Advice on operating a zero turn lawn mower.

Making the jump from a walk behind mower to a zero turn mower involves more than just money, it involves learning to operate a new piece of machinery. To get the desired results can be tricky but this discussion should help you get on your way. A Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum member recently picked up a new zero turn mower and ask “I just received my first zero turn and ran it around the yard a couple times. This thing is cool, fast and definatley touchy. Any tips to make my learning curve go a little faster? I plan on doing my own lawn with it the rest of the year to get used to it, then use it on my lawn care customers’ next spring.”

Advice on operating a zero turn lawn mower.

Advice on operating a zero turn lawn mower.

One member responded “This is my best advice:

1. Learn to make the straightest possible lines when you mow. Anyone can run a mower, but not everyone can make a lawn look professional, nice and neat.

2. Practice your turns at the end of your rows. Keep in mind that if you just “spin” around, you will risk damaging the turf. If you keep mowing in the same direction every time, you will have dead spots where you turn around. Next time it rains, go out the next day and get the feel of turning on wet turf. It’s a whole other world!

3. Keep your blades as sharp as possible. Your speed will be affected by how sharp your blades are.

4. REMEMBER! It’s not how fast you mow, it’s how nice you mow! Too many people get these zero turns and think they have to do it “FAST”. The customer doesn’t hire you because you’re the “fastest” lawn service. They hire you because they want a nice and neat job! Don’t get caught up in the hype of “I have to get it done fast because I have a zero turn mower” The only thing you’ll get accomplished is a crappy job…just done faster!”

He then asked “what is the best when to turn at the end of a run? The mower manual says to make a “Y” at the end. My lawn is wet today, so I will give it a shot. A few people I asked said 4-5 mph is about as fast as you need to go on a straight away.

My biggest adjustment seems to be knowing where my back tires are on turns. I want to get the deck as close as possible to obstacles then I find my wheels riding up on mulch and corners of the patio and such. I may need to weed wack out a little more and take wider turns going into corners”

In reponse he was told “your turning will depend upon how wet the turf is. Sometimes in a drought the turf can be just as slick as when it’s wet. If conditions are normal, and the turf is thick, you can usually get away with doing a 180 degree turn. However, if the turf is wet or even moist, what I do is when I come to the end of a row, I will make half of my turn while moving forward, and then finish the turn in reverse. (turn while backing up) I’ve found that this keeps from leaving those perfect little circular “mud doughnuts” in the turf, and still leaves you in perfect position for your next row. I must admit though, that there are going to be times and situations where you won’t have a choice but to spin a 180 due to obstacles. Your best bet is to just practice with your mower. Each one is different and what works for one, may not always work for another. I have a 60″ deck on my mower which makes things considerably tighter for me opposed to someone with a much smaller deck.

One other thing to consider before you start your lines is to mow a couple of passes around the perimeter that way when you turn at the end of a line you have some room and your turn will not be as apparent in the lawn.”

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