Groundsmen, greenkeepers, councils, contractors, professional gardeners and conservationists all have different requirements when it comes to grass-cutting equipment. For some, the focus is always to mow fast and get the job done under budget. They are likely to opt for tractor-mounted and ride-on machines.
On the other hand, for those tending premium-quality fine turf, or mowing areas cluttered with obstacles, or for anyone with access and transport issues, the pedestrian mower will be at the heart of grass-cutting operations. But, of course, the best mower for any given job/site may change depending on the season, weather, conditions, fixtures and events. Thankfully, manufacturers continue to respond to this need for a wide variety of styles, sizes and power sources.
Even during the relatively dormant months, some grassed areas — notably pitches, greens and lawns — will still require mowing, albeit on a less regular basis. But at this time of year grass is less able to combat wear and takes longer to recover from play, and indeed from mowing. It is beneficial to look for ways to reduce stress while still maintaining the required mowing style.
One way is to increase the height of cut. Another is to use a lighter mower and those who would normally use a ride-on machine could perhaps consider walking.
"This is where a pedestrian unit, such as the ATT INFiNiSystem with SMARTCut cassette, comes into play," says Advanced Turf Technology (ATT) managing director John Coleman. "Hand cutting, as opposed to triplex mowing, reduces the lateral movement on the softer turf. It also provides the operator with much more discretion, making it possible to identify the areas of turf that are weaker and ‘lift back’ on the unit to avoid any unnecessary stress."
The system and the cassette are adjustable in a way that could reduce stress further. Both can be adjusted to alter the behind centre distance and the attitude angle of the bedknife. The eccentric on the bottom block, which holds the bedknife, allows a more or less aggressive position at point of cut. Moving the eccentric to allow the bedknife to come forward to a less aggressive position can also benefit the grass through periods of stress.
Concentrating on greens, Coleman continues: "Even during the normal growing season there is a strong case for mowing the ‘clean-up cut’ with a floating head walk-behind mower and slightly lifting the height of cut to reduce stress in this area. It is no coincidence that quite often the origin of disease-affected greens begins on the clean-up cut where stress on the plant is much higher. The cost of moving over to a pedestrian mower for this cut may be slightly more expensive than mowing with a triplex, but quite quickly it could be seen as a major cost-saving initiative if the cost of chemicals is factored in."
While ATT’s original 22in machine was aimed those tending greens, the arrival of the 26in version last year saw the firm targeting other fine-turf areas. This year ATT has upped the stakes again with the introduction of the 30in INFiNiSystem.
More than simply an elongated version of its smaller brothers, the 30in model boasts the same floating head mechanism that is independent of the traction drive, but overall ground pressure is now spread between three rollers. It can be driven either fully electrically via a single or double battery module or hybrid electric via an engine generator configuration. A full range of SMARTCut cassettes, tailored to sports turf maintenance, is available.
Rotary mowers may be the first choice for many users, including contractors and gardeners. This year sees no shortage of new models come to market. Lawnflite, distributed in the UK by Barrus, has introduced a new high-speed addition to its Pro range. The 553HRS-PROHS roller mower has a shaft-driven gear box, heavy-duty alloy deck, sealed roller bearings, strong handles, fan-assisted collection and blade brake clutch. But it is the high gear that makes it stand out. Top speed is 13 per cent faster than standard 553HRS models.
"Our new high-speed roller mower is a fantastic addition to our Lawnflite Pro range, helping users make short work of even the largest lawn," says Barrus marketing executive Yvonne Weaving.
More new rotaries were introduced last year by Makita, including a 190cc three-speed model with 51cm cutting width for lawns up to 2,000sq m. The PLM5113S with steel housing offers centralised five-step cutting height adjustment from 20mm to 75mm and benefits from an adjustable soft-grip handle as well as 28cm soft-profiled wheels. The three-in-one mower gives users the choice of side discharge, collection into a 65-litre catcher or mulching. Also new from Makita are 36V and twin 18V cordless mowers.
A new lightweight commercial rotary to come to market this year, the 54cm MG 756 YC sits in the Viking 7 Series lawnmower range from Stihl and boasts magnesium housing to reduce weight without compromising stability.
Power comes from a 2.9kW Kawasaki engine, while the hydrostatic gearbox provides the user with totally variable drive speed to accommodate differing lawn conditions and uncertain terrain.
Built for tough conditions the, 756 has steel side impact protectors, a solid rubber front bumper and thick rubber tyres with metal rims.
An innovative feature on this mower is the mono-handle control, positioned to aid removal and fitting of the 75-litre grass catcher. This model also has a blade brake clutch, so no need to kill the engine every time the box has to be emptied. Like the other current 7 Series models, it can also be fitted with a mulching kit, comprising special blade and mulch insert, for those occasions when collection is not required. Vibration levels for the mower have been recorded at 2.4m/s2.
A specialist groundsman mower introduced at IoG Saltex last autumn, the extra-wide 34in Allett RM34 Stadium Mower is designed not just for mowing but also for debris collection. It features twin, contra-rotating high-speed blades for a quality cut and central collection, creating a high vacuum for collection into a 90-litre grass bag.
Height adjustment between 15mm and 75mm provides an exact cut, while a five-speed gear selection gives precise control. It also has a full-width roller for striping, plus an optional fixed brush. Weight is 55kg, making it lighter than an Allett Buffalo cylinder mower. It caused quite a stir at its launch.
"Where has this product been? This is what we need. We’ve been waiting years for this," said Doncaster Rovers FC head groundsman Jim Davidson. Like other stadium groundsmen, he prefers to clean up straight after a match.
Another specialist machine launched at the end of 2014, and one ideal for those working in environmentally and noise-sensitive areas, the 56V EGO from EGO Power+ is said to have moved battery powered kit head-to-head with petrol machines. With a recharge-from-flat time of just 30 minutes, the 4.0Ah battery will provide up to 45 minutes of mowing and is part of a range of new gear that includes hedge and line trimmers, chainsaw and blower.
With one charge giving sufficient power to cut up to 800sq m of lawn, the 20in unit may well appeal to smaller heritage properties and garden maintenance teams working in residential areas. Having two batteries means one is ready by the time the other is used up. Low noise, vibration and an absence of operating emissions are further attractions.
A lot of work has gone into the EGO battery technology. As you would expect, they are lithium ion, but the cells in the three different sized batteries are configured in a patented arc shape to help keep them cool in operation and during charging. They are also surrounded by a phase change material to help dissipate heat and you should expect up to 1,500 charges.
"We describe EGO as having ‘power beyond belief’ and it really does have to be experienced to fully appreciate what we are saying," says EGO Europe marketing director Steve Roskell. "This is a direct challenge to petrol, electric and existing cordless garden products. We have rewritten the rule book."
The mower is a three-in-one machine offering users the choice of rear collection, side discharge or mulching. Retail price, including battery and fast charger, is £499 including VAT.
SCAG V-Ride: option to walk or ride
Last season one of the most popular mowers from STM Co was the SCAG V-Ride unit. But it has no seat. The V-Ride is classified as a "stand-on" mower. It has a plate at the back that can be lifted out of the way so the machine can be operated as a walk-behind or lowered so the operator can stand on it for a comfortable ride and clear view of the mowing. "Feedback has genuinely been positive about how successful this arrangement is in practice," says Dominic Mason, former sales manager and now new owner of STM. "The stand-on feature makes it less fatiguing for the operator on larger cut areas, backed up by the ease of manoeuvring a pedestrian machine for the more intricate areas in, say, cemeteries." The rotary machines are available with four cut-widths: 36in, 48in, 52in and 61in.