Ep.9 Mow Like A Pro Pt.2 - Mowing - Eric Beza (Acre Lawns & Gardens)

You're on the plants grow here podcast. I'm Daniel Fuller. Come along with me as we enter a hidden world of deep horticultural, ecological and landscape gardening knowledge with featured experts, industry professionals and enthusiasts. In the last episode, we spoke to my current boss for the last few years Eric Beza about whipper, snipping or brush guiding or edging, whatever you like to call it. Today, we're going to be speaking about mowing, which is the next step in the three part series on how to my locker Pro. Thanks for coming on again, Eric. When it comes to push mowing up domestic property, we got a few different options for the mowers we can use. Can you tell us a little bit about the difference between a mulcher a catcher and Assad throwing mower?
Yeah, look, we use all of those. What we mostly use is the is marching bows on the small lawns. You know, some people say that they are mulching but I think a lot of it depends on the machine because you can put a mulching plug in a catching mower. And it's not nearly as good as using a dedicated mulching mower, they just don't cope, you know, cutting more than 10 millimeters of grass off, they just start clogging up and don't cope with it at all. Whereas the dedicated mulching mower got a fixed bar blade, usually instead of like a swing back to a four blade system. And it does a really good job of chopping that grass up nice and fine, which also helps put some nitrogen helps that grass grow as long as it's not too tall and too thick, then you end up with a lot of debris on top of the lawn, the end, the side throwers, fantastic and usually come off our vehicles when when the grass is getting a bit too long. And you know, we'll stop the mulching males in their tracks. So that cleans the debris outside as quickly and as efficiently as possible to get through a difficult job. And the catching molars. Not a bad one to start with. But if you only had one of those, like I said they don't cope with the mulching quite as well. But you've got the versatility of some of them can throw with you, they have a shoot on the side or at the back. And then of course catching up. Which is very handy if you're sometimes close to a pool and that type of thing. But of course, it means that you've got some rubbish to remove if they don't have a garden bin. And some people don't like having the clippings in the bin smelling for a couple of weeks when the garbage come and pick them up. But yes, it's learning when's the best situation to use either those chains, but it's good to have all of them on board.
Yeah, I think my favorite to use is the mulching mower because, as you said, as long as you're just cutting less than a third of the height of it, it's feeding along with a bit of nitrogen, you know that green color in the leaf is indicating that there's nitrogen there, as well as some other nutrients, you know, you're going to get a broad spectrum. And also some of that all important organic matter in the form of carbon. So that's going to feed the soil microbes as well. But you were right. When you said that you need to be a little bit careful if the grass is a bit too long when you're mulching Can you tell us a little bit more about why that is? I mean, it looks fine, right, we've just mowed it, we've just mulched it, there's green clippings on the lawn, but you can't even see him because of the same color is alone.
Once it dries up, then stops, life stops moisture, it's like putting a tarp over the lawn, it'll it'll just die off underneath. And then if you come back to mow, you won't have much of a lawn underneath it after a while it'll you know, the little need repairing or overseeding or so, you know, a little bit can be tightened up and types fine. It's not noticeable. But if you have a lot in, you know, if it's not a vacant block that you just slashing to keep the council happy then probably really want to rake it up or catch it.
Cool. So look, let's say I've got a catching mower, but I really need to slash it. What's to stop me just strapping that back flap up using a bungee cord so that the bowl doesn't get too clogged up and we can get rid of some of that debris.
You can but it's probably not the best method with the work work health and safety. But that's where a side trauma would be a safer option for that. Because you're gonna have a lot of debris come out the back. You may be tempted to clear it in if it's starting to clog up and then your hands getting close to the things that shouldn't be close to it. So it's not advice, but you see a lot of people doing it. But
yeah, I mean, hopefully you don't hit a rock and it gets you in the body or in the face. Yeah, and your shins will know about it real quick.
I see if you're wearing shorts, I heard a story where you know someone was cutting their own lawn. They took the catcher off and had the flap held up by the other hand and a little bit of grass just sitting on the bar at the back of the mouth. I just went to flick it off and lost the first knuckle of their finger that was never seen again. Still missing.
All right, so we'll come back to health and safety a little bit more towards the end of the episode. But can you tell me a little bit about some of your favorite model brands?
Um, push end right on or just push mine?
Let's go with push miles for now but we'll do ride ons on another episode.
I worry. We currently the multi miles will Using a rover, some of the models we use are commercial. And sometimes we are using quite a domestic model only because it's just been the best fit or the best machine that we've found that that that mulches. So sometimes you don't have that luxury of saying, you know, we'll buy this model, it's the same job, but it's a bit heavier made and last a bit longer. But yeah, the Rover Rover, hi, Willa, Baltimore has been in really good. In the past, we're using MTD mulches, but they stopped making that one. We use some mess ports as a side thrower. And and also catcher and the Honda's, you know, always a good machine to so yeah, it's just depends, you know, it's, it's worth testing some machines, and then you kind of start locking a certain brand and stick to those. And also, you know, being consistent with the brands you use to help with later on, you might have a machine that's not working, but you can use parts of certain things. And also getting familiar with hip servicing and keeping them running well.
Yeah, you mentioned the rover mowers that we have, they have a Briggs and Stratton engine on them. They're just the best models, I love them so much. They got a dedicated mulching deck the balls real deep. So you can sort of fit a lot of grass in there and it doesn't get clogged up as easily. They're large enough for one person to lift them up over a ledge, you can adjust the hots on the front and back axle separately, which you wouldn't think that comes in handy all that often. But sometimes it actually really does, you've got a little side flap there that you can sort of pull it up and then attach a separate sod shoot on so you can turn it into a bit of a side thrower. I mean, it doesn't do quite as good a job at side throwing as a dedicated side throw. But it's still a good option to have, if you want to do a little bit of mulching and side throwing in a backyard, you can just sort of bring the sidebar attachment around with you and just attach it at the back yard. So you don't have to bring two miles around with you.
Yeah, yeah. And if it's dry, and it's nice grass, those side thrower options work quite well. That's just if things get a bit weedy and that it's not the perfect lawn, or it's a bit damp, you know, then they clog up pretty quickly. But it's a good option to have, especially the homeowner.
So how does moisture affect the cut, whether you start throwing mulching or catching?
Look, some jobs, we don't do some jobs, we know that, you know, we can do that job, still get a nice finish on it, it obviously makes it a longer job to do longer to clean up the mouse that the clog up, you need to clean up the mouse, you know, maybe even a couple of times just on one job. And you can then start to get you know, inconsistencies in the in the grass cut. Some bits might fall over and lay down and then you leave and then the other comes home and a couple of bits of standing up and doesn't look very good. So you've got to judge sometimes whether it's worth doing it or not. If you think you can do a good job or if not try to rearrange your schedule.
Yeah, right. So some loans, you can kind of get away with it. Some you can't. Sometimes that wet grass is going to kind of clump together sort of mashed together and dry together in a bit of a clump in that's going to be similar to that topping effect that you were talking about before.
Yeah, it looks sometimes you can blow that end and cleaned up nicely. If it's too much. You can't. Sometimes it pays just to do a quick rake up, and then blow afterwards to tidy it up. Yeah, after doing it for a little while, you'll learn what you should pick up and take away and what you can quickly blow down and look good.
Yeah, and because they're sort of clumped together in a bit of like glue, it's actually going to take even longer to break down. Because there's sort of less surface area than if they're all separate.
So last episode, we talked about whipping long grass, how do you go about mowing long grass, sometimes we might do it in several stages. And we'll slip first and then my but if you just want to try and get away with just mowing, I think putting a mower through it on the highest fitting possible. And then probably cutting it a couple of times, it stops the mower from struggling too much air, which is not good for your engine. And, you know, if you're trying to push it through with the final cut height, it's just gonna struggle. So I would cut it, even even with a rod on change as well cut it on pebble height or the highest fitting, and then come through and reduce it down again and then cut it again, you'll find that the plane copes better and you'll get a better result. If it's really long, sometimes the mower pushes it over and flattens it as you roll over the top and then it stands up a couple of days later. So yeah, not an easy task, but that high and then bring it down as you go.
Let's say we've got two customers, same property, same one same, basically all the same conditions. The first customer says I just want it done as cheaply as possible. And the second customer says I want it done correctly. I don't care what it costs. How do you approach these two different jobs?
Look, the cheap one, then the main option is speed. Getting through it quick as you can, you know, you might say, you know, you'd be cutting it really quite high like 10 centimeters or 15 centimeters high, and then living to the very day and you know if they're happy with that then long as you explain how it's going to look and in the situation And if you want it done as best as you can, you may brush cut first and rake up before you start mowing or if you just start mowing, you're cutting it Hi, first, you're probably gonna start want to get rid of that debris before you do the next cut. But either way, anything that's long is never gonna look great for quite a while you've lost that greenery out of the lawn, specially, you know, piku all the greenery is ending up in the taller sections of the grass to get sunlight. And then it's going to be quite yellow down below. So it's probably takes can take, you know, a month or two to actually bring up and look good again if it's warm, and it's got the rain as well.
Yeah, and that's if you have a really resilient grass like kakui I mean, not all grasses are as resilient as qognify.
If you've just got a fescue lawn or something like that, and you let it get that long, a lot of those lawns probably should be overseen See, maybe once a year, just picking looking good anyway. So you know those cool season grasses that self repair, where's the quirky lawn, you know, traded right, and it'll recover and come back and doesn't need feeding as often as a lot of the other lawns probably doesn't need as much maintenance. A lot of people think it's invasive and can take over your whole yard. Which is true if you haven't looked at the backyard for 12 months, but if you do, like maintain property, I think it's one of the best lawns for area down here.
Yep, I'm a big fan of caulk. I recommend it to everyone in Melbourne. I think it does a lot better down here than a buffalo such as so Walter does.
Just a little bit too cold down here. I think it's the yellows off too much. And I think it needs a lot more help. Regular feeding definitely. But it just goes really dormant and struggles to come back. You know, and it still needs a lot of water. We've got a hot dry summer. You know, they advertise resilient doesn't need much looking after, but I think I think they all do.
Yeah. In Queensland. I just love buffalo. So Walter, and also love blue coach. They just do great up there. I think caulk maybe sort of goes a little bit silly. I remember a few loans that we hadn't when I was working in Queensland, they just go absolutely mental. You just can't keep it down. But down south here. I think Cox just the best I love it looks great. It's always green, sort of a lot more resilient than the others. As we said, let's switch it up a little bit. Now I want to talk about cylinder mowers. They can be expensive. But what is a cylinder mower and how is it different from your regular push mower?
I personally haven't used a motorized cylinder mower but the cylinder is the blades kind of twisted into a cylinder motion. And the machine generally runs on rolls as well. It gives you the ability to cut a lawn very short. And is you say the more on Bowling Green. And I think in Perth there used quite a lot more as well. They've got the weather more for what your coach lawns. But yeah, I believe that you can cut something a lot neater and and shorter with those machines. So your coach is probably most ideal lawn. And you see them on golf course. Well, even the big broad on machines where they've got several cylinder mowers hooked up on the sides and the front of them to do the grains, but you need to cut very often, I think you want to be taking five or 10 mil off when you use one of those machines that go into a longer lawn. They wouldn't go very well. So therefore you're really meticulous, flat manicured lawns.
Yeah, right. And footy ovals.
Yes. Yep.
You just got to get those lines in the lawn a bit nicer than you can get with a normal push mower.
Yeah, cuz they're rolling as well. So it's folding, you know, giving you an angle of glide, as you come back and forth. Yeah,
I mean, they're pretty huge investment. If you think it's worth it, you might want to go for it. But for me, I think the push mower was great. I think they look awesome when you finish and you still can get a bit of the lines and just not quite as much. I just don't think that for most people who are doing their own push loans. It's just not gonna probably be worth it for him.
You can get us down tomorrow. That's the 100% push, you know, with no engine, but that's hard work. And you'd want to do it every second day in summer.
Yeah, in Melbourne, I don't think most of us are really doing that.
Now. That's right.
So as I said, You can't even get some of those lines in the lawn with a normal push mower. And that depends on how you work away ran along. So a few different ways you can do that, whether that's spiraling or going back and forth. How do you recommend making your way around alone with a pushy ideally, if
you're by yourself and you've it's the lawn To start with, I would also check for some of the berries, like I said, do a bit of a blow if you wanted to put some of the leaves on the lawn before you mow it. But generally I would do one to two laps of the lawn that you're doing and then start dropping by going back and forth. So that way the two laps, get the edges of everything nicely and gives you enough room to move and turn around. And that gives you the nice look. It also depends if that's a nice regular cut. That's something that's easily done. If it's a job that's not done very often. Not the best way to do it because when you're going back and forth, that means sometimes the grass is kind of cut a couple of times especially if you're doing a ride on or side throw, the clippings are coming out and it needs to be done very regularly so that it's easy for the machine to cope with that. If it's getting a little bit longer. I might go around anti clockwise so that the lawn is coming out the side and you're not cutting it over again after it's been cut. If he did that, it would just keep piling up on the inside at all. blockchain would end up not coping and struggling to operate.
That's it. As you say, if you're constantly pushing into the middle get cutting those blades of grass every single lap. So yeah, maybe just try and use your noggin a little bit. And, yeah. Rado, let's talk about the length, we should be cutting out. Some people love to absolutely scalp their lawn, or grass tops to have their preferences. But what's your recommendations when it comes to the height you should be cutting out,
I find that nearly getting rid of all the grass giving more opportunity for weeds to grow. And I believe that if you give the grass a good length, like if you're talking summer grasses, aka your Buffalo, you know, five centimeters minimum, if you're living a decent amount of plant above the ground, I believe you're getting a better established root system as well. And you know, you're kind of shade out some of those weed issues from coming through the lawn. But yeah, definitely, we don't cut any lawns super short. I mean, a lot of the modern machines now don't even cut really short, unless you're talking about some of the most, some of the catches still do. But if you buy a mulching mower, you'll find it that just doesn't go down to those pipes that you might have mowed when someone was mowing that you know, 3040 years ago, that was the thing.
Yeah, a bit old fashioned to be cutting the lawn like that. And I think it looks pretty ugly. When you can see all the bumps and humps on the lawn, you know, sort of like, if you got a misshapen head, and you just go ahead and shave it. And also you're training the grass where the leaves don't really get much of a chance. And the rosin is just getting really thick and ugly, you can just see a letter rosins more than you can the leaves and get gives the weeds more of a chance to pop up. So they sort of have an advantage over the grass in some circumstances like that. And soon as the heat comes in,
it burns the grass off as well. This hasn't got any backup, there's no moisture doesn't make it very tolerant to the heat.
No, and it's not very aesthetically pleasing either. How often do you recommend people cut their lawns in Melbourne,
we have a lot of lawns cut, probably every two weeks when spring and summer come into it. If you needed to average it would probably be three weekly. So you know, if somebody had a body corporate and they wanted to work out a yearly price, you could probably comfortably say that 17 cuts a year might be the average cut. So some properties might vary from two weeks to three or four weeks. But if I had to pick an average would be two to three weeks.
Yeah, like you say, there's not a one size fits all answer for that. Is there? I mean, it depends on how much shade you're getting the grass type how much moisture, it gets a lot of things like that.
Exactly, yep.
So earlier we talked about sometimes you finished a lawn, and then bits are sticking back up after you've looked over it. Sometimes they stick up immediately after you finish mowing. And sometimes they take a little bit of time to stand up after he sort of left the property. Maybe they just been pressed down by the wheels and then pop up later. Can you talk a little bit about Mohawks and how important it is to check over your work before you leave the property.
Mohawks is sometimes if you maybe don't overlap the mower quite enough, if you try to go too close to the edge of your last cup, you know, maybe save a little bit of time, but then you might not just be cutting every little bit as well as it should be. Or sometimes if it's a bit damp, the wheel can maybe flatten the section before it's cut. And then that's what might stand up later on. But when you're blowing or cleaning up the property at the end of the job, that's the opportunity to have a look of your work. Sometimes you might miss brush cutting around the clothesline or something like that. But it's also to have a look at the lawn looks not just blowing the past and the edges. You go over the lawn in case the little clump or two or a couple leaves in, blow off and just make sure it's looking its best. And and probably a good idea is not always to pack up all your tools or your blow at the end because you've missed something. Or sitting there ready to go. Yep, been there. Especially on a big block. Yes,
it's devastating when you sort of sit in there the you're fueling up waiting for your co worker to come back and you know, join you. And then he comes back with the block. And he says, look, mate, I'm sorry, you need to go back around there because you've missed a big patch. So look, let's say we've had a successful week of mowing, we've done a lot of catch mowing, we've got a lot of, you know, leaf debris and grass clippings that we've caught taken off our customers properties. What do we do with all of this waste? Now? Do we give it to our neighbors? Do we burn it? Do we make a compost pile? What
do we do with we've got an account with transportation. So a recycle tip that separates the the grain waste and the hard waste. So we we have a trailer that's designed for a lot of our tools and also that green waste removal. So you know we pending on the gardening jobs as well and the mowing jobs but we might be going to the tip a couple of times a week or once a week to get rid of all that green waste. You need to kind of factor that in in your job as well. And that's where mulching saves a bit of time and money as well. We'd have to charge more if we were catching all of our lawns as a lot of time and rubbish to the job.
Yeah, and it sounds like a good idea like Oh, just make a compost pile but sometimes it's not quite as simple as that, especially when you're doing a lot of gardening jobs too. And all that waste is sort of mixed in together because you've got some of those branches don't necessarily mulch quite as well unless you cut them up really small and that can be quite tough. Consuming.
Mm hmm. That's right. Doesn't take much to put a few larger branches and twigs, another compost pile and it's sitting there for a year before. That's the breakdown.
So tell us a little bit about the mower blades. How do we know when they need replacing or sharpening.
The most important thing is the flutes especially on a mulching or even a catching Mar. If they start wearing off, it prevents it from mulching properly, or even filling the catcher checking the sharpness of the blades to it's probably best to have your mouth shop do that. It depends how good you are with the tools in your workshop. But you need to make sure you're you're safe doing that as well. If you're using angle grinders or bench grinders, that look, you can often notice in the cut pretty quickly if you've been doing it for quite a while. But blades are pretty important. probably good to have a few, you know, sets of blades sitting there ready to go. So you can just quickly change them over if you need to.
So a couple of questions come up now. Can you tell us a little bit about what you're talking about when you say the flutes and how would we go about replacing the MOLLE blades
on a on a push mower? Yeah, just a push mower. Yep. And the flutes are on the curve at the back of the blade. And it is designed to create velocity into the deck. So that helps filling the catcher and pushing the grass root of the catcher. And if you're side throwing, it's what's propelling the grass out through the side chute. And if you're mulching, sometimes they have a slightly different design blade with a bit of a twist in it. It's designed to kind of rotate the grass inside the deck and the deck on a mulching most often the kind of like a doughnut shape. So it can kind of circulate inside and get chopped multiple times. So yeah, the flute is that starting to wear off? It's kind of like having a flat blade. And it's good to cut but not to kind of get rid of the grass. And if you're not getting rid of the grass, you're going to be clogging up and not operating very well.
Yeah, it's big gutless with that that fanning effect. Yeah,
yeah. And changing the blades. It's probably best if you're lifting up a push mower to maybe take off the lead on the on the spark plugs. So if you do rotate the blade or anything, there's no chance but starting up, but having someone hold the mower or shocking the mower up and a mulching blade is a little bit easier. I've got one bolt in the center, which then can change the blade in clean underneath there as well. And make sure there's no cord lines, like we spoke about wrapped up around the blade section. The catching mower is one bolt often in the center, and then the whole disk comes off. And then you can work on that on your bench and might have two or four bolts that come off to change the blades that swing so that swing action actually is a bit of a safety thing. So if you do hit rocks or something not damaging the blade so much. If you hit a rock or something hard with a mulching mower and a straight bar blade, you'll most often bend the blade, and you can damage the actual shaft going into the engine as well. Oh, it's false and against for both setups. Yeah, great
advice. Look, is mowing something that's completely safe for their effuse hazards we need to look out for,
oh, there's definitely plenty of hazards you have to you have to be sensible, you know, first thing not putting your hands near any any moving components. But you can do quite a bit of damage in the yard as well. If you've got hidden objects in your lawn, or, you know, like we mentioned pipes as well that you might notice or water made a tap or it's often hidden in the grass, it's a good idea to check where that is when you get to a property you haven't been to. And then just the safety thing as well as you know, anything can come up for the mower. And even if you do have the safety flaps and the guards and things on that's gotta be careful, because that doesn't prevent every little accident from happening.
Yeah, so there are a few sort of guards and things like that. Like for example, on the catcher mark, there's going to be a back flap. Just keep that back flap down. Don't strap it up. It's just asking for trouble. And when you're using the side throw just keep that side throw attachment on. So it's throwing out not up. But let's talk about pp. What sort of PP Do
we need to wear when we push mowing? still kept boots is always recommended. Probably long heavy cotton pads, garden gardening, parents with a heavy material gloves, safety glasses, and, and sunscreens always going to help as well.
Yeah, so keep an eye out for those sticks and stones as well. And then watch over your work and make sure what you've done looks good as well. Well, have you got any other tips and tricks for push mowing that people probably don't know yet.
Like all of our tools, I think where you buy it's important as well you know, there's going to be a point where you might need some help or you need a bit of a repair or sometimes that local shops might cost a little bit more but they give you a much better help and support when when things go wrong and you need to get that grass cut for your visitors come over.
All right, so that's this episode on push mowing done. Thanks for coming on Eric and everybody. Stay tuned for the next installment which is going to be about cleaning up after you've mined and a few other bits and pieces such as the different fields we have to use. There are links in the show notes to the acorns, website and Facebook, as well as to a few articles that I've written including with mobe blow and go head and mo like a pro. Start a lawn mowing business. Start a lawn mowing business as a teenager and Start a lawn mowing business on the side without money.

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