How to stop grass clumps with tractor mower?

onthebrinck(6 Central New Jersey)May 30, 2011

I have a Craftsmen 42" ride-on tractor/mower that was a gift from my children because they thought the old man shouldn't push a mower around 3/4 acre. Now I have to use it! I'd rather not. The real irony is that I think I do more work now that I use it. I have the blade set at the highest setting, which is about 3-1/2"+, I have two mulching blades, I run the mower at high engine speed, but low travel speed --- much slower than walking. I mow the lawn about every 4-5 days to minimize the amount cut and generally in the hot sun of the afternoon when the grass is driest, but still the mower leaves clumps behind. Once I do the entire yard, I'll switch the mower to high travel speed and go over the entire yard just to remove the clumps. I'll even follow up with my push mower (Lawn-Boy --- which I love). The only thing I haven't tried is replacing the two year old blades --- although I did take them off and sharpen them by hand.

I also thought of perhaps putting two blades at 90 degrees to each other on EACH of the two rotors --- a total of 4 blades; I'm not sure the shank will hold them or if it's safe.

I noticed my neighbor with the same tractor discharging the grass rather than mulching --- I wonder if that's good for the lawn. My community doesn't collect grass clipping and I don't believe in them for mulch or compost, so collecting the cuttings is not a practical option.

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Sounds like you have covered all the bases and know what you are doing. Here's a couple points that may or may not help. Spring grass tends to clump more. You will have less clumping later in the summer. Even so you may still have some clumping because riders tend to do that as opposed to your Lawn-Boy push with it's narrower width. You can try side discharging and experiment with different patterns. I have even side discharged and then mulched second to eliminate clippings. Your idea of 2 blades has been done before. My Ransomes AR250 fairway mower has 2 blades per deck for a total of ten and it mulches quite well. It has a special blade holder. Hang in there and keep experimenting. I think you may have less clumping as the temps go up.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 10:35AM
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arceeguy(z6 NJ)

I've got a similar mower. (42" Craftsman LT 1000) And have the same issues. I bought new mulching blades (IIRC they were called Gator blades) and that helped out a lot, but it will still clump with the heavy spring grass.

I think the main problem is the mower deck isn't designed for mulching, it is set up for side discharge and the "mulching plate" is simply a block off for the discharge.

The bottom of a deck with a "proper" mulching kit will have baffles to keep the clippings recycling rather than being passed to the other blades for discharge.

I find that the time savings of the lawn tractor outweighs the mediocre cut quality. I also have a Lawn Boy (last of the two strokes) walk behind that does an excellent job but it takes well over an hour and a half for me to cut the lawn.

I'd give the Gator blades a try, they were about 40 bucks a pair.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 11:29PM
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onthebrinck(6 Central New Jersey)

Thanks guys! What may be the problem or danger with getting two new gator or similar blades and adding them to the existing blades on the shanks? In effect, a total of 4 blades in an X-pattern on each of the two spindles.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 3:31AM
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arceeguy(z6 NJ)

The main problem I can see is that the second blade will not positively engage the shaft, the nut may work loose as a result and the blades may go flying.

My lawn boy has an additional fan on shaft that is meant to blow clipping up I believe, and not to cut them.

I would just try the gator blades as-is and see how they work for you. They do work much better than the stock blades.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 6:20AM
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2 yrs ago I bought a Husqvarna 23hp 48" rider...for mulching my lawn. Clumped up constantly, even enough to stop the engine occasionally. Heard then about "Gator Mulching Blades" (made just for mulching pupose). Bought a pair, installed them in lieu of the factory mulch blades, what a difference !!! No plugging up or clumping. The dealer that sold me the mower said "THEY" stock em & recommend em'....wish they had done that when I first bought the mower, cause I told em' all we do is mulch. Trust me...just get em. Now with a tad of advice...don't expect miracles if you mow real tall or wet grass...sharpen blades annually. I mow 1-acre of rough lawn every week at 3" height setting.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 5:41PM
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onthebrinck(6 Central New Jersey)

I just bought a pair of Gators! I'll let you all know

Thanks for the advice

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 8:13PM
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Adding blades will put an additional load on the engine. A big part of the load created by blades is the bent up rear edge that creates the wind for discharging and lifting the grass. As an example....Once I put Snapper high lift blade "wings" on my Snapper walk behind and the engine could not even spin them up to normal speed because of the increased drag created by these additional wings. For your experiment, if adding additional blades, it might be wise to choose flat blades with little lift.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 12:06AM
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onthebrinck(6 Central New Jersey)

The Gator blades make a world of difference. I have increased the speed of the mowing and increased the width of the swath, all with no clumping. Thanks guys!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 4:57AM
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