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I need to mow a 3/4 acre lawn and some minor landscape on a weekly basis (getting someone else to do it is going to be a major cost)

Having never done this, I have started to do some research on tools I need and have found the following:

  • Lawn mower tractor
  • Edge Trimmer
  • Leaf blower

What are the characteristics of a tractor lawn mower that I should seek?

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Consumer Reports is a good place to start if you are looking for reviews on Mowers, Trimmers, and Blowers. –  msemack May 25 '11 at 14:13
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migrated from diy.stackexchange.com Oct 13 '11 at 16:00

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6 Answers

A few things in random order to think about...

Everyone has a different tolerance for how much mowing is too much, but it is good exercise. A reel type push mower is great for small areas. Well oiled, with sharp blades, it is a pleasure to use.

IMHO, yards with many small trees can be the least fun to mow. I'd go for a zero turn mower if I had such a yard again.

If you DO collect the clippings from a mower, just use them to start a compost pile in back. Don't throw them away! That pile will by next year be black gold, great to add to gardens, mix into the soil for new plantings. Just mix it up every month or so with a pitchfork. Add any plant based kitchen waste to the pile, even shredded paper is fine. (I've even added as large as a 10 pound dead carp at times. Its gone in a few months - worm food.)

Any mower deck is best if maintained. Avoid mowing when the grass is wet, as the wet grass will rust out the mower deck. If I must mow then, I'll scrape off the wet grass.

Beware of the mowers that give you a hose fitting to clean out the mower deck. This tends to get water into the bearings from everything I have heard.

Sharpen the blades when needed. Sharp blades are important. This will be depend on the soil type in your area. Sandy soil will dull them quickly. The blade type also matters. High lift blades are good, as they suck up the grass and mulch it well, but high lift blades also dull much more quickly from my experience.

For a 3/4 acre lawn, a small tractor or a self propelled mower can both work, but consider if you will do other things with a tractor. I use mine to mow, plow the driveway, move dirt, stone, rock, mulch, gravel, do road/driveway repair, move wood, etc. And we have less than a 3/4 acre lawn.

Note that if you DO use a tractor to mow, this can cause compaction of your lawn. (Heavy tractor = more compaction.) In turn you may need to periodically aerate that lawn to help it to grow properly.

Don't cut the grass too short. Mowing more often, but leaving the grass a bit longer is good, as that leaves the grass with more ability to tolerate some drought.

A mulching mower is good in the fall too - just mulch the leaves down - why pick the leaves up to throw them away? Alternatively, if your mower has a bag, mow the leaves up, and add them to the aforementioned compost pile. Black gold!

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If you grow roses, piling the leaves on the rose plants will keep them warm and health during the long winter months. –  Tester101 May 24 '11 at 20:50
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Let me give you the benefit of my recent experience with my Cub Cadet riding mower. Pay attention to the material and gauge of the cutting deck.

It will seem like the lowest and middle grade mowers are identical on features and you will scratch your head as to why one costs almost twice as much. The deck construction is a major factor.

In many cases the manufacturers don't sell the cutting decks as a single assembly on the lower end models and you will be stuck buying a couple of dozen parts trying to build it from scratch when it invariably wears out on the cheaper models.

I also agree with another answer that you shouldn't get too excited about the self-cleaning decks with the hose attachment. They might as well put a button on the mower labeled "self destruct". Nothing wrong with a mower that has this, just don't use it, or use that feature as a differentiator when making a decision.

Also, understand that you will be working on any riding mower frequently. I suggest paying close attention to how easy it is to replace the cutting drive belt and how easy it is to remove the entire cutting deck. It will save you a lot of profanity later.

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Any standard gasoline lawnmower will do, but it's nice if it's self-propelled and collects the clippings. You don't really need a tractor for 3/4 acre, but if you do decide to invest in one, look for one with a small turn radius.

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Don't collect the clippings, they are good for the lawn (as long as you mow frequently enough). It's also against the law to dispose of grass clippings in the trash in some areas, so check your local laws before doing so. –  Tester101 May 24 '11 at 16:11
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My lot is 0.35 acres, and I'm ready to die after I'm done mowing with my push mower. I couldn't imagine doing a 3/4 acre lot. –  msemack May 24 '11 at 17:33
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I've used several different mowers, both at my homes, my parents' home when I was in school, and "professionally" (summer job; small client list) when I was in school, for mowing areas ranging in size from a softball field to a midsized suburban yard.

If you are in halfway decent shape, 0.75 acre with a self-propelled walk-behind mower is a piece of cake. This is what I use now. I'm not sure precisely what acreage we maintain as lawn, but 0.75 would be a good guess (more or less). I mostly let the clippings fall (it's a mulching mower), but on occasion I bag the clippings (e.g. in spring when the grass is really lush and I'm looking for compost feedstock). Mulching the clippings with a good mower will reduce your fertilizer needs and make your lawn look better. I would suggest looking for a mulching mower that has a bagger attachment that is easy to remove. (FWIW, I have a several years old self-propelled Toro with removable side chute, mulching blade, and removable bagger, and I've been very happy with it.)

If you are out of shape, or lazy, or don't have the time to walk around your lawn, a riding mower may be a requirement. (I used various riding mowers when I was getting paid -- time is money!) A warning though: if your lawn has a lot of obstacles or tight spaces, you may need both a walk-behind and a rider. If you have obstacles (furniture, trees, shrubs, etc) then pay careful attention to the turn radius. As mentioned above, you should be mulching your clippings -- but bagging is nice sometimes too. So consider a mower with a mulching blade and optional bagger. On the other hand, if there are no obstacles, you don't plan on adding them, and the yard is a wide open space, you may value speed over turn radius.

I saw your other question about plowing snow with your lawn tractor. If you are going to do this, it will constrain the machine that you can get.

I am intentionally ignorant of edgers and leaf blowers. In my opinion, blowing leaves is a waste of time, and those machines are a pointless waste of resources. If you are lazy, just hook up the bagger on your mower and "vacuum" them. If you're not lazy and in decent shape, raking them is not that much work. If you don't have too many leaves, it may be beneficial to mow them with the mulcher and let them stay.

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Your lawn is more than 1500 m²? Opt for a riding mower and save a lot of time in the maintenance of your lawn, and all this at less effort! This machine allows you to cover large surfaces quickly and efficiently, and reduce your working time to increase that of your toes fan out your lawn Yes but now, how to choose a riding mower? Follow the guide, I reveal you all in this article!

Several criteria are taken into account in the choice of your machine: And shearing the surface of the cutting width Reduce your mowing area, the larger your cutting blade must also be:

Your field

You are an adventurer and your land is dotted with massive to avoid when mowing? Choose a handy mower, that is to say, a lawnmower that you can steer easily. And yes ladies, as the cars! These mowers are more commonly called lawn turning 0, very useful feature is that more land.

Pickup

1.Side Discharge

The side discharge allows you to evenly distribute the clippings that act as fertilizer and you do not need to stop along the way to pick up! Mowing speed is also faster on this type of model. However, the side discharge has a slight risk of splashing herbs or stones. Depositing grass clippings on your lawn, which is coarser than the technical mulching does not necessarily make your cosmetic lawn for 2 or 3 days.

   2. Catcher - Rear Discharge

The mowers with grass catcher offer better handling and avoid the projection of waste in the beds they bypass. The grass catcher is ideal for people who want to pick up the waste clippings, especially to make compost. The ability of the grass catcher from 200 L to 250 L. Who said said tray empty tray! Right now on some models it is you still possible by pushing a button or a lever to empty your bin ;-) Another drawback is the fact to collect all the waste clippings does not provide a natural fertilizer for your lawn which means that it will be up to you to make it, so a little extra work is needed.

   3. Mulching

Mulching is a system that grinds your lawn grass as and when mowing and the redeposited on your lawn. Unlike the side discharge grass being crushed, the filing of fertilizer is made thinner and therefore more rapidly absorbed nutrient terms in your lawn and suddenly, at the same time, visually, that's a lot less battlefield grass redeposited by a system with side ejection. The housing of mowers with mulching requires maintenance every time. These mowers are not recommended on grass and regular mowing is necessary, once or twice a week, and dry grass.

Transmission

   1. Mechanical transmission

Imagine a manual transmission car on a riding mower with mechanical transmission, it's the same thing. To change gears, you must stop the mower and disengage.

   2. Automatic transmission also called hydrostatic

With a hydrostatic (or automatic) transmission, the shift control is performed by the feet or of the steering wheel and is instantaneous. Shifting or switching to reverse occurs smoothly and thus ensures a comfort. Just like a car, the system is less economical than the mechanical transmission, however it is recommended if you need to mow around many obstacles as you can easily slow down if necessary without sacrificing speed at mowing.

The blade engagement

If you opt for a manual clutch lever allows you to operate the blades for cutting, while an electromagnetic clutch, a button is enough! The chassis The chassis is the metal frame that supports the engine and body of your machine. It can be either in one piece and thus consist of a single block or welded, that is to say composed of several parts welded. The welded frame is less robust to shocks that piece frame, and is preferred for complex terrain.

The wheels

More wheel size of your lawn, the less they will damage the grass and your lawn will be handy. If you have a "difficult" field, I mean a field Type field, meadow at the edge of a pond ... Go for wheeled agricultural tires, specially designed for the tall grass in clearing mode.

Headlights

If you're used to mow in late afternoon, the lights will allow better visibility. The impact barrier A mower equipped with a bumper ensures more security. Your comfort! To mow over 1000 m² of lawn, it still takes a little time, so much to be installed on your riding mower, do not neglect your comfort: make sure the comfort of the seat, be aware that some models have an adjustment of its height and length. To more easily maneuver your mower, opt for an ergonomic steering wheel! And finally, in order to get on and off your lawn, go for an open platform! And finally, the budget! For a good riding mower to an amateur gardener, have at least € 1,000.   Well, I hope you have routed the best in the choice of your machine! Otherwise, or if the questions I did not answer remained the case, do not hesitate to ask me in the comments, I'd be happy to answer!

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For that size (3000 m²) definitely get a tractor mower that collects the clippings if you do not plan to spend the whole day doing it. Look for cutting width about 1 m or wider. The rest depends on the shape (is it uniform area or are there numerous obstacles?) and required result (type of mower). In most cases a Hydrostatic CVT is advisable.

Not collecting the clippings will cause the lawn to look ugly. You do not need to dispose of the clippings in trash, better start a compost and later you can use the decomposed material as fertilizer.

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Instead of collecting the clippings (or side discharge), you should use a mulching mower. A mulching mower will chop the clippings so finely that they will disappear into the grass. The clippings are pretty much the perfect fertilizer for your lawn. –  msemack May 24 '11 at 20:31
    
If the lawn is mowed frequently enough, mulching is unnecessary. –  Tester101 May 24 '11 at 20:46
    
@Tester101 Sure, but 1 week is not frequently enough. @msemack The results of mulching are just not good enough (bad experience, might be better with different equipment) –  Lukas May 24 '11 at 22:07
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If your mulching mower is working properly, the clippings disappear. You won't see them. If not, your mower has poor mulching performance (dull blade), or your grass is too damn tall relative to the deck height (mow more often or raise the deck). –  msemack May 25 '11 at 14:11
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I will never understand someone's decision to not mulch their grass clippings. Mulching, along with aeration once a year would make most lawns much better looking. And they require minimal work. –  Evil Elf Jun 7 '11 at 12:40
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