Zero-turn mowers are rapidly growing in popularity among domestic users in the UK. What is leading amateur gardeners to follow the professionals away from traditional ride-on lawnmowers to the benefits of zero-turn mowing? A major factor is the speed of operation and time-saving associated with zero-turns. Are we to believe a zero-turn can chop the time spent cutting the grass by half, with effortless mowing around obstacles and tight spaces?
What is a zero-turn?
Firstly, what is a zero-turn mower? It may seem an odd question to ask when there are now so many working away across the UK. But with the ubiquitous garden tractor having been around for so long, to many people the term ‘zero-turn’ still may not mean a lot. Opinions are rapidly changing, led by early adopters, and the arguments for using zero-turn mowers are becoming indisputable.
Zero-turn refers to the turning radius of the mower. A zero-turn can turn on the proverbial sixpence, in other words in its footprint. Now among many professionals, this operating characteristic has been known for a long time and is one reason for the fast growth in UK sales for commercial zero-turns. The same zero-turn technology has also been built into lawnmowers to suit homeowners and their budgets. We’re seeing a shift away from the comparatively inefficient, slow lawn tractor towards growing popularity in domestic users for the virtues of zero-turn mowing. The features and benefits apply equally to the residential user and the professional operator.
How do you operate a zero-turn?
Driving a zero-turn mower is easy. You simply push the right steering lever forward and the left lever back to make a left turn or push the left steering lever forward and the right steering lever back to make a right turn. The steering levers allow your zero-turn to make manoeuvres in its own footprint. Slow and gradual operation of the steering levers makes the machine move slowly and gradually in any direction. Oper
ating the steering levers quickly and more aggressively makes your mower turn more sharply and drive faster. With zero-turn mower technology, the operator has total control of the manoeuvres. Driving a lawn tractor through rows of uncut grass is like manoeuvring into a parking space. Turn, reverse, turn again and finally straighten out. Being limited in turning radius there’s a lot of forward and backward movement on your lawn resulting in a non-uniform, messy cut pattern and extra time spent mowing.
Zero-turn mowers make tight turns at any angle and in any direction. At the end of your cutting row make a one-eighty degree turn, align your mower to the crisp edge left by the path just mowed and drive forward. This smooth motion eliminates the need for unnecessary backing and with a roller fitted to the machine you preserve those stylish stripes left behind by single-pass mowing.
Lawn tractor turning radius
Zero-turn mower turning radius
Fine, we now know how to drive a zero-turn but what other benefits should drive us towards change from tradition? Zero-turn mowing is fast. You can whizz around at 5-8 mph, and at the end of the line do that one-eighty degree turn, align the deck edge with the row you’ve just cut and keep on going. You’ve reduced the cutting time by 50% over mowing with a lawn tractor. For some, whiling away the hours doing three-point turns on the garden tractor, at the end of every line, may suit on a lazy Sunday. But as our lives get busier, and time-saving becomes more critical, wouldn’t it make a difference if your time cutting the grass was halved? Increase the cutting deck size and you cut even more time off the work.
What zero-turn features are important to me?
Another factor in your choice of zero-turn over garden tractor is comfort. With a zero-turn, the plush seat and armrests complement the controls that are all positioned in ergonomic and easily accessible locations, so you can simply enjoy the ride. Zero-turns are also generally more durable, built with thicker steel, and a fully welded tubular frame design, much stronger than the traditional C-channel frames of lawn tractors.* With options for deep decks made from fully fabricated steel, cutting decks are more durable and promote maximum airflow. Fabricated decks on zero turn models are aerodynamically designed so grass is pulled toward the blades and clippings are discharged evenly. The result is a superior cut quality without stragglers or clumps.
*Based on Ariens zero-turn mowers
This article by Tony Hawkins is brought to you courtesy of Ariens zero-turn mowers whose APEX and IKON X Series have become increasingly popular in the UK. You can find out more about these and the professional ZENITH 60 from nationwide Ariens dealers.