In pursuit of a quality lawn finish

If you want to achieve a beautiful finish, and a clean lawn you’ll want to collect your grass clippings. Collection can apply to leaves as well as grass which offers another positive solution during autumn when the leaf fall can become unmanageable.  A word to the wise though – effective leaf sucking requires a lot of air draft so make sure the mower you are looking at purchasing is up to the job!

A lot goes into the design of a ride on mower to make it successful at collecting.  The three main considerations are 1) Cutting Deck, 2) Collection System, and 3) Deck Placement.  Grillo takes design, engineering and testing very seriously, and the result is their FD (Front Deck) range of grass collection  ride on mowers which collect grass beautifully minimising blocking frustrations and leaving a quality finish on your lawn.

The Cutting Deck

Successful collection begins with the cutting deck. If you take a look on the underside of a cutting deck you’ll see that the deck is designed to direct the grass into the collection system.

It’s hard to tell without experience but a well designed deck will reduce and try to eliminate areas within the deck where cut grass can build up and block the main pathway to the bin. This can be a problem in the baffle area – which is the area that conducts the grass out of the deck.  Grillo have reduced corners and have streamlined their design thereby improving the flow of grass into the bin.

Collection systems are powered by moving air. The moving air has to come either from a mechanical impellor blowing the grass or by the draft that the blades create. The impellor or blower is great when it’s working in harmony with a well designed collection system. When it’s not - it becomes another potential blocking hazard, as well as another part to factor in parts and servicing costs. The blade design plays a big part in the effectiveness of the mower deck.  Blade draft is a much simpler solution but it’s also effective. What it hinges on is air flow.  Blades with higher 'up stands' on their tips will create this, and when coupled with the right shaped deck will make collection a breeze.

Of course Grillo produces two grass pick up machines which share these attributes.

 The FD220 is unique as the cutting deck has a single blade system with very high up-stands.  These blades produce a very high airflow which forces the grass up through the side tube and into the bin.

The FD280 and FD450 models have a
three bladed cutting system with direct rear collection.  Grass collection also operates without the need for fans or an impeller, reducing potential problems.  Two of the three blades counter rotate and create an airflow which directs the grass through the rear center chute straight into the grass bin.  The third blade cuts the uncut grass and assists by helping to create more airflow.

The engine is the next big consideration. A common mistake other manufacturers make is to use engines that create excessive horsepower. This is purely for marketing purposes.  High quality decks are designed to get the most out of lower power ratio to blade speed - and deck width impacts this as it controls the size of the blades and how much grass is being cut. The equation for successful collection is not how much power you have but what you do with what you’ve got. Decks engineered to maximize power to blade speed will do a better, faster job because they are being used efficiently. Decks that aren’t specialized like this will suffer blocking problems and poorer finishes.  

In terms of horsepower….biggest isn’t always best. You have to look at the system as a whole. If a ride on mower blocks it won’t be fixed by more horsepower or a bigger blower. You have to consider the shape and design of the deck, the blades and also…..the collection system.

Collection Systems

There are two main types of collection systems.

Rear collection forces the grass directly from the rear of the deck straight through the machine to the grass catcher (Grillo FD280). The blade design features counter-rotating blades that helps transfer the grass into the bin. A great point about this system is that the grass doesn’t have far to go, and this shorter distance means the grass has a smaller area over which to build up.

Side collection forces the grass up a side chute and into the grass catcher (FD220). Although this is a longer path it can be just as effective, - as long as the tube is direct and streamlined and avoids sharp corners and unnecessary bends.   

In both cases it's the resultant airflow that ensures success in providing a beautiful mowing finish on your lawn.  

Why do blockages occur?

Most blockages occur for three reasons. Often during spring when new grass becomes mixed with surface soil and this builds up till a blockage occurs. In situations like this it’s important to watch your grass cutting length – if it’s too low you may strike this problem. The second reason is that the operator keeps mowing long after the catcher is full and grass blocks. Features like collection cut-off switches (which the FD220 and FD280 both feature) will prevent the later. Cut-off switches are very effective as they disable the collection as soon as the bin is full - eliminating the temptation to finish the row and experience a blockage. The third reason is that the operator may drive the machine at such a speed that the lush grass builds up under the deck simply because the machine is not given time to process the intake. Keep revs up, and forward motion down in these conditions.

The two vital outcomes you want from a collection mower are to cut and collect without leaving debris on the ground, and secondly to collect without blocking all the time. A good thing to ask your outdoor power equipment dealer is where the machine commonly blocks and how hard it is to remove and get back mowing. Ride On mowers that offer good accessibility will be more practical when you’re out in the middle of your lawn or paddock.

What you want is a nice even, dense collection. It’s not going to be any good if it clumps or doesn’t fill properly. Don’t take it for granted that every ride on mower will give you this!  Both FD220 and FD280 provide such a force of air flow (without the needs for fans or turbines) that the bins fill from the back to the front creating a dense, fully fill grass bin every time. 

Disposing of your grass

Once the grass is in the bin you have to get it out….you need to consider how this is done and how easy it’s going to be – wet grass weighs a lot! There are two options;

1. Manual. This involves a bag, and you getting off the mower to attach it to the mower and remove the grass yourself. The problem with this is obviously weight – can you actually lift it?  It's also time consuming and adds to the time and effort of the whole mow.

2. Empty from the seat. This can be either manual, electric, or hydraulic. This of course, is a very convenient method as you don’t need to get off the mower every time the bin fills. The FD220 features a "stay in the seat manual dump', the lever is extremely well balanced for a comfortable lift and grass disposal. The grass bin door is also magnetised and when empty closes with a neat click - no cables.  Electric dumping of the grass is a great feature as it takes all the effort out of the lift.  The FD280 features an electric discharge, which basically means emptying is as easy as pressing a button.  As in the FD220 the magnetised door closes with a click.

The wet grass conundrum

Don’t just expect every mower to be able to handle wet grass. Most ride on mowers are built for “optimum conditions” which means nice dry grass, level terrain with lovely regularly mowed lawn. But there are quality products that will accomplish this so if you don’t want to be held back by the rain you’ll need to find a mower capable of this task - Grillo collectors do a superb job in less than 'optimum conditions' due to the high air flow both these ride on mowers create, and the fluid design of intake tubes and decks.

Deck Placement

Deck placement is often overlooked when buying a ride on mower but this issue has huge ramifications practically. The options generally are between a mid mount deck where the operator sits over the deck or out-front where the deck is placed out the front of the machine.

Mid-mount mowers are where the operator sits directly over the cutting deck. Once again it all depends on the design and purpose of the ride on mower. For instance, the steep gradient Climber ride on mower needs a central weight distribution and low centre of gravity. In other applications, especially ride on mowers that have more height, a mid-mount will tend to be nose heavy on side slopes which will limit side slope handling capability.  Also the mid-mount deck is more rigidly suspended from the ride on mower and has more of a tendency to scalp or skip on rolling terrain.  There are also visibility issues, where you can't actually 'see' what your mowing, and accessibility issues as you can't mow under obstacles so there is always a portion of grass left. 

If you are looking for a high quality finish mid-mounts have inherent design limitations to quality cutting. Heavily weighted front caster wheels track and mash the grass down before cutting. And another factor to consider is that there is no easy access to the underside of the deck and many working parts require disassembly for access on these designs.

Out-front decks (cutting decks located out the front of the ride on mower), offer unique features. The position of the out-front deck (that you see on both FD220 and FD280)  has allowed it’s design to be radically improved and produce beautiful results. Because the deck isn’t rigidly connected to the rest of the machine, it can sit on anti-scalping wheels and “float” over the contours of your lawn. Because the drive wheels are behind the deck, there’s no danger that the grass will be flattened before it's cut - a major drawback to an “estate” finish.

Whereas mid mounted mowers can't reach into corners and create a lot of “dead space” that you cannot mow, the out-front deck allows access into corners, around garden beds and under overhanging trees.

Out-front decks are easier to maneuver and offer greater visibility to your work, plus they have great trimming qualities being able to traverse sideways with ease. Servicing is made more accessible as in the case of the FD220/FD280 as the decks will tilt up or to the side to make maintenance and cleaning more manageable.

Grillo FD Grass Collection Ride On Mowers >>