Ask any lawn maintenance contractor what the key to customer retention is and he’ll say, “quality work at a fair price.” Have you ever thought about the vital role your mower’s deck design plays into this concept?
“There are so many zero-turns out there nowadays that quality cutting has been lost in some instances,” says Edric Funk, marketing manager for Toro Landscape Contractor Equipment. “Today’s landscape contractor does need equipment that’s productive and durable. But he also needs equipment that will help distinguish his company from others in a business where everyone is doing the same thing.”
When selecting the absolute best zero-turn mower money can buy, what should you look for in deck design? There’s a lot to consider, because pristine mowing is truly a fine art.
THE SCIENCE OF QUALITY MOWING
Blades – “There’s a real mixture of art and science to get your mower to cut perfectly,” Funk points out. “The sail on the blade and the precise length of the blade are very important. Blades with a higher sail are better for demanding conditions because they help stand the grass up straight when cutting it.”
Thickness is also important because the blade needs to stand up to hits without flexing. “If the blade flexes, you’ll end up with a wavy-looking cut,” Funk adds.
Airflow & Grass Lift – Ask your dealer about the airflow produced by the deck, because airflow also assists in making the grass stand tall.
“Depth of pan can play into this,” says Ron Marcellus, director of national accounts for Ariens Company. “A deeper pan can create a higher volume of air and vacuuming action. Some decks out there only have a 3-inch-deep pan, but the Gravely X-Factor deck, for instance, has a 5-inch-deep pan.”
Blade placement can also help. “One unique thing about the Tunnel Deck on our EverRide Warrior is that the blades are set back 4 inches,” Marcellus says. “That feature really allows the grass to stand up tall.” (See photo on page 16.)
If you’re looking to collect clippings, mowers with integrated vac systems, such as Grasshopper’s PowerVac Collection System and Walker’s GHS Deck, are specifically designed to suck the grass up, resulting in a cleaner cut.
Clippings Dispersal – But if you’re not looking to bag, a very important consideration is how well the mower disperses clippings. Cleanly cut blades of grass won’t mean much if you’re leaving them in clumps all over the place.
“Our Extreme Discharge System utilizes high-lift blades and front and rear baffles that provide the necessary lift to stand grass up so you get a clean cut—and then discharge the grass with an even dispersal pattern,” says Schiller Grounds Care’s Tony Weber, product manager for BOB-CAT and Bunton Commercial Mowers. “Additionally, our Versa-Flo adjustable deck opening allows you to adjust the deck for different types of grass and conditions.”
Toro’s Turbo Force Deck features an adjustable baffle, allowing operators to “open up” in heavier conditions, or “tighten up” in dry or lighter grass. Funk says this feature is especially beneficial when a double-cut is necessary. “The operator can set the baffle wide open for that first pass, and then close it back up a bit for the second cut so the clippings get chopped up finer and dispersed more evenly,” Funk explains. (See photo below.)
Ask your dealer about the size of the discharge chute, as a wider chute will facilitate better clippings dispersal. “The Tunnel Deck on our EverRide Warrior models features a 149-square-inch discharge opening,” Marcellus says. “On top of that, the Tunnel Deck design directs clippings away from the cutting edge of the deck so it won’t get plugged.”
Deck Float – Once you’re getting up into the 48-inch cut width range, a floating deck becomes imperative. Then, anti-scalp rollers placed in optimal locations ensure that the deck can follow the contours of the terrain without scalping. Some decks offer four rollers, while others offer up to seven.