I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. I want to post some pictures of my equipment, machines and tools I use for having the best lawn and landscape in the world. And, maybe at some point, you will post or send me pictures of your stuff. Do you have a special tool or piece of equipment you want to show off? Email me at:
Explain what it is. Get as detailed as you want. And, tell us why you love it so much…or maybe why you hate it.
My first love is my tractor. I have 4 implements I tow behind it (I will get in to those later). Many of my friends know the story behind my tractor. When I first bought it, I told my wife it was a surprise birthday gift for her. I brought her out to the shed so she could see what I got her. That joke did not go over well. There was an actual gift so I lived to tell about it. But, this tractor has been a BIG help and is an awesome piece of equipment. In May of 2016 she will be 6 years old (the tractor, not my wife). She has a little over 200 hours on it (again, talking about the tractor). My wife now says that she is so nice because she lets me ride “her tractor” to mow the lawn any time I like.
The tractor is a John Deere, X300, with a 42inch/107cm (“Edge Extra” Cutting System) mower deck. She has a dry weight of 704 pounds and is powered by an 18.5 horsepower iTorque Power System; V-Twin, air cooled engine, that is 36.8 cu in./603 cc. The transmission is a Twin Touch hydrostatic, K-46. The electric system is 15 amps and requires a battery with 340 cold crank amps. The fuel tank holds 3.3 U.S. gal/12.5 L. And, she has an incredible, mind blowing, top speed of 5.5 mph/8.9 km/h.
Brand new, this mower costs about $3,000.00 to $3,500.00. I estimate the current value of my mower about $2,700.00. These mowers retain their value well.
Here’s a few pics of this work horse:
As you can see, I added some features to this tractor. Besides the flames, the hub caps, the camouflage seat cover and the skull & crossbones; she has some additions that are quite important.
The first addition you really cannot see. It is the mulching kit. The kit comes with a plug or a block that covers the side discharge chute. And it comes with two mulching blades.
So, every time I switch out the blades, I use the “mulching” blades, not the “side discharge” blades or the “rear discharge” blades.
(Rear discharge blades are for when you have one of those bagging devices mounted on the rear of the tractor and the clippings are shot up a tube from the side of the deck into the bags in the back.)
The mulching attachment was easy to install and cost a little over $100.00. Here’s a pic of what it looks like with the mulching attachment installed, a view from the bottom of the deck:
Another good idea was to install the “Front Brush Guard”. This thing is pretty strong. It has come in contact with my trees, my fence, my fence posts, my house – everything. The hood of the tractor is some fairly light weight plastic/fiberglass. The first time the front of my tractor would have come in contact with anything listed above, it would have destroyed the hood. A new hood costs @ $580.00. The brush guard costs @ $130.00. Here’s a picture of the front brush guard:
Safety dictates that you always walk your turf area before you mow. You want to make sure you identify and remove anything that you don’t want your mower to hit or go over – sticks, stones; any sort of debris. Some things in the turf area can either cause damage to the mower or be propelled some ways away – hitting a vehicle, a glass window, of maybe even a person. Sometimes I miss things in the turf area and I do not want to shut down mowing operations by having to walk to the trash can with items all the time. So, if I see something, I just shut down the moving blades, put the mower’s parking brake on, go fetch whatever I see in the turf area, put it in the cargo bucket mounted on the rear of the tractor, and then drive on with the mission. This bucket is also good for holding shears, gloves, shovels – any other tools or gear you may need while you are running around the property. Besides, it looks cool. That was @ $40.00. Here’s a picture of one up close:
My next topic was gonna be about maintenance. But, before I get into that, here’s a picture of one of my Turfgrass Warriors in Arlington, VA. This is Rick. Rick is a very special TURFGRASS WARRIOR because he uses a self-propelled (No Engine!), reel mower. Most of us are familiar with a “rotary” mower that is powered by a gas engine (some are electric). On a rotary mower, the blade rotates parallel to the ground like a helicopter. It cuts the grass by impact. Sometimes (especially if your blade is not real sharp) the grass can be torn or shredded. With a reel mower, the bands of blades are rotated perpendicular to the ground and the grass leaves are cut like using scissors. Reel mowers (powered ones) are what is used on golf courses and other high quality sports turf areas. Reel mowers like Eric’s are quiet, cut very well, and do not emit pollution. Reel mowers are also cheap, easy to maintain and provide excellent PT (Physical Training). Rick’s yard is maybe 4 to 5 thousand square feet. That’s real good PT. (Maybe I should say “REEL” good PT.) Rick, you are my hero.
Okay. Now back to maintenance. If you have spent any amount of money on your tools and/or equipment, you need to keep those things maintained. Especially if you’ve gone out and spent a few thousand dollars on a large mower. I told you how much I paid for my tractor. Some real high end mowers can be upwards to 8 or 10 thousand dollars. The commercial mowers cost even more. Even a pair of manual hedge trimmers need to be serviced; sharpened, lubed, etc.
My mower has a digital display that shows the number of hours it has run. Most equipment like this does not have an odometer. And, just like your automobile, there is a service schedule. Always read the owner’s manual!
My X300 has lubrication intervals every 50 hours – that’s basically injecting the grease fittings with a grease gun. Those are around the bigger moving parts – steering assemblies, mower spindles, foot pedals. Of course, I use authorized John Deere grease. The tractor also has a service every 100 hours or annually. That service includes: change engine oil and filter, replace spark plugs, replace air filter elements (it has 2 elements, a foam pre-filter and a paper cartridge primary filter), replace fuel filter, clean engine cooling fins, check mower belt, sharpen / replace blades, clean bottom side of deck, check tire pressure. And then, there is a service every 200 hours. That’s when the valve clearance has to be checked or adjusted.
I do all my annual/100 hour maintenance after my last cut of the season in the late fall, before I store the tractor for the winter. I’ve posted a picture here of the maintenance kit that I purchase every year. It is the “LG256” kit and costs about 48 dollars (without shipping). So, every fall, I not only service the mower, I clean it real well, take the battery out of it (bring that inside the house) and put a cover on it. Even though the tractor stays in a shed, I still cover it. I’ve also got a picture of my mower with the cover on.
This is the home maintenance kit.
Here are some pics of the tractor cover I use in the winter.
There are two more facets to my winter storage routine. I put in the fuel tank a few ounces of fuel stabilizer, then I fill the fuel tank as full as I can get it. I run that fuel stabilizer through the engine for about 5 to 10 minutes. Also, when I pull the two mower blades off of it, I keep those blades off during storage. I put the sharp blades back on in the spring. So, in the spring I’m fairly ready to go. Pull off the cover. I put the battery back in, install fresh (SHARP) blades and I’m ready to go.
Let’s talk about blades. I cannot stress enough the importance of having sharp blades. And replacing blades yourself is a critical operation. Whether you have a rotary mower or a reel mower, sharp blades are very important. Some turfgrass warriors sharpen their own blades, or they have the blades sharpened by someone else. Whether you sharpen them or someone else does, you or the other guy really need to know how to do it properly. If too much blade material is shaved off on one end, the blades can be out of balance. Out of balance blades can damage equipment or be a safety hazard to personnel.
Balancing mower blades on your own is not rocket science, but, again, you really need to know what you are doing. To balance the blade, sharpen it first. Many turfgrass warriors have good luck just hanging the blade from a horizontal nail sticking out of the wall of the shed or garage. Put the blade on the nail through the center spindle hole and watch the heavy end drop. Remove material from the heavy end until the blade hangs level. For 5 bucks you can buy a blade balancer which consists of a vertical nail that a cone rests on. Your blade sits on the cone as you watch the heavy end drop. Here’s a picture of a good 5 dollar balancer.
Here’s my solution: I buy new mower blades for each mowing season (spring and fall in this region). I take the old blades and throw them in the recycle bin. New blades (a set – my mower takes 2 blades) cost about 48 bucks a piece (without shipping). The set of new blades comes with fastener nuts and even some written instructions. Here’s a picture of my blades when they come out of the box:
Some final “safety” thoughts on blade replacement. New or re-sharpened blades can be dangerous. They can be VERY sharp. I always wear some good thick leather gloves when handling the blades. Before you do anything, disconnect the spark plugs! Because while you are underneath, you don’t want the mower to start!
I can loosen the mounting hardware with a socket and a long “breaker bar”. You will need leverage. You do not necessarily need an impact wrench. Do not lube the spindle or the nut. On my mower there are two “cupped” washers. I put those back between the blade and the nut – with the cupped side facing up. Here’s a “breaker bar”:
Another good tool to have is a “mower blade holder”. You have to get the mower blades to hold still when you are installing or removing the blades. Some say shove a block of wood in there. That is a good “field expedient” method, but it never worked well for me. A blade holder costs about 10 bucks. Here’s 3 pictures of one:
Now, above, I mentioned the valve clearance. That maintenance activity is a little beyond my capability. So, I get the local dealer involved. There are two dealers in my vicinity. One in Maryland will come pick up your tractor and take it back to their shop. Unfortunately, that takes a long time in my opinion – and you are without your tractor for that period. A different dealer in Virginia will come to your house and do the maintenance right there, on the spot. It is not cheap. But when you need an expert for something, you sometimes gotta suck it up. Here are some pics of the maintenance guy doing the maintenance on my tractor in my front yard/driveway. They have some real cool trucks, completely outfitted w/ welders, lifts, cranes, generators, spare parts – everything. These pictures are when he did the valve clearance about a year and a half ago. I had him do all the fall service I usually do myself. I figured – why not – he’s here anyway. But, I did hand him my LG256 kit I had. Saved some money on parts. Afterward, I just drove the tractor into the shed and got her ready for winter storage.
That's about it for now. I'm still waiting for you all to send me pictures of your stuff.