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Benefits of Grass Mulching

4/17/2019 5:00:00 AM

​What does mulchin​​g do for your yard?


What is grass mu​lching?

Lawn mower mulching, or grass mulching, returns nutrients to your lawn to help it grow full, thick and green.

What does mulching do?

When mulching comes to mind, we usually think about the cedar mulch or other wood bark that's used to cover plant beds, border our homes, cover a berm or line the base of tree trunks. This isn't that. This type of mulching is cutting grass clippings into a nutritious mulch made up of super fine, tiny grass particles.

Aren't all grass clippings mulch? Not quite. Grass that's discharged from a lawn mower with regular cutting blades are still just grass clippings. Mulched grass clippings are the product of specially designed cutting blades and a mower deck baffle system that cuts and recuts grass clippings into super-fine, tiny, highly decomposable grass clipping particles. These particles, which are not discharged or bagged, fall to the lawn bed where they decompose and do several amazing things to make a lawn grow thick and green.

The science of grass m​​ulching

Mulching grass is an easier, less expensive and more sustainable way to feed a lawn and help it grow better.

Mulch is grass fee​d

While water and fertilizer can feed a lawn, much of your lawn feed is already within grass itself. Take advantage of it! Grass contains rich nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are all very useful elements for vegetation growth. When then grass is mulched into tiny clippings, microorganisms living on the soil bed break down the mulch and release those nutrients back into the soil – feeding the lawn and making it grow full and bright. Additionally, creating a habitable ecosystem for those useful microorganisms enhances the ability for a lawn to fight off lawn disease and mold.​

Mulching promotes soil creation

Mulch eventually becomes humus.

Mulching promotes soil creation

Not to be confused with the tasty dip, hummus, humus is the organic component of soil. The production of humus is very fascinating to those who have an appreciation for biology. As stated in the previous paragraph, microorganisms break down grass mulch to release nutrients. Through that digestion process, those microorganisms, like humans and every living thing on planet Earth, generate a waste product. The waste is called humus, which is the dark, organic, carbon-based substance in soil. Humus not only retains lots of water, it retains nutrients like calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, and is a nutrition reserve for the root systems of plants and grass.

The circle of life is cool, huh?​

Mulching helps retain mois​ture

Finally, mulching is especially helpful for lawns during the warmer, drier summer months. In the heat of the season, soil can dry quickly, but mulching helps the soil retain water. The layer of mulch on the soil bed acts as a sun shield, which helps reduce moisture evaporation and keeps the soil temperature cooler.

Other benefits of mulc​hing grass

It's easy to see how mulching your grass can be good for your lawn, but mulching grass passes some of its benefits directly to you.​

Mulching saves​ money

Save the money you'd otherwise spend on a sprinkler system, water and fertilizer. Remember, the grass is your lawn's nutrition source – take advantage of the nutrition within those grass blades by mulching them instead.​​

Mulching saves you money

Mulching saves time

Mulching grass saves on cleanup time. If you've never mulched your grass before, you might think that leaving all this grass behind would leave unsightly grass clumping all over your yard, right? Wrong. Remember, mulching turns grass clippings into super fine particles which fall back to the bottom of a lawn bed. So, as opposed to side discharging regular-sized grass clippings, there's no raking or cleanup afterward. Nor is there a need to empty a grass bagger and transport the clippings to a waste site.​

Grass mulchin​g reduces thatch buildup

Thatch is that layer of dead grass and other organic material that accumulates on a lawn bed. If not raked or removed with a dethatcher, too much thatch buildup can suppress grass growth by restricting water and nutrients from reaching the grass' root systems. Mulching's effect on thatch is twofold. First, the super fine clippings fall all the way to the soil and decompose very easily compared to regular grass clippings. Second, the microorganism-rich environment stimulated by higher levels of grass mulch creates greater populations of hungry microbes that chomp away at existing thatch.​

If you're looking for an efficient dethatching solution for your yard, the best machine for dethatching in the Ariens lineup is the power brush. Click here to learn more about dethatching equipment.

Mulching is go​od for the environment

Did you know that according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 13 percent of total landfill input is yard waste? Though that accounts for more than just grass clippings, mulching grass clippings back into your lawn helps reduce that impact.​

Best grass mulc​hing practices

Grass mulching isn't a one-size-fits-all process. There are a few things that should be considered before mulching grass, so we recommend you do some homework before mulching your own grass.​

Best time to ​mulch grass

Mulching won't deliver favorable results with wet grass because with greater moisture content, the more prone mulched grass is to clumping. Mulch only when it's dry, like in the afternoon after the morning dew has evaporated. And depending on where you live, it may be best to limit grass mulching to the summer and fall months only.

Grass growth in the spring is not only much juicier than drier grasses in the summer, but it grows at a faster rate. Though grass mulching does help reduce thatch buildup, the rate of grass growth and more frequent mowing in the spring may outpace the ability for mulched clippings to decompose, leading to clumping and increased thatch: the opposite of the desired effect.​

How to mulch gr​ass correctly

Be conscientious about the type of grass that grows in the region where you live. Most of the time, the general rule of thumb is to cut grass no shorter than two-thirds its original length and no shorter than a length of three inches when mulching. However, this rule doesn't apply to all grass species, so do a little research beforehand to learn the appropriate mulching techniques for the lawn in your yard. Additionally, some grass types hold more moisture than others, so again, do the research.​

Maintain the mo​wer deck

Do you know how to clean a mower deck? To continue getting good results from mulching, mower decks that are used frequently for mulching grass should be cleaned more regularly than a mower deck that's discharging regular grass clippings. Small​er grass clippings can stick together more easily and buildup under the deck more quickly. That debris buildup under the mower deck then disrupts the airflow necessary to recirculate grass inside the deck's cutting chamber and mulch it effectively.​

Mulching only works with well-maintained equipment. This means that both the deck aerodynamics and the mulching blades themselves need to be in tip-top condition. Mulching blades need to be sharpened more frequently so they don't lose their effectiveness chopping grass blades into super fine pieces.

When not t​​o mulch grass clippings

Mulching won't work for everyone.​

Mulching lawn​s with weeds

Mulching lawns that have a lot of weeds aren't doing your landscape any favors. Instead of thickening the grass, mulching will help spread weed seeds and leave your lawn with more weeds. This is where bagging beats mulching. Continue collecting grass clippings and haul them away until the weeds are gone.​

Mulching lawns with ​pesticides

Mulching a lawn that's received applications of pesticides or fertilizers won't necessarily be harmful to a lawn, but it may not have the effect you expect. Pesticides and fertilizers kill the microorganisms that eat away at mulch, and if those bugs aren't present, there's nothing left to process the mulch clippings and release their nutrients.​

Where to find mulchin​g blades?

Do you know what it takes to start mulching? The answer is nothing more than the installation of an Ariens mulch kit composed of easy-to-install deck baffles and mulching blades. Simply install the parts under your mower deck and start cutting.

 Lawn mower mulch kit

For best results, source your mulching blades and mulching baffles from your local, authorized Ariens dealer or from the Ariens online parts store at parts.ariens.com.

How to Tell if a Mower Belt is Worn

4/9/2019 5:00:00 AM

And how to replace ​lawn mower belts​


What does a lawn mower belt d​o?

Lawn mower blades on a zero turn lawn mower aren't driven directly by a PTO (power take off) shaft or by an engine crankshaft. Instead, they're turned by a system of pul​leys which are driven by a belt that's powered by the electric clutch and the engine. Too m​uch technical information? That's ok, you don't necessarily need to know all of that, but what you do need to know is that lawn mower belts wear, and if neglected, eventually break.

When to replace lawn mow​​​er belt?

Obviously, a broken zero turn lawn mower belt or broken lawn tractor belt results in the automatic need for a belt replacement, but how can you catch it before it fails while mowing and inconveniencing your weekend schedule? There's no definite amount of time that a mower belt is supposed to last, but increased mower use shortens the interval in which a belt needs replacement. Simply put, more use equals more wear.

Additionally, faulty belts or mechanical failures like a seized pulley can make lawn mower belts break prematurely. If you're wearing through belts more frequently than what seems normal, you may be sourcing inferior belts, or are experiencing a mechanical failure in the form of a seized pulley, a burr (sharp metallic rough spot) on the pulley, or some other interference along the path of the belt routing.

How to tell if a mower belt ne​​eds replacement

Visual inspection is all it takes to know if a mower belt is beyond its life, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist or experienced mechanic to see the signs of wear that appear before an impending break. The average homeowner will be able to spot a wearing belt as long as they know what to look for.

These signs show when a mower belt could experience failure and needs replacement as soon as possible:

1.       The belt has s​​​ide wall damage.

Mower belt edges should be smooth and even throughout the entire length of the belt. If even a small portion of the belt is worn, it's at risk of breaking and should be replaced.

2.       The belt has a glazed or bu​rned sidewall.

Look at the belt edge that contacts the pulleys. If it appears shiny, glazed or burned, it will need to be replaced.

3.       The belt is​​ cracked.

If the belt appears brittle and is deteriorating to the point that it has cracks, even shallow cracks, it is at high risk of breaking and needs to be replaced.

How to replace a lawn mowe​​r belt

Replacing a mower belt is easy and doesn't take too much time, even for those who don't have much, if any, mechanical experience. All it takes are a few wrenches, and about 1.5 hours on a Saturday morning. Alternatively, if it's a process you're uncomfortable doing yourself, your local Ariens dealer will be glad to complete the service work for you.

Watch the step-by-step process on how to change a lawn mower belt on an Ariens IKON X or IKON XL of any deck size. As always, before you start service, park the unit on a flat, level surface, stop the engine, remove the key and wait for all moving parts to stop and for hot parts to cool. Additionally, reread all the safety information in the operator's manual for your unit.

1. Set the cutti​​​ng height of the mower to its lowest position.​ ​

Set mower deck cutting height.

2. Remove the belt covers from the left and right sides of the mower deck.
Change lawn mower belt step 2

3. Pull belt out of the left spindle pulley to release belt tension on the mower belt idler spring.
Change lawn mower belt step 3

4. Identify the mower belt idler arm and remove the hardware above the belt finger / guide the so the idler spring hook can be accessed.
Remove spring hook from idler arm.

5. With safety goggles and an adequate spring pulling tool, remove the spring from the idler arm assembly.​Disconnect idler spring.

6. Raise the mower deck to it's highest cutting position.​Raise mower deck to it's highest position.

 7. Loosen the hardware retaining the idler assembly to the mower deck and remove the idler assembly. To remove the nut from the bolt, the bolt head under the deck will need to be held in place with another tool. Use caution when reaching under the mower deck.
Remove idler assembly.
Mower belt idler assembly.

8. Return the mower deck to its lowest cutting position.
Return mower deck to lowest cutting position.

9. Remove hardware retaining the belt finger from rearmost idler pulley and remove the belt finger.
Remove remaining belt finger.


10. Remove the​​ belt from the clu​tch pulley located under the engine.

Change lawn mower belt step 10

11. Remove​​ the​​ be​​lt.​​Remove the mower belt.


12. Install the new mower belt around the spindle pulleys and the idlers on the mower deck. It's difficult to tell how the mower belt is routed in the picture below​, so reference the diagram in the operator's manual for your unit to see exactly how the belt should be routed.​

​Additionally, it's crucial the belt is installed in the correct orientation. Looking closely at the belt, you can see that the belt has a "V" shape, which gives one side of the belt less surface area than the other side of the belt. It's very important to install the belt so the side with less surface area is positioned against the spindle p​​ulleys.​

Install mower belt.

13. Ensure the belt is against the rearmost idler pulley and reinstall the belt finger for that pulley with its original flange nut.​

Reinstall idler belt finger.

14. Install the mower belt around the clutch pulley at the rear of the unit.Change lawn mower belt step 14

15. Return the idler assembly to its original position. Ensure the large flat steel washer is positioned between the idler and the deck, and ensure the small flat steel washer is positioned on top of the idler.​

Reinstall idler assembly.

16. Raise the mower deck to it's higest position and reinstall the idler assembly hardware, but finger tighten only. DO NOT completely tighten the hardware. Then, move the belt under the idler pulley so it's in the orientation shown in the image below.

Raise mower deck to its highest position.

Reinstall idler assembly.

17. Safely reach under the deck to access the idler arm assembly bolt head. Hold the bolt head in place and tighten the nut to secure the idler arm assembly.

Secure idler arm assembly.

18. Lower the mower deck to its lowest cutting height.

Lower the mower deck.

19. Reinstall the belt finger into the idler arm. Then, while wearing safety goggles, reinstall the idler spring hook around the idler assembly.

Reinstall belt finger and idler spring.

20. Ensure the belt has tension and is correctly aligned in all pulleys.

Check mower belt tension and alignment.

21. Reinstall the spacer onto the idler assembly and secure with the original flange nut.

Reinstall spacer and tighten hardware.

​22. Reinstall the left and right belt covers with the original hardware.​Change lawn mower belt step 19

Where to order lawn ​​mower belts

If your belts are worn and want to try this procedure on your own, visit your nearest Ariens dealer for replacement parts, or source belts from the Ariens online parts store at parts.ariens.com. But again, if you aren't comfortable completing this procedure on your own, visit your Ariens servicing dealer for help.

To learn which belts you need for your mower, click here to watch our 47-second video that shows how to identify replacement part numbers on your unit and how to find them online.​

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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