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How to Get the Best Looking Lawn in 2019

4/4/2019 5:00:00 AM

Learning the right way to mow your lawn

Ariens APEX cutting quality.

As a homeowner, you ​want the best performance from everything you own. You want to know how to make your dishwasher to wash its best, you want to improve your home's ability to maintain a comfortable temperature more effectively and you want your lawn mower to cut as best as it can, resulting in the best looking lawn in the neighborhood. Good equipment is a big part of that equation, but for whatever lawn mower you use, there's a few adjustments that can be made to help improve the cutting quality of that mower and a few mowing techniques that can be mastered to help foster healthy, full grass growth.​

Lawn mower deck adju​​stments

This isn't about the cutting height. Did you know that the level and pitch of most lawn mower decks can be fine-tuned to perfect cutting results?

Pitch lawn mowe​​r deck

Pitching a mower deck enables the aerodynamic design of the cutting chamber to lift grass, cut it evenly and discharge it effectively.

What is mower deck ​​​pitch?

Lawn mower deck pitch, or sometimes referred to as, "rake," is the tilt from the front to the back of the mower deck on a zero turn lawn mower. Forward deck pitch creates an air seal at the front of the deck when the blades are rotating. This seal limits air entry into the cutting chamber to the rear of the deck, allowing the aerodynamic design of the deck to lift grass and cut it evenly as the blades are turning. This design results in an appealing cut quality and an even grass clipping discharge that's free of clumps.

For most effective results, a lawn mower deck should have a pitch of 1/8-inch to 1/2-inch between the height of the deck rear to the height of the deck front. Naturally, this makes the sweet spot about 1/4-inch of pitch, depending on the type of mower. In any case, the front of the deck needs to be pitched lower than the deck rear, but don't pitch too much because deck pitch that's too steep can scalp lawns.

How to adjust lawn m​​ower pitch

Most zero turn mower decks are built with a feature that allows deck pitch to be adjusted quickly and easily. On an Ariens IKON X or XL, there's no special tools or mechanical training necessary, just some wrenching on a few pieces of hardware. Before you begin, park the mower on a flat, level surface, check that the tire pressures are equal and grab a tape measure. Before you start, stop the engine, remove the key from the unit and wait for all moving parts to stop and for all parts to cool.

Check p​​​​itch

As directed in the operator's manual:

  1. Raise the mower deck to a cutting height high enough that allows your hands to fit under the deck.
  2. While wearing thick, sturdy gloves, manually and carefully turn the blades so they're positioned front to back. When turning blades, always grab the dull edge of the blade.
  3. Measure:
    • The distances between the front tips of the outer blades and the surface the mower is sitting on.
    • The distances between the rear tips of the outer blades and the surface the mower is sitting on.

Measuring lawn mower deck pitch.

​​If front measurements are lower than the rear measurements by less than 1/8 inch or more than 1/2 inch, adjust pitch.

Adjust​ pitch

Deck pitch can be adjusted at the front of the mower deck, the rear of the mower deck, or with a combination of adjustments to both the front and rear of the deck. Use any method desired, just as long as the front of the deck is pitched about 1/4 inch lower than the rear of the mower deck and that the measurements at the front of the deck match the mower's cutting height selection.

To lower the front of the deck if it is too high:

  1. Loosen the nuts on the front deck hangers.
  2. Retake measurements and continue adjustment, if necessary.
Adjust lawn mower pitch.

To raise the front of the deck if too low:

  1. ​​Tighten the nuts on the front deck hangers.
  2. Retake measurements and continue adjustment, if necessary.

    To lower the deck rear if it is too high:

    1. ​Loosen the nuts on the rear deck hangers.
    2. Retake measurements and continue adjustment, if necessary.

    To raise the deck rear if it is too low:

    1. ​Tighten the nuts on the rear deck hangers.
    2. Retake measurements and continue adjustment, if necessary.

    After pitch adjustment is complete, check deck level.​

    Level mower deck​​​

    Level the mower deck to ensure grass cutting height is even across the width of the deck. This will help ensure a smooth and seamless side-by-side blend between each row of freshly cut grass.​

    What is lawn mower deck le​veling?

    This is easier to understand than deck pitch. Deck leveling is simply making the cutting height on the left side of the deck even with the cutting height on the right side of the deck. In all cases, decks should be level with as little variance between each side of the cutting deck as possible. No variance between the two sides is best.​

    How to level the mo​​​wer deck

    Leveling a lawn mower deck is done the same way as pitching a mower deck, except it's adjusting the deck height from side to side, not back to front. Same components and tools used as with pitching a mower deck, and as before, start with the unit parked on a flat, level surface, inflate the tires to specification and grab a tape measure. Before you start, stop the engine, remove the key from the unit and wait for all moving parts to stop and for all parts to cool.

    Check mower d​eck level

    As directed in the operator's manual:

    1. Raise the mower deck to the highest cutting height with enough clearance to fit your hands under the deck.
    2. While wearing thick, sturdy gloves, manually and carefully turn the blades so they're positioned side to side. Grab the dull edge of the blade when turning the blade.
    3. Measure:
      • The distance between the left tip of the left blade and the ground.
      • The distance between the right tip of the right blade and the ground.
    4. ​If distances between the left blade tip and the right blade tip has a difference greater than 1/4 inch, level the deck.

    How to level your lawn mower d​​eck

    As directed in the operator's manual

    ​To lower the high side of deck:

    1. Loosen nuts on front and rear deck hangers of high side of deck.
    2. Retake measurements and continue adjustment, if necessary.

    To ​raise the low side of deck:

    1. Tighten nuts on front and rear deck hangers of low side of deck.
    2. Retake measurements and continue adjustment, if necessary.​

    How to sharpen law​n mower blades

    Same as with dull knives or scissors – they don't cut efficiently and result in the need to duplicate work. On a mower, worn blades have trouble lifting grass while mowing, and they don't cut well, leaving behind an uneven cut and stragglers. If blades are worn too much, it might require mowing the same rows twice.

    Dull lawn mower blades.

    Dull blades may need replacement, which isn't bad since new blades are relatively cheap and easy to replace. However, if enough blade material still exists, the blade can be sharpened.

    Blades should be discarded if more than a half-inch of the blade material is worn away (by previous sharpening or wear) or if the air lift (the bend in the blade) is eroded. Sharpening blades is a wasted effort if the blades can no longer lift the grass and cut it evenly, and blades that are bent or broken can be dangerous and cause damage.

    Handling mower blades can be dangerous and is best left to those with knowledge and experience replacing blades. If you're uncomfortable with this procedure, please rely on your nearest Ariens dealer to complete the service for you.

    1. Read the safety instructions in the operator's manual before starting.
    2. Remove the deck as instructed in the operator's manual.
    3. Remove the blades according to the directions in the manual.
    4. File or grind an equal amount of blade material from each cutting edge of the blade until sharp. Do not change angle of cutting edge or round the corner of the blade.
    5. Insert a screwdriver through the hole in the blade and hold the screwdriver horizontally. Position the blade horizontally and check for blade balance. This is critical. If the blade moves, sharpen the heavy end until the blade remains balanced in a horizontal position on the screwdriver.
    6. When the blade is sharpened and balanced adequately, reinstall it and torque it to the specification listed in the operator's manual.
    7. Reinstall the mower deck.

    Sharp lawn mower blade.

    Cleaning your m​ower deck

    Mower decks packed with grass clippings, dirt and debris can damage your mower, affect cut quality and hurt lawns. Grass, dirt and debris holds moisture that corrodes bare metal on the spindles and mower blades, weakening them. Additionally, grass-packed cutting decks can harbor fungi and bacteria that can spread around your lawn and damage it.​

    Grass buildup around the discharge area can prevent clippings from discharging evenly and could lead to clumping. Grass buildup under the deck can also affect the aerodynamics of the cutting chamber, disrupt the air lift under the deck (detailed in What is mower deck pitch?) and affect the cut quality.

    How to clean a lawn mower deck​

    1. Remove the mower deck as instructed in the operator's manual for your unit and remove the mower blades.​
    2. Removed clumped grass from under the mower deck and wash with low-pressure water and a mild soap solution until all dirt, grass and debris is washed away from the deck.
    3. Reinstall the deck and blades as instructed in the manual.
    Remove lawn mower deck.

    Good lawn mowing prac​​​tices

    Sometimes, getting a better cut quality can be achieved by simply breaking a few bad habits like mowing too fast, mowing in the same pattern and cutting grass too short.

    Slow your mow

    How fast should you mow? Driving slower while mowing has better results.

    Driving faster than the mower blades and deck aerodynamics can cut and discharge overwhelms the deck and leaves behind stragglers and clumping. Slowing the drive speed of a mower allows the blades enough time to lift, cut and discharge grass blades evenly.

    The right mo​​​wing pattern

    By now, you probably know the most efficient a pattern to mow your yard, a pattern you probably don't change with each mowing. Force yourself to change that bad habit and start mowing in different patterns.

    Ariens mowing pattern.

    Grass is like hair. If it's accustomed to being pushed in the same direction, it learns to which way to fall. After mowing in the same direction cut after cut, it falls to one direction and doesn't stand straight up, making it more difficult for the mower to lift the grass and cut it evenly.

    Additionally, mowing in the same pattern creates ruts. A mower driving over the same rows with each mowing causes the soil under a mower's wheels to become compacted, restricting the grass roots from getting necessary amounts of water, air and nutrients. This leads to grass discoloration in your mower's wheel tracks.

    Avoid these issues by mowing in a pattern that crisscrosses the pattern of the previous mowing.

    Don't cut grass too short

    How much grass should you cut with each mowing? Keeping some length in your lawn is good for healthy grass growth.

    Grass that's cut too short becomes stressed because it uses its energy re-growing what was just cut instead of growing its root system. Longer grass makes healthier lawns be​cause longer grass has deeper root systems which access moisture and nutrients more effectively. Additionally, longer grass helps prevent the ability for weeds to take hold and germinate because tall grass blocks sunlight from those weeds.

    Cut no more than one-third of the length of grass with each mowing.

    Best lawn m​​ower brands

    Performing service and adjustments on any lawn mower makes a big difference in cut quality, but you'll never get the best cutting quality without having the right equipment. In 2019, consumers have numerous choices in a commercial lawn mower, but they're not built alike.

    Ariens zero turn lawn mowers are designed for homeowners who value time, performance and a landscape that can be enjoyed with their families. Read below to learn why Ariens lawn mowers deliver the best cut quality for homeowners.

    Strong deck st​​ability

    As opposed to decks that shake excessively while cutting, Ariens decks are sturdy and move with the contours of each landscape, ensuring an even cut.

    Superior a​​​erodynamics

    Ariens deck aerodynamics lift and discharge grass evenly and effectively, preventing stragglers and clumping. Additionally, the depth of an Ariens fabricated steel deck means there's less need to trade speed for quality. Ariens decks are designed to process higher volumes of grass without degrading the quality of the result.

    [image of Ariens mower cutting]

    Constant belt tension

    Constant belt tensioning is standard on every Ariens zero turn mower deck. This technology applies equal tension to a mower belt throughout the life of that belt, meaning that even after the belt wears and stretches, blade tip speed and cutting results are the same as when the belt was brand new.​

    Where to bu​​​y an Ariens lawn mower?

    Ready to learn more about the machines designed to give you the best looking lawn in the neighborhood? Visit your local Ariens dealer today to see which model is right for your yard.

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