the agricultural equipment industry and offers several lines of tractor-mounted mowers. MSRP See dealer Cutting Width 72 in Power 35 to 65 PTO HP Cutting Spindles 1 (2 blades) Cutting Height 1 in and up Weight 785 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] LOFTNESS 90M FLAIL MOWER Born of innovation that traces its roots to a Minnesota farm shop, Loftness (www.Loftness.com 800-828-7524) heavy-duty flail mowers have been part of the lineup since 1996. MSRP $5,547 Cutting Width 90 in Power 25 to 70 PTO HP Cutting Blades 120 flails Cutting Height 0 to 4.5 in Weight 1,200 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] LAND PRIDE RCR1860 ROTARY CUTTER Large acreage or small, commercial operator or home owner, you'll find the rough cut rotary shredder you need to get the job done at Land Pride (www.LandPride.com: contact local dealer). MSRP $1,297 Cutting Width 60 in Power 20 to 50 PTO HP Cutting Spindles 1 (2 blades) Cutting Height 1 1/2 to 13 in Weight 599 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
MORE TRACTOR-MOUNTED MOWER OPTIONS
John Deere (www.Deere.com)
New Holland (www.NewHolland.com)
Massey Ferguson (www.MasseyFerguson.com)
ZERO TURNING RADIUS FINISH MOWERS DR POWER 22 HP VERSA-PRO Z-MOWER DR's Versa-Pro (www.DRPower.com) is as sophisticated as a ZTR can get, but it is also convertible (in seconds) to a walk-behind for working under trees, on slopes and wherever riding isn't recommended. MSRP $6,995 Cutting Width 52 in Power 22 HP Briggs & Stratton Cutting Blades 3 Cutting Height 1.5 to 4.5 in Weight 835 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] LAND PRIDE ZT60 ACCU-Z COMMERCIAL A premier maker of tractor-mounted implements, Land Pride (www.LandPride.com contact local dealer) offers an outstanding value in high-quality ZTR mowers. MSRP $8,549 Cutting Width 60 in Power 25 HP Kawasaki (others available) Cutting Blades 3 Cutting Height 0.5 to 4.5 in Weight 1,120 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] BOB-CAT FASTCAT 48-INCH Commercial Grounds Care Inc.'s Bob-Cat (www.BobCatTurf.com 866-469-1242) line of ZTR and walk-behind mowers is extensive and respected in the commercial cutter community. MSRP See dealer Cutting Width 48 in Power 19 HP Kawasaki twin Cutting Blades 3 Cutting Height 1.5 to 4.875 in Weight 766 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] WALKER MODEL MC20 Still family owned, Walker (www.WalkerMowers.com; 970-221-5614) is all about heavy-duty mowing machines that are easy to maneuver and maintain. MSRP $9.395 with 42-inch deck Cutting Width 8 decks 36-56 in Power 20 HP Kohler Cutting Blades 2 or 3 Cutting Height 1 to 4 in Weight 925 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] HUSQVARNA EZ4824 Husqvarna (www.Husqvama.com) offers a full lineup of residential and commercial ZTR machines with the mowing deck located beneath the operator's station. The commercial model EZ4824 should last the average acreage owner a lifetime with proper care. MSRP $4,999.95 Cutting Width 48 in Power 24 HP Kohler Cutting Blades 3 Cutting Height 1.5 to 4.5 in Weight 645 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] FERRIS IS500Z Known for its chassis suspension system, Ferris (www.FerrisIndustries.com; 800-933-6175) offers mowers that set the standard for high-speed cutting. MSRP $4,995 Cutting Width 44 in Power 24 HP Briggs & Stratton Cutting Blades 3 Cutting Height 1.5 to 5 in Weight 965 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] KUBOTA ZD326 Kubota ZD-series mowers (www.Kubota.com; contact local dealer) are engineered to enable both commercial operators and residential users to attain a manicured lawn in the toughest terrain MSRP $11,910 Cutting Width 60 in Power 26 HP Kubota diesel Cutting Blades 3 Cutting Height 1 to 5 in Weight 1,757 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
MORE ZTR MOWER OPTIONS
Bush Hog (www.BushHog.com)
Cub Cadet Commercial (www.CubCadetCommercial.com)
Swisher (www.SwisherInc.com; 800-222-8183)
John Deere (www.Deere.com)
Bad Boy (www.BadBoyMowers.com)
Dixie Chopper (www.DixieChopper.com)
ATV TRAILING MOWERS AGRI-FAB 45-0362 ELECTRIC-START ROUGH-CUT Agri-Fab (www.Agri-Fab.com; 217-728-8388) offers one of the most extensive lineups of lawn and garden implements, including mowers, trailers, blades, plows, spreaders and more. MSRP $1,599 Cutting Width 42 in Power 14.5 HP Briggs & Stratton Cutting Blades 2 Cutting Height 1.5 to 5 in Weight 504 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] KUNZ ACREASE MR55KE ROUGH CUT The flagship of Kunz Engineering's (www.KunzEng.com 815-539-6954) rough-cut mowers, this professional-grade machine features electric clutch and a blade speed that muscles its way through tough vegetation at more than 10 miles per hour. MSRP $4,495 Cutting Width 57 in Power 20 HP Kohler Cutting Blades 2 Cutting Height 2 to 8 in Weight 580 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] DR POWER 17 HP TOW-BEHIND FIELD & BRUSH MOWER Big brother to DR's famous walk-behind Field & Brush mower (www.DRPower.com; 800-798-2921), one of the company's pull-type versions, hooked to your ATV's drawbar, will allow you to easily shred up to 2 acres an hour. MSRP $3,299 Cutting Width 44 in Power 17 HP Kawasaki Cutting Blades 1 Cutting Height 5 to 7.5 in Weight 465 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] SWISHER TRAILCUTTER RT 44 ROUGH CUT Swisher (www.SwisherInc.com; 800-222-8183) has been serving the lawn and garden industry since 1945 and is leading the charge with ATV and UTV mowing attachments. MSRP NA Cutting Width 44 in Power 14.5 HP Briggs & Stratton Cutting Blades 2 (single spindle) Cutting Height 2 to 7 in Weight 550 lb [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
MORE ATV MOWER OPTIONS
Al's Specialties Inc. (www.EstateYard.net)
Bush Hog (www.BushHog.com)
Oscar "Hank" Will III's favorite for mowing the lawn is a 1984 Kubota Diesel-powered Cub Cadet 882 with 50-inch deck. When that tractor's in the shop, he has more than 20 other vintage Cub Cadet cutters waiting in the wings.
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|Author:||Will, Oscar H., III|
|Article Type:||Product/service evaluation|
|Date:||May 1, 2008|
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