Is my reel mower causing this problem?

bster44July 6, 2009

I have cavalier zoysia in my front yard, and Tiff 419 in my back. I am using a McLane 10 blade mower. I'm currently cutting at 5/8". I had the mower tuned up and the blades sharpened in March. The first 3 months were fine, but now the tips of the blades are looking dry and split. The cavalier zoysia is much more noticible than the tiff.

Is this something the blades are causing?

Can this be a water issue?

We've had plenty of rain this spring here in DFW. I try to make sure to get 1" of water each week. Another issue is the zoysia is a much ligther green color that the bermuda. I don't want to over fertilize as I made the mistake last season and ended up with brown patch.

Below is the Tiff.

Here is a link that might be useful:

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bster44

This is the Cavalier Zoysia. Really noticeable spilt ends and the dry tops of grass makes the entire lawn look a dry green color.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 8:38PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

The mower is at least part of the problem. In relation to your mowing, when do you water? It could be the grass is sort of brittle before you mow.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 10:52PM
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bster44

I mow just about every 3 days. I've only been watering about once a week at the most. 1" to an 1 1/2" at a time.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2009 at 11:35PM
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reelfanatic

Your reel-to-bedknife clearance is out of adjustment, and your bedknife probably needs to be filed. Zoysia is very tough on reels and bedknifes. Try adjusting your reel/bedknife clearance and then back-lap. If that doesn't work, have the bedknife sharpened. You should not need a reel grinding unless you have run something over. Are you using the McLane putting greens mower with the diverter (finned) roller and the six wheels? If so, you may want to reduce your ground speed and or speed of the reel a bit. 10 blade or greater reels are more suited for creeping bentgrass or ultra-dwarf type Burmudas. It will still cut fine, just lower the reel speed a bit and you will get better results.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 6:31PM
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bster44

Thanks reelfanatic. I just have a regular 10 blade (not a greens mower). I have come to realize that the zoysia is taking a toll on the mower and it's costing me more to keep the mower in good enough shape just to be able to cut it. I have thought about going to a 7 blade. I'm not thrilled about having to service my current mower 3 times during every season.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2009 at 9:18PM
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auteck

It is the mower, those McLanes are notorious for that. My neighbor across the street has the same exact problem, but his mower is a 7 blade McLane - same Zoysia grass.

Get rid the mower if you can, if not, then follow Reelfanatic's advise.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2009 at 12:35AM
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bster44

Thanks auteck. So I guess you're saying I'm going to end up with the same issue even if I switch to a McLane 7 blade.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2009 at 8:25AM
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auteck

I'm sure a new McLane 7 or 10 blade will work well when new, then you might run into the same issue.

You mower can definatelly be repaired so it can mow like it did when it was new, but that will probably not last very long.

It is up to you, I would sell it and get a new one. I know the old John Deere putting green mowers work very well and for a long time with normal maintenance. I don't know how reliable the new John Deeres are, so research them if you like.

In the interim, you're better off mowing your Zoysia and Bermuda with a rotary type mower than with the malfuctioning McLane. Make sure the blade on the rotary mower is SHARP and don't mow too low either (1 1/2 to 2 inches for now will be ok)

Good luck and post some pictures after mowing with the rotary to see the difference.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2009 at 10:52AM
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reelfanatic

Bster44...If I were to give advice for heavy homeowner use, I would suggest Tru-Cut. I know these Reel mowers are not cheap, (any brand), and maintenance can be a pain, but I have owned them all.... McLane Greens Mower (still have it), California Trimmer, and a Jacobsen PGM 522. In my opinion, the Tru-Cut is far superior machine with engineering and build quality that comes very close to the 7000.00 Jacobsen Tees and Collar units. I have been using a new H-27 for two seasons now, and would never consider another brand. The McLane in my opinion while cost effective for a powered reel mower, is just not designed well. One of the biggest problems is actually keeping the frame square. It's just bolted together out of plate steel and once it gets out of alignment, the reel and bedknife never seem to mate properly again. No grease fittings, pita to adjust the cutting height, etc. I cant say they are worthless or anything, because I've held on to mine, but they don't inspire confidence.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2009 at 3:19PM
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bster44

reel...thanks for the advice. I'm just not ready to move on to a different mower right now. Mostly due to the costs. I found a new shop that I'm going to take the mower into next week to have it backlapped and the bed knife adjusted. I will then see how long the McLane holds up. I don't mind having to do yearly maintenance, but if it doesn't last a season, I'll eventualy move on to maybe something better. Maybe a Tru-Cut.

I just mowed again tonight. As you can see the picture below, the lawn looks pretty decent freshly cut and from a distance. However, tomorrow the chewed-up browned tips will make it look much lighter and almost a no-green appearance. I'm still the compliments, but I'm very anal about my lawn and I really don't want to go back to a rotary mower. I'm still new to this type of mowing, so I've got plenty of time to learn from my mistakes.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 10:00PM
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auteck

Nice lawn, but I see a fairy ring in there; did it happen over the winter?

My neighbor's Zoysia lawn is plagued by fairy rings, I think is due to thatch.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 12:45AM
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bster44

thanks auteck.....it was actually a tree there that we had removed in Feb. It's almost done filling in. I did have some fairy ring/brown patch in the spring. Luckily it has all cleared up.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 9:17AM
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reelfanatic

Nice striping Bster! I notice you do a clean-up lap around your stripes. Most posts I've seen here don't include the ever-important clean-up lap! If you can get intimate with your McLane and learn to adjust it and backlap it frequently, it will serve you well. For different reasons, they just tend to need almost weekly reel/bedknife adjustment. The reel will also wear down like a carrot..... Not even. I think your yard looks great. Just keep an eye on that diseased area this summer.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 5:09PM
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bster44

This is an recent photo after the mower was backlapped. It looks much better. We'll see how long the alignment of my Mclane lasts.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 10:11AM
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wrager(Z5 OH)

Nice...do you have the front roller or casters?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 7:30PM
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bster44

I have the roller.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 11:57PM
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trplay

I have the exact same problem with my 27" trucut with a front roller. I have finally given up and gone back to a rotary. The brown tinge just drove me crazy while the maintenance was too much and expensive. I maintain a half an acre and cut every day at times. The tru cut would be great for a smaller area that is flat but my yard kicks the Tru Cuts tail.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 10:08AM
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reelfanatic

I'm sorry to hear so many having trouble with their reel mowers. It takes a couple of seasons to really get comfortable with how they actually work quality of cut -wise.
@TRIPLE... I cant believe you are going back to rotary. You are the guy that posted pics of the striped front yard Bermuda, right? What happened?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 1:31PM
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trplay

The yard still looks good but I would like to keep it that way. The Tru-cut is out of wack and provides a crappy cut. I'll try to correct the problem but I just dont have the know-how. Already paid $165 this season for a tune-up. I can't keep that up. My reliable toro self propel simply requires one to keep the blades sharp, something I can do. Another problem with the Tru-Cut is the weight. It takes a long time after a rain before you can get it back on the turf and by then the bermuda has taken off.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 6:44PM
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bster44

Well, 5 weeks after getting it backlapped, the problem has returned. Any knowledge of how to adjust the reel and or bedknife to get them to tough again? When I spin reel by hand, there seems to be no contact. At least there is no noise.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 6:31PM
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reelfanatic

This weekend I will dust off the McLane and take a photo-tutorial for you. In the meantime if you follow the reel shafts to the outside frame of the mower, mixed among the jumble of frame bolts and height adjustment bolts there will be an aluminum colored plate with small "ears" on it. There should be two bolts maybe three along the outer edges of this plate. Loosen all of the bolts on both sides. Use a drift punch and small hammer to tap the ears forward. Left side of mower counterclockwise, right side clockwise. This will rotate the entire reel down against the bedknife. Tap both sides equally until you cannot spin the reel at all, then start gently tapping the other way (away from the bedknife). You want to be able to turn the reel FORWARD with a single finger but still hear or feel very slight contact. Then get a sheet of newspaper and cut it into strips. You want the paper to be cut cleanly......not pinched or torn along the ENTIRE length of the bedknife. Once you get it, tighten down carefully. You may have to secure the reel position with your hand while tightening. Once you do this a few times you will know exactly what a proper mating feels and sounds like. You may have to adjust every week or so depending on your mowing habits. Stay away from mower shops that claim they sharpen reel mowers unless that is all they deal with. None of them get it right.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 8:20PM
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bster44

Sorry, I meant to say touch.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 8:26PM
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reelfanatic

Also, @TriplePlay.... The procedure is the same for the Tru-Cut. The circular bearing retainer eccentric on the outside of the right frame with two holes in it for a spanner wrench is your adjustment point. You have to remove the chain guard to access the left side eccentric. Loosen the three cap bolts surrounding the circular retainer and use a drift punch in one of the holes for the spanner wrench. You can tap it with a punch much more accurately and finely than using the spanner wrench provided for the job. The wrench moves the reel around too much and you can not make minute adjustments.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 8:27PM
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wrager(Z5 OH)

Trplay-
I too have retired my Tru-Cut. It's just too heavy to use on my severe slopes (30+ degrees). I wind up chasing it down hill and pushing it up hill. The drive is just not sensitive enough to eliminate this. I can do better with my manual reel, because it weighs less than 20 lbs and I don't have a large front area to cut.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 9:16AM
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bster44

Thanks reel. I look forward to the pictures.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 9:40AM
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tsheehan7

reelfanatic, did you ever make a photo tutorial? I have a 25" Trimmer and I've read about this newspaper procedure many times, but I can't picture how it would work. Do you like the nexspaper strip down flat on the bedknife?

I've also read about the "cut one, skip one" test. Do you follow that or should every strip be cut?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 4:19PM
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