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John Deere Zero Turn and mulching

I have started a number of threads about Zero turn mowers. I have now decided to go for a John Deere Z530M, with the mulching kit. I have read a nukber of posts on here stating that mulching is the way to go. I'm not convinced but this may well be naivety on my part. I am aware that in order for mulching to be successful, the grass needs to be kept short. If I cut long grass (5" down to 2.5") and go over it again with the mulcher, will this mulch the grass to the point that the customer won't see it? I seem to recall reading previous questions about grass collection and Vic and others have suggested Mulching. Based on the height I've suggested, is this feasible. Thanks

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    1. James, we run Toro mulchers on all of our comnercial  and large domestics and have done for the last 40 years. Can't comment on the John Deere, the Toro's differ from other makes as they have kicker plates around the inside of the deck which the grass is continually smashed against and they do leave a better finish than other makes we have tried. The Toro Titan is a beast of a machine, worth a look?
    2. I'm assuming that when you say to mow from 5inch to 2.5 that you are discharging and then propose to mulch the arisings, it will work to a point but the finish won't be great.
    3. There is a limit to how much grass that a mulching deck will cope with in one pass, think about how mulching works, the grass has to remain in the deck long enough for the blades to pulverise it and force it down into the sward to hide it. If it is not broken up into small pieces it will remain as a trail of grass on the surface. So it's a combination of forward speed and height of cut that dictates the finish and to some extent the power available from the engine to keep the rpm of the blades at maximum, once the blade speed drops so does the grass out of the deck!
    4. We have no option other than to mulch on our sites due to size, weekly cuts are manageable leaving a collected look finish, the fortnightly jobs can be challenging to leave a good finish when the grass is growing quickly and will often require two passes, we will often adapt frequency of cuts to growing conditions regardless of specification IE spec says every 14 days we will shorten this to say 10 days. To summarise - get the right machine with plenty of power, don't try to take too much off in one pass and don't try to go too fast. With experience you will be able to make a tidy job, hope that helps.
    5. Update ! Just looked at the specs of the JD and the Titan and yes am biased towards Toro as they have given us superb reliable service over a long time and the Toro is 20% more powerful and has a higher spec and seems to be £1k cheaper?
    • Thanks, Peter. I really appreciate the time you've taken to write such a detailed and informative answer. It makes perfect sense of running two pases, cutting a short length each time. As for Toro, I'm not against them at all. The issue I have is that there is not a dealer near by. The John Deare dealership is 10 minutes down the road and I can just pop in there if any issues occur. Ferris is 20  minutes down the road. I trialled the Ferris 400S the other day. It wasn't for me. Too small and slow. I'm waiting on a quote, but, looking online, appear more expensive than the John Deere Z530M. From the Specs quoted, which Toro model are you referring to?

      • James, you're welcome , referring to the Toro Titan with 48 inch deck , think that's122 cm ? It also has 25hp Kohler engine which we've found unburstable. Perhaps we've been lucky but never needed dealer support ( tempting fate)! We carry spare belts, mulching is hard on belts ! Belts will generally do two seasons and blades the same providing you are not mowing rough ground and deck hangers last about two years. All these consumables are available online from numerous suppliers so unless you are very unlucky I would not let the lack of a local dealer put you off the Titan, zero turns seem to be reliable generally regardless of.make. Go and have a look at one whilst things are quiet, it"s a big decision . As I've said we are big Toro fans and speak from actual use and experience. Be interested to hear what you decide on.

        Oh and if finish is important remember the Toro has the kicker plates the other makes don't.

  • PRO

    James - 5" to 2.5" is brutal on the machine and the finish will be awful. Trust me. We run a Kubota zero trun on a couple of contracts and even with our tweaks to it and two passes, if its damp, mid summer fortnightly cut finish can still be a bit less than perfect.

  • PRO

    We've had ARIENS for a number years with no problems apart from changing belts which I'd expect 

    and cheaper than JD

  • I have a John Deere Z535m with the mulching kit. The mulching kit comprises all the extra internal deck baffles and blades. [I also run a Stiga PWX740 with a Combi 100 mulching deck]

    My John Deere has done six years of contracting so far. I have just in the last couple of days been servicing it. They are very easy to work on and are very strong and reliable machines.

    I have been mulching for about 16 years now. Mostly, but certainly not always, two passes are required for a perfect finish.[I have one large commercial site where one pass produces a perfect finish, it’s all down to the grass and soil types]. Both passes would be mulching runs and definitely not side discharge on the first pass. Mulching is much easier on shorter and ‘cut more often’ grass. Having said that, I mow some jobs which are every three weeks.

    All work is different of course, for example, mowing an old churchyard which is only 11 cuts per year is never going to look like a bowling green. Whilst the mulching is not absolutely perfect, it is a million miles better than cut and drop. Also you would never cope with grass collection on a job like this. There would be many trailer loads of grass clippings to dispose of, with all the handling time involved.

    But most of the time on most work, mulching leaves no visible clippings whatsoever.

    In many ways, the higher the cut the easier the mulching as there is far more camouflage for the clippings.

    I think you will be asking yourself why you didn’t start mulching years ago. I asked myself that question.

    This is the churchyard I mentioned above - 11 cuts per year. Please note that the strimmer man hadn’t yet been when I took the picture.12373244069?profile=RESIZE_930x

  • Not sure where you are in the Country James , but  as a Stocking  dealer of John Deere , Toro and Ariens ( Northamptonshire)  - the Toro will give the best finish and lowest cut - followed by Ariens Zenith as great value and build quality .Take a look at the Z- Master range - ( next level up from Titan 7 gauge deck ! ) There is also new Titan 60" coming in March . 

    also the Toro Grandstands have been extremely popular - no need for trailer ! 

    if we can help give us a shout..

  • When I bought the John Deere, I also looked at Ariens and spoke to the Ariens dealer.

    Two things put me off the Ariens. The dealer I have traded with for many years and with whom I have a really good relationship expressed negativity about the Ariens [by the way, they could sell me an Ariens themselves and the John Deere came from a different dealer – so no commercial bias, just good advice].

    Another Ariens dealer who kept calling me [over many weeks] with an ever lower price for the one he had in stock [he was obviously very keen to sell it] , advised me to buy a spare main drive belt at the same time as buying the new Ariens. So I thought any machine that the selling dealer advises buying spares for at the same time as buying the mower, was probably best avoided.

    The John Deere has proved to be reliable, strong, and highly capable and mows beautifully.

    This was a critical point for me - I bought the John Deere also because it can mow at 8.5 mph, faster than almost anything comparable at the time and I had some large playing fields to mow.

    See the above picture in the Churchyard. What can’t speak can’t lie.

    • I really appreciate everyone's advice. I have finally taken the plunge and have gone for the John Deere Z530M. I did look at the 545R but to be honest, apart from fuel injection and slightly better parts, there iwas little difference. Not enough to justify an extra 2K. I was considering a Ferris and the local company kindly brought one out for demo. I didn't find it particularly confortable but as the dealer said, it needed to be set up for me. After the Demo, I went to my local John Deere dealership and sat on the Z515 straight away, it felt so much more comfortable and stronger. I'm hoping the 530 will be even more comfortable with the higher seat. I will be taking delivery in 4 weeks time and look forward to using it. I am fascinated by the mulching and can't wait to see the end result. 

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