Picking the right lawn mower will tremendously improve your mowing experience. If you’re in the market for a riding lawn mower, we have some tips, courtesy of Kim Ridel of John Deere.
The different types of riding lawn mowers
There are two types of riding mowers: conventional front-engine lawn tractors and new zero-turn-radius mowers, with rear engine and hand controls for speed and direction. "Zero-turn" means you can literally turn on a dime.
Picking the right lawn mower: What to consider
No two yards - or property owners - are the same. Consider the following factors before purchasing a mower.
Size of the area you’ll be mowing. This is different from your total property size, which also includes your home’s built footage, garden, driveway and paths. Most zero-turn mowers go slightly faster than traditional lawn tractors, making them ideal for homeowners with large yards who don’t want to spend the whole weekend mowing their grass.
Grass. Take into account your grass type, such as whether it is cool-season or warm-season. Also bear in mind the desired grass height. To illustrate: In the Northeast, homeowners typically cut their grass to 3 ½ - 4 ½ inches, but in Florida where St. Augustine grass is popular, people like to keep it a lot shorter.
Topography. When your property has a lot of steep inclines, a tractor is going to be more appropriate than a zero-turn mower. If you’ll have to mow around a lot of obstacles, like trees or flowerbeds, a zero-turn mower can be the best solution.
There also are four-wheel steering lawn tractors, which allow you to maneuver around objects easily.
Local terrain and climate. Your local terrain is important, too. For instance, in a very sandy area you might want a thicker gauge steel on your mower deck, to prevent wear over time. If you’re in the Midwest or the Northeast, choosing a tractor mower, rather than a zero-turn, will allow you to blow snow with your machine in the winter, as well as cutting grass in warm weather.
Environmental friendliness. Balance fuel consumption, quietness, and mowing comfort. When energy efficiency is a priority, you may prefer one of the electronic fuel-injected options rather than a traditional carbureted-gas model.
When to replace your mower
Many homeowners tend to hold on to their mower forever. But here’s a basic rule: If you’re investing more in repairs than you’ll see as a return when you sell or trade in your current mower, it’s time to start thinking about a replacement.
And as zero-turn mowers are becoming more mainstream, you might want to purchase one in addition to your tractor.
Insider tips for a good mowing experience
Think about what’s important to you when shopping for a mower. Everybody would like a healthy lawn, but some homeowners are obsessed, while others just want to "make tall grass short grass."
Choose a comfortable seat, with good suspension. This is especially important if you have a huge yard, where you may be mowing for a couple of hours at a time.
Follow the 1/3 rule. For a beautiful lawn, never cut off more than the top third of your grass blades.
Mulch as you mow. You’ll be depositing natural fertilizer back into your soil.
Alternate mowing direction and pattern. This avoids beating down a path in the grass and achieves a smoother-looking lawn.
Hire a pro as required. Consider hiring a professional landscaper if your yard needs specialized lawn care, such as dethatching, aeration or hydroseeding.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.