Q: We have an area of about three acres, a large part of which is planted with a collection of trees but where there are also obstacles including a small lake, stream and several benches.
We have been using a bat wing mower, although it is really too wide for many parts of the site and it would often spend most of its time with one wing in the raised position. The mower needs replacing this year and we have already had a demonstration of a zero-turn alternative.
This seems to be a good idea, given the number of turns that are required, but we found the machine difficult to control with the levers. Are there any zero-turning machines with steering wheels or do we have to settle for one that just turns as tightly as possible?
A: Zero-turning mowers are a great idea in situations where there are lots of obstacles in the way of the machine. They can zip down the straights at speed and zing round trees and posts.
Watching an experienced operator is a bit like watching a pinball game.
I understand what you say about the levers. A lot of people, and especially people who have been driving cars and other steering-wheeled machines for years, find it hard to adjust to using levers to control direction and speed at the same time. Funnily enough, there are two sets of people who have no problems with levers — youngsters who play a lot of computer games and former tank drivers.
Fortunately, there is at least one good zero-turner with a steering wheel on the market. Take a look at the Cub Cadets. There is a tank of a machine with levers but there are also a number of zero-turners in the range that come fitted with steering wheels instead.
If you would feel happier with one that is styled on a lawn tractor with a mid-mounted deck, then consider the Allrounder 50. It has a 50in cut and three-in-one option so you can discharge to the side, collect or mulch.
For a front-mounted alternative — one that perhaps best suits your replacement of a bat wing mower — I would suggest that you try the FMZ50SD. This model also has a 50in cutting width and both it and the Allrounder 50 are powered by 726cc Kawasaki engines.
The FMZ is a two-in-one machine with side discharge or mulch, but it has no collection facility.
It benefits, however, from a more commercial stance and has additional features, such as arm rests. The height of cut adjustment is from 25-114mm in 10 positions and there are three blades.