Lawn-turned-hay field

Being a self-reliant type, I am not one to readily ask favors of anyone. But I have my limits. I broke down and asked my neighbor if I could borrow their mower. My mower has been in the shop for over a month now at the peak of the mowing season here in Kansas. Every time I inquire about the status of the mower, the repair shop tells me more bad news about another component they have discovered that is in need of repair. The bill is up to $700 now. I should have traded it in for a new one last year as I planned, but I decided to try to squeeze an extra year out of it. With over an acre to mow, and with the turf pushing 12 inches tall in places, I desperately needed a mower. I'm just glad I'm not in the mowing business and in this situation. This issue focuses on mowing.

You can imagine the pile of clippings I had after mowing my lawn-turned-hay field. I guess it's good for my compost pile as long as I don't smother it with too much of a good thing. In the professional grounds-care business, dealing with clippings is a major problem you face. A survey of Grounds Maintenance readers indicates that a significant portion of your employees' workday involves clipping collection and disposal. Considering this point, we devote our opening feature to the topic of "Dealing with clippings" (page 14). Find out how your peers handle the clipping collection and disposal problem and take a glimpse at equipment that's available to efficiently handle your clippings.

When I mowed down my overgrown lawn, I couldn't afford to follow the one-third rule (only cut one-third off the height of your turf to prevent scalping). Nevertheless, now the turf is within its recommended mowing-height range, and the neighbors are not complaining. Speaking of mowing heights, it seems that recommendations are changing with the introduction of new varieties that can tolerate lower mowing. In "How low can you mow?" (page 42), Dr. Thomas Watschke, professor of turfgrass science at the Pennsylvania State University, discusses turfgrass' responses to low mowing and what turfgrass breeders are planning for low-growing turfgrasses of the future.

Mowing turf shorter requires specialized equipment to avoid scalping especially on uneven ground. With increasing demand for lower mowing, equipment manufacturers are responding with new lines of equipment to meet the need. Contour mowers seem to be the ticket for these situations. Contour mowers are made up of multiple cutting units that independently adjust to the contour of the ground. Each individual cutting unit is relatively narrow (22 to 25 inches), but when you gang them together, their cutting swath becomes rather wide. Because of the narrow width of the individual cutting units, they can more easily follow contours and avoid the scalping that can be inherent with large-deck mowers. Learn more about today's contour mowers in "Contour mowers cut uneven ground down to size" (page 28).

Riding mowers are best used on turf that is 2 or more acres and where the terrain is not too hilly. But when you're dealing with turf areas around an acre or less, walk-behind units are better suited to the task. Intermediate-size walk-behinds offer the best of two worlds-they can cut close to beds and obstacles, thus eliminating the need for spin trimming, yet they are large enough to provide high productivity. See what's on the market today and learn what these units can do for you in "Equipment Options: Intermediate walk-behind mowers" (page 48).

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