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Ariens Sponsors NASCAR Driver Josh Bilicki

8/26/2019 5:00:00 AM

The number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro
For the second year in a row, Ariens®​​ sponsored NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and Wisconsin native, Josh Bilicki, at his (and our) home track at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for the CTECH Manufacturing 180. Last year, the Ariens logo took real estate on Bilicki’s trunk lid and left and right rear quarter panels, but this year, the Ariens name was wrapped from bumper to bumper as the primary sponsor.

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NASCAR Xfinity driver Josh Bilicki

“I’m proud to have had the opportunity to represent Ariens at our home track, Road America,” said Bilicki. “It’s fitting that our race car, which is custom built from top to bottom, is riding with a brand that prides itself in handcrafted durability and reliability.”

NASCAR Xfinity driver Josh Bilicki and the number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro

As pre-race wound down, race teams pushed their cars to the starting grid where they checked tire pressures, stocked their pit boxes with fuel and tires, and hooked up their high-pressure air hoses to impact guns. Drivers too were making preparations. After an introductory lap around the 4.048-mile racetrack, photo ops, an invocation and the national anthem, Bilicki strapped on his helmet and was assisted into the cockpit of the number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro.

NASCAR Xfinity driver Josh Bilicki

By the time the tires got enough heat in them, the green flag dropped on the 38-car field and the engines roared open. Track conditions on a mostly sunny and dry day with temperatures in the mid 70s provided the cars with more grip than slick, high-banked oval tracks, but the tricky part about this historic, 14-turn track is braking. Top speeds up to 170 mph allow more air to enter the brake cooling vents, but Road America features very heaving braking zones that superheat the cars’ brake rotors to abusive levels. With each touch of the brake pedal, heat builds into the brakes and makes them increasingly less effective.

NASCAR Xfinity driver Josh Bilicki

Through the first half of the race, Bilicki picked off a few drivers from his starting position in 16th place and worked his way up to the 12th spot. But as brakes started wearing, turning became difficult for other drivers, triggering crashes and caution flags, which bunched the field together and caused more aggressive racing on restarts.

“We had a great car during the race and probably our strongest run of the year. We were shaping up to have a great finish when we got taken out with only two laps to go. I was able to limp the car home to a 20th place finish, but I truly believe we could have fought our way to a top 10,” said Bilicki.

The number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro

Though disappointed in the way this act played out, Bilicki still has 10 races left in the season to edge out a win, and we’ll be rooting for him the whole way through.

The number 93 Ariens Chevrolet Camaro

The Best Mower Blades For Your Lawn Mower

8/12/2019 5:00:00 AM

​How to choose the right mower​​​​ blade

​​​All about blades.

Mower blades to a new lawn mower are like tires to a new motorcycle. Every new bike comes with​​ tires and every new lawn mower comes​​ with blades, and a new owner of either may consider changing the set equipped with their new product. However, whereas the typical new motorcycle owner is expecting cheap tires with a low wear rating, the case isn’t the same with lawn mower blades. Stock lawn mower blades have no less or no greater quality than any other aftermarket or OEM blade, and actually, it’s wisest for a homeowner to use the factory blades that came with their new mower.

Mower Deck Aerodynamics

Every component on an Ariens lawn mower or snow blower is engineered with a specific purpose and designed exactly for that application. After sitting down with AriensCo engineer Paul Ferrier, we learned that mower blades are no different.

Mower blades are custom components; they are not one size fits all. Mower blade design is specific to the mower it’s used with. From the stamped deck on an Ariens ZOOM 34 zero turn to a 10-gauge, 60 inch welded deck on an Ariens APEX lawn mower, there’s a specially engineered blade for that particular mower deck. Mower decks aren’t designed to simply mount blades and shield discharge, they’re designed to lift grass, cut it and discharge it as efficiently and as effectively as physically possible.

The Best Lawn Mower Blades

Every Ariens mower deck rolling off the assembly line today is engineered, tested and validated for cut quality performance. To the unknowing eye, a mower deck is just a steel shell with blades and baffles, but it’s actually a very delicate system of physics and aerodynamics. Mower decks are uniquely designed for their depth, width, power supply and expected application, and its blades are designed especially for the deck.

“Mower blade geometry and the cutting chambers of a mower deck work in tandem,” said Ferrier. “Their designs rely on each other. For that reason, the best blade anyone can use is an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) blade, because that blade was specifically designed to work with your mower and give your cutting deck its best performance.”

Different Types of Mower Blades

While an OEM blade is the best choice for your lawn, you have a choice in the style of the blade for your desired application. Ariens designs different types of blades to work for both normal and special conditions. For example,​​ manufacturers make blades that lift grass, blades that are more durable in abrasive soils, blades that are advertised to enhance fuel efficiency and blades that mince grass into tiny pieces.

Though Ariens hasn’t designed a blade for all of these applications, we design blades for the conditions that will likely be seen in the yards of our customers. That’s why you’ll often find a large blade selection at your local Ariens dealer,​ Your dealer can help you find exactly what you need, but if you prefer self service, remember these two points:

  • Purchase replacement mower blades that are the exact size as the origina​ls.
  • Ensure the blades you buy are the right type for your application. 

​Read through the different types of blades below to learn which you may ​​want and th​​ose which we wouldn’t recommend for a manicured yard.

What are flat / no-lift blad​​es?

This usually won’t be the type of mower blade used for manicured lawns with an even cut and pristine edging along the sidewalk. Flat blades d​​on’t have the air lifts on the ends. They’re exactly as their name suggests – flat, meaning they don’t generate air circulation under the deck.


Though the right-sized flat blade can be installed to a mower deck it was spec’d for, this will likely not be the type of blade installed on an Ariens zero turn mower.

“Flat blades are mostly used for knocking down overgrowth like in ditches, for example,” said Ferrier. “They don’t leave a polished result and they won’t work the best in bagging applications, either.”

What are lift bl​​ades?

Lift blades are the style of blades that come with a mower fresh off the Ariens assembly line and are commonly used in a homeowner’s applications because they provide the best cut quality.

Ariens® OEM Lift blade.

Lift blades utilize an “air-lift” or a flared bend at each end of the cutting blade to generate ​​a deck’s aerodynamics and the vacuum that helps pull grass upward to g​​ive it a uniform, even cut across the width of the deck. Just remember, the deck will​ need to be pitched correctly​ and other conditions will have to be satisfied​ to take advantage of a deck’s aero package and to achieve the quality of cut boasted by lift blades. 


Lift blades are best for bagging. The design of high lift blades, in conjunction with the mower dec​k engineering, influence the aerodynamics that allows grass to circulate around the mower deck and discharge evenly. This is important while bagging because the clippings need to be discharged at a height which can enter the bagger system most effectively.

What are mulching b​​lades

Mulching is an easy, economical and sustainable method for thickening lawn density. Mulch kits​​ use a mower deck baffle system that blocks the discharge opening of a mower deck and specially designed mulching blades to cut and recut grass clippings into smaller, decomposable grass clipping particles. These particles, which are not discharged or bagged, fall to the lawn bed where they decompose and feed a lawn so it grows thick and green.

Mulch kit.


Mulch blades, which feature air lifts that generate air circulation throughout a mower deck, have special geometry and more cutting edges along the length of the blade to mince grass into those tiny clippings.

Mulch kits have useful application in any lawn and can be installed to any Ariens zero turn m​​ower.Click here​ to learn all about mulching and its benefits in a blog post we produced earlier this year.


What’s a serr​​ated blade?

Some people swear by them, and others don’t. The average homeowner may not get as much from a serrated blade, but they could make a difference for those who live on a large amount of mowable a​creage.


Serrated blades can be lift blades and mulch blades, but their unique feature is in the serrations in the lift area of the blade which is designed to reduce the blade’s surface area. The intention behind a blade with less surface area is that there’s less air resistance and drag on the blades, meaning they'll cut through air more easily. Theoretically, that requires less effort from the mower, which increases its efficiency. However, validating a serrated blade’s effectiveness may require measuring the fuel consumption against a control variable over time in larger mowing areas.

Ariens doesn’t manufacture serrated style blades for a couple reasons. First, they don’t give much back to a homeowner who maintains a small area of turf. Additionally, as serrated blades wear, their serrations have the potential to become brittle, break off and turn into projectiles. In the chance for that scenario, we suggest staying away from serrated blades.

LaserEdge® ​​blades

LaserEdge blades are especially useful for commercial lawn maintenance applications, but  homeowners who live in Florida, South Georgia and other are​​as with sandy soil or otherwise abrasive soil conditions could still have use for LaserEdge blades.

LaserEdge® blades.

When mowing in abrasive soils, the air circulation under a cutting deck can kick up enough sand and grit to turn the cutting chamber into a sandblaster, causing the mower blade material to wear much faster than in normal conditions. In fact, commercial landscapers in Florida sharpen or replace their blades at least once per week because of their soil composition.


LaserEdge blades feature a strengthened layer of material below their cutting edges. As the top layer of the cutting edge wears away from the abrasion, the longer-lasting, reinforced bottom creates a new cutting edge and extends the blade utility. Even though residential users are cutting nowhere near the maximum hours of a commercial lawn mower, LaserEdge blades can provide the same savings. Extended blade utility means the same quality of cut with less sharpening and less replacements, making LaserEdge blades the mower blade with the best value.

While LaserEdge blades were designed mainly for commercial lawn mowers, their application is still useful for homeowners. However, be aware that since these blades were designed for commercial use, their fit is more limited to a prosumer lawn mower, which is a residential zero turn with commercial features. In the Ariens lineup, that would be the Ariens APEX.


Click here​ to buy LaserEdg​​e blades.


How to sharpen mow​​er blades

Mower blades are like the knives in a kitchen. After too much use, they become dull, work less effectively and damage your grass. Dull mower​​ blades tear grass blades instead of cutting them cleanly, causing grass to become stressed. That stress can do a lot of damage to your lawn, causing it to look unsightly and worse – requiring you to spend time and money fixing the damage.


Frayed grass blade ends allow moisture to evaporate from a lawn more easily, requiring more irrigation and more money spent keeping it green. But no matter how much water you dump on your grass, fraying causes grass blades to become so stressed and damaged that their ends will turn brown anyway. A little brown spot on just one blade is no big deal, but when your entire lawn is littered with frayed grass blade ends, it leaves a tan hue across your entire lawn. Take a picture of a healthy, green lawn and put it next to one with damaged ends and you’ll notice the difference.


Torn grass is also more susceptible to turf disease because its frayed openings leave more entry points for harmful pathogens, such as a variety of fungi. Though lawn diseases can be treated and cured, it’s just another annoyance that can cost time and money. Help avoid those issues by sharpening your blades.

Mower blade sharpening isn't difficult, but it requires experience and the right tools. Clamps, a metal grinder and the right safety gear is all that’s ne​​eded to sharpen a blade, but we don’t recommend attempting it without lessons. If you’re a first timer, take your blades to your local Ariens dealer​ and have them do it for you.


Balancing mower bl​​ades

Experience is recommended for sharpening blades not only for safety ​​reasons, but because blades are sensitive pieces of engineering. Like the wheels on a car, blades need to be balanced. Without blade balance, a mower deck will experience excessive vibration and you’ll be left with an uneven and very unattractive cut quality.


Think of a blade as an object with two weighted ends, each end being the other’s counterweight. As blade material is removed during sharpe​​ning, the blade’s weight changes on one side, meaning the other side will need to be filed equally to maintain balance.


How to balance a m​​ower blade

To check blade balance, insert an unthreaded bolt or a screwdriver through the blade’s mounting hole and place the screwdriver horizontally. Place the blade horizontally and observe the blade movement. If one end of the blade moves down and makes the blade vertical, file away more material from that end of the blade and test again. File as needed until the blade remains balanced on the screwdriver.

Check blade balance.

As always, refer to your operator’s manual to review instructional details when sharpening and or balancing your mower blades.

If your blades are beyond sharpening, find replacements at your local Ariens dealer. Or, if you know the replacement blade numbers for your mower, you ​can purchase them online at parts.ariens.com.

Late Summer Lawn Care Tips

8/5/2019 5:00:00 AM

​​​​​How to keep yo​ur grass healthy this s​​ummer


The solstice ha​​​s long passed and the Earth’s axis is tilting back in a direction that will soon favor the Southern Hemisphere. Although summer and daylight hours are waning, there’s still plenty of heat to go around and a few more weeks to enjoy garden parties, barbeques, backyard sports and more with the family. The downside is that during this time of year, it’s drying out and our lawns aren’t as lush or soft as they were just a few weeks ago.

How to get a nice lawn.

What can you do to keep your yard in prime condition so it remains a special place that you and your family can enjoy through the dog days of summer? It doesn’t require expensive equipmen​​t, contractors or even much of your time – all it takes is a touch of technique.

Watering y​​o​ur lawn correctly

Chances are, your lawn is receiving fewer regular soaking rains. Many parts of the country might not see rain for a week a​​t a time or more, and in some parts, it’s dry enough that the grass is turning brown and feels painful to walk on with bare feet.

Though you can’t change the weather, you can fix a dry lawn.​

How to tell if your gr​​a​ss​​ needs w​​atering

Your grass tells you that it needs water, even before it turns brown. When dehydrated, grass goes into conservation mode, folds its blades and shows its blue-green underside. If the color change isn’t enough to convince you that your grass needs ​​​water, walk on it and check if it springs back up in the path of your footprints. If those grass blades that were just walked on stay flat, it’s a sure sign that it’s time for a drink.

​Inexpensive ways​ to wate​r your​​ lawn

The first thing that might come to mind when talking about lawn irrigation is one of those sophisticated irrigation systems that can be controlled from inside your home. Though these systems are efficient and highly effective, the installation of one may not align with your finances this year, and if not, that’s OK because you can still irrigate on a budget. In fact, you can p​​ick up a high-quality hose and sprinkler set from your local department store for as little as $50. But among the many types of sprinkler systems to choose from, which is the right one for you?

The best lawn ​​spr​​inklers

If we’re considering your time and the result, we’d suggest using an oscillating style sprinkler. Oscillating sprinklers are the type that spray water through small holes across the top of a gently arced tube with water supplied by a standard garden hose. As water p​ushes through the tube, the tube oscillates, creating even water dispersal across the range of the tube’s rotation, which is adjustable up to 180 degrees.

The benefit of an oscillating sprinkler is that they saturate a wide area evenly, which is not the case with all sprinkler types. Depending on the brand, oscillating sprinklers are advertised to cover up to 4,500 square feet of lawn at one time – meaning less time adjusting the sprinkler position and more time for yourself and your family. Simply drag the hose to the desired area, turn on the water and walk away. Position a container at each end of the sprinkler’s range and wait for it to collect about 1 to 1.5 inches of water, which is the general required weekly amount of water needed by your lawn. Once that area receives its weekly rations, move the sprinkler to the next area, wait for the containers to fill to their 1 to 1.5-inch mark and repeat until your entire lawn receives a good soaking.

To make the best use of your time, water just one area of your yard each day so you’re not spending your whole morning moving the sprinkler.

​Oscillatin​​​g sprinkler benefits:

  • Covers a wide area
  • Disperses water evenly
  • Requires little effort or time from you

How much water does a lawn ​​need?

Though a weekly dose of 1 to 1.5 inches of water above ground should give a lawn adequate moisture, it needs to penetrate at least six inches into the soil. Verify this by pushing a six-inch screwdriver shaft into the ground. If the whole length of the screwdriver pushes into the ground relatively effortlessly, your grass got enough water. If pushing the screwdriver into the ground requires even the slightest amount of force to insert it completely, turn the sprinkler back on.

The best time to water your​ lawn

Irrigating a lawn is least efficient during the day because the sun can evaporate a large amount of that water before it penetrates the soil and reaches the grass’s root systems.

Watering a lawn in the evening or at night, though cooler, isn’t the best time to irrigate a lawn, either. Watering at night when the air is still and temperatures stay cool for several hours keeps your lawn saturated longer than it needs to be. If you’re watering regularly at night, the little evaporation that occurs during these hours doesn’t allow your lawn to dry out properly, which can lead to fungal growth and lawn disease – especially during muggy and humid conditions.

Watering in the early morning is best. The sun angle is low and temperatures are cool enough for water to penetrate the soil, but the residual moisture doesn’t stick around long and evaporates shortly after the morning breeze rolls through and the sun reaches a higher angle.

How to water your lawn.
​​

Growing healthy grass ​​roots

The deeper your grass’s roots, the more resilient they are to drought, disease and other conditions that can turn your beautiful lawn into the Addams family’s landscape.

How to grow healt​​​hy grass roots

Though we covered irrigation, it’s important to emphasise that proper watering leads to proper root length, and that helps grass survive dry periods. If a lawn is watered less frequently with deeper waterings, grass roots grow deeper. The deeper the roots, the stronger your grass’ ability to weather dry periods and stress.

Soil pH level​

Another way to improve the health of your roots is by checking and correcting your soil’s pH level, or its measure of acidity or alkalinity. Most grass thrives with a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.0, which is in the slightly acidic to neutral range.

Testing your lawn's pH level can be done on your own with a testing kit from a gardening store. Test your soil by taking three to five soil samples from about 4 – 6 inches below the soil surface in different areas of your lawn. Remove the grass so you're sampling soil only. Mix the dirt together and spread around on a disposable surface so it can dry out over a 24-hour period and test according to the instructions of your kit.

If the soil is too acidic (pH 0 – 6), add wood ash to your lawn. It may take several applications over a few years to take effect, but it will put your roots on a track to becoming healthier.​ If the soil is too basic (pH 8 – 14), add sphagnum peat to your lawn. Just be aware that it may require some tilling to fully incorporate the sphagnum peat into the soil and for it to take effect. Another option is to add fine mulch and compost to your lawn.

The right way to cut y​our law​n


How to cut your lawn.

The shorter a lawn is cut, the shorter the roots will grow. Depending on the grass type that grows in your yard, you’ll likely cut a specific length for that breed, but consider raising your cutting height to encourage longer root growth. The longer grass grows at the top, the longer it’s growing underground and the better it will thrive.

The benefit of longer grass length is threefold because not only does grass become stronger and healthier, but the extra shade created by longer grass blades helps soil retain moisture and discourages weed growth.

Mower blade sharpness can also affect your lawn’s health. Dull blades tear grass and stress it even more than hot temperatures. That tearing and added stress can leave your lawn more susceptible to lawn disease, weed invasion or bug infestation, which is why it’s important to sharpen your blades regularly. If you don’t have the equipment or experience required to sharpen your blades, you can rely on your local Ariens dealer for help.

Click here to watch how we remove an Ariens IKON X or IKON XL deck here so the blades can be accessed for removal.

​​Aeration

Many of us have never given a second thought to aeration. Even the pickiest homeowners who appreciate a well manicured lawn may not even know what aeration is, let alone its benefits.

What is ​​aeration?

Aeration is the plugging or coring of your soil, so literally pulling out small, but deep cores of soil from your lawn to help reduce soil compaction and improve air, water and nutrient exchanges with the grass roots. After a season of foot traffic, mower traffic and more across your lawn, the soil becomes compacted and the ability for those exchanges with the grass roots is reduced. Removing cores of soil through aeration creates space for compacted soils to loosen, which then improves access to grass roots.

​Dethatching

Dead grass that falls to the soil bed and accumulates is called thatch. And though this thick layer of insulation has benefits for grass as the seasons change to fall and winter, too much thatch restricts water and nutrients from accessing your grass roots. Additionally, too much thatch can harbor bacteria and insects.

If excessive thatch builds up on your soil bed, it can be cleared with a rake, but if that’s going to cost more time than you’re willing, try using a dethatcher. Think of a dethatcher as a power rake. It’s a powered piece of equipment that uses a system of tines to pull dead grass away from the soil bed quickly and efficiently.

​Avoiding lawn diseases

Like all living things, lawns are susceptible to illness and disease. It’s something many homeowners are completely unaware of but need to pay close attention to, especially at this time of year when warm weather creates an environment which allows pathogens to thrive. Fungus grows in conditions where grass is stressed, such as during times of drought, excessive rain and abnormal temperatures for warm and cool season grasses. If any of these conditions apply, be on the lookout for signs of a fungal infestation, because that’s the first step in preventing and fixing turf disease. 

How to spot l​​awn disease

Of the many different fungal infections that can grow on a stressed lawn, most of them can be spotted easily. If you see circles or spots of wilted or withered brown, yellow, pale, pink or blackened colors in your lawn, it’s likely a sign of a fungal infection. It doesn’t take an expert to spot lawn disease; if your lawn is any color other than green, pay close attention and remedy the situation.

How to fix lawn disease

Stressed lawns become diseased and healthy lawns fight disease. To get rid of summer patch, dollar spot, brown patch or any other common lawn fungus, treat your soil’s pH level, fertilize, water correctly, seed, dethatch, aerate and mow with sharp blades and at an appropriate cutting height. The same procedures in avoiding lawn disease are the same ones used to cure it, too.

As long as your grass is cut, watered and treated correctly, you can be sure that it will stay in great shape for your family to enjoy for the remainder of summer.

Enjoying your lawn with family.

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