Multi-tasking mowers

Easy-to-use mower attachments provide a way to deliver more services more efficiently and profitably.

Attachments like this tow-behind plug aerator can help make faster work of larger, more wide-open areas.
Photo courtesy of Great Northern Equipment

There are a wide variety of lawn mower attachments available, from blowers, brooms and blades to sprayers, spreaders and stump cutters. For the typical lawn maintenance crew, a handful really stand out for their potential to deliver essential services more efficiently.

Increase off-season utility

Scott Hord, owner of Hord Landscapes in Campbellsville, Ky., began using a dethatching attachment last year. Yes, the implement does an excellent job of dethatching. But more importantly, it helps save a lot of time.

“We use the dethatcher with our zero-turn bagging mower, so everything gets sucked up as we go,” Hord says. Prior to purchasing the attachment, Hord used a dedicated walk-behind dethatcher. It did a fine job of dethatching but left a mess all over the lawn that the crew had to deal with later. That took a lot of extra time, not to mention fuel for the bagging mower.

Working with cool-season grasses down in central Kentucky, Hord says dethatching services are provided in both the spring and fall. He prefers the fall. “In the spring, dethatching has a tendency to open up sunlight and air to expose weeds,” Hord explains.

Another advantage of dethatching in the fall is that crews aren’t mowing as rigorously. Hord can set up one of his mowers with the dethatcher, which attaches to the front of the mower deck, and leave it there for the entire fall season. “The dethatcher also helps dislodge wet, matted-down leaves,” Hord adds. “Then our bagging mower can suck them right up with the thatch, leaving the lawn looking nice and clean with a lot less effort.”

Hord has realized one more benefit of switching from a dedicated dethatcher to an attachment. An attachment doesn’t have its own engine, and that means a lot less maintenance. “About the only maintenance you might end up having to do is replacing a spring that might break,” Hord says. Additionally, it’s important to make sure the casters and other key areas maintain proper lubrication as outlined in the owner’s manual.

Fran Meister, owner of Fran’s Mowing & Snow Removal in West Liberty, Ohio, has discovered another attachment that lends itself well to the fall season. He began using a Verti-Slicer with a seed box a couple of years ago to transform one of his zero-turn mowers into a fall overseeding workhorse.

“We like to use this attachment on our smaller properties,” Meister says. In the past, he used a 5-foot seeder that attached to the rear of a compact tractor. That obviously couldn’t work on smaller properties. For the smaller properties, Meister used a 24-inch walk-behind seeder. “It was a nice machine, but running it was very labor-intensive,” Meister says.

Meister now utilizes a zero-turn mower that can accommodate up to a 48-inch deck. He removes the deck and connects the 42-inch seeder, making this setup ideal for smaller to mid-size lawns. “It’s easy to attach to the mower and only takes about five minutes,” Meister says. “It’s also fairly easy to operate for someone who can already operate a zero-turn.” Application rate is set with a dial, and the agitation and depth are controlled via toggle switches.

Fran Meister attaches a 42-inch slicer seeder to his zero-turn mower to create a fall overseeding workhorse.
Photo courtesy of Fran’s Mowing & Snow Removal

Increase productivity during the growing season

Scott Hord attaches spray tanks to some of his zero-turn mowers so operators can spot spray as they mow.
Photo courtesy of Hord Landscapes

While overseeding is generally done in the fall, Meister sometimes uses his seeder attachment in the early spring when the grass is still dormant. This allows him to get a little more productivity out of a mower that would otherwise be sitting in the shop waiting for the grass to start growing.

Down in Georgia, Hal Pruitt utilizes his mowers to provide early season dethatching. He attaches his lightweight, 30-inch dethatcher to the rear of a zero-turn, and sometimes even the rear of a sulky on an intermediate walk mower if yard access is very narrow. Either way, the dethatcher does an efficient job of getting lawns prepped for the growing season.

“This has been a great tool when doing lawn renovations on smaller lawns,” says Pruitt, owner of Cumming Lawn Service in Cumming, Ga. “We’ll go in and scalp the grass as low as we can with a walk-behind bagging mower. Then we go through with the dethatcher to break up a lot of the thatch and surface-growing roots. Then we go back over it again with the bagging mower before aerating.”

On those smaller lawns, a standard walk-behind aerator is used. On larger, more open properties, Pruitt has found a 48-inch pull-behind drum aerator to be a big driver of efficiency. “We just make sure it has the same kind of tines as a walk-behind so we know it will pull out nice, big plugs,” Pruitt says.

Pruitt primarily uses the aerator attachment in the spring on bermuda and zoysia, and then again in the fall on fescue. Maintenance is minimal because there is no engine. “You just attach the aerator to the riding mower and fill the drum with water,” Pruitt explains. “We do need to make sure the point of connection remains lubricated, but that’s about it. Just from normal wear over time, a tine might break off at some point. You can usually weld one back on if you want. I just went ahead and bought a new aerator because my first one lasted 15 years.”

Back up in Ohio, Meister has found some additional attachments that help keep some of his other mowers busy all year.

On select properties that require rough-cut mowing or have steeper hills, Meister mows with a 4WD articulating tractor. To get more use out of it, he has purchased a handful of attachments — a landscape rake, aerator and stump grinder — to help deliver lawn care, tree care and installation services all year long. He has even purchased some snow removal attachments to tackle driveways and sidewalks during the winter months.

Renting these and other attachments is something Meister would like to do more often if he could.

“Our local dealer has retired, so our nearest dealer is now a couple hours away,” Meister says. “We’ve decided to purchase the attachments we currently have because renting really isn’t practical anymore. That’s OK because we get a lot of use out of them, and they improve our productivity.”

In Kentucky, Hord also uses a mower attachment to boost growing-season productivity. A chemical sprayer attaches to a zero-turn’s deck, enabling mower operators to double as lawn care technicians, so long as they’ve obtained the proper state licensing.

“It’s all about time management,” Hord says. “When we need to go mow a lawn, we already have our tank mix and sprayer on the trailer. All we need to do is connect the sprayer to the mower when we’re at the jobsite and we’re ready to go.”

Hord’s lawn care crews still use a dedicated stand-on sprayer for their primary treatments. The spot sprayer attachment simply gives maintenance crews an efficient tool to deliver targeted applications in between those primary lawn care visits.

“We’ve been using this setup for about three years now,” Hord says. “If a mower operator notices something that needs to be sprayed, he doesn’t have to jump off the mower to run get a sprayer. We use it a lot for spraying fence rows and gravel areas. It saves a lot of time.”

When it comes to using lawn mower attachments, most contractors will tell you it is largely about saving time. It’s also about saving money, simplifying preventive maintenance and increasing mower utilization. And most of all, it’s about delivering services better, faster and more inexpensively, which benefits both the landscape company and its customers.

May 2022
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