Caring for our lawns is as essential as cleaning our house, it needs constant care and management. However, it gets tricky when you have to tend to uneven terrain and sloping hills. Keeping large pieces of land beautifully manicured is a task often done by zero turn mowers but does that include mowing hills as well?
Are zero turn mowers good on hills?
Despite the heavier weight, improved control, and better center of gravity, zero-turn mowers are only capable of mowing hills ranging between 10 to 15 degrees in angle. Anything steeper may lead to your mower tipping over thus resulting in hazardous and damaging situations.
How do you know your lawn is mowable by a zero turn mower?
Mowing a sloped yard can be a struggle and, if done poorly or with the wrong equipment, is inherently dangerous. A lawn that dips down a foot in a span of 3 feet is dangerous for your zero turn mower. It’s safer to mow at a gentle angle when your hill goes down a foot at least 4 feet. This is the standard steepest angle for highways.
Highways are designed to smoothly dip down an angle of at most 15 degrees. This prevents larger vehicles from struggling as they climb up a slope. The same principle also applies to the best zero turn mowers for hills.
Why does zero turn mowers trim at smaller angles?
All residential ZTRs are limited to mowing a slope between 10-15 degrees depending on various factors:
- Engine strength
- Type of tires
- Type of transmission
Compared to other riding mowers like a lawn tractor which can mow up to 20 degrees in angle, ZTRs have a higher rollover risk than these machines. This is because only larger zero turns come with a rollover protection system (ROPS) whereas lawn tractors and other types of mowers are equipped with ROPS as a standard feature.
Dangers of zero-turn rolling over
Anyone operating riding mowers faces serious safety issues, especially when dealing with hills and slopes. Zero-turn mowers are powerhouses that make mowing your lawn a simple task, however, it is a piece of very dangerous equipment if you’re not using it properly and that includes forcing it to mow steep hills. This results in a catastrophe on the mower, you as the rider, and your lawn.
Top Five Zero Turn Mower Safety Tips
Do not put your ROPS down (upgrade your machine with ROPS)
Your ROPS is there for a reason. Many riders feel burdened when the ROPS is engaged mainly since it easily gets caught on tree branches and dangling decorations on the lawn or garden. To protect yourself, keep your ROPS up at all times and use your seatbelt when you’re riding your mower.
Removing the ROPS makes your mower more dangerous especially when making turns, mowing on soft soil, and on hills. ROPS makes your safety a priority over the speed of your machine.
If your machine doesn’t have roll over protection, you should consider adding one especially if you have a delicate lawn with softer soil and if you have water banks within your property.
Upgrade your machine with extra safety options
Consider improving your machine’s safety features, you can do this by adding:
- interlock system that prevents the mower from starting when the blades are engaged,
- operator presence control system that halts the blades from turning when there is no rider or operator on the seat
- add a seatbelt to your mower along with ROPS retro kits
Perform frequent maintenance on your machine
Always make sure that your system is in its pristine condition. Always check that your blades remain sharp, your deck is free from debris, and your wheels are free from dirt or gunk stuck on the wheels that may halt your wheels or affect the way your mower will run.
Replace your grass
Choose a grass that grows slower or requires less maintenance like buffel grass or Kentucky BlueGrass. They grow slower and require less attention but still provide a beautiful green hue.
Use the right mowing machine or equipment on different sloping angles
Don’t force your large ZTR to mow slopes on or around your property. Instead, follow this slop guide.
Type of mower to use
0° to 15°
Zero turn mowers and riding mowers
15° to 22°
Lawn tractors which are approved for these areas
22° and up
String trimmers, push mowers, specialized mowers, or attachment to ATVs or small tractors
Within 5 feet of a drop-off or water bank
String trimmers and push mowers only
NOTE: Always maintain a red zone where your ZTR does not go anywhere near a drop-off or a water bank. Many would suggest a 3-foot distance but I highly suggest you have a 5-foot zone.
Your safety is the main concern when it comes to trimming your lawn. It’s best to get a mower that you have better or full control compared to riding mowers that pose more danger.
String trimmers offer better reach and full control of your surrounding. Plus, they pose less danger and damage to you as the operator. This may take more of your time trimming your lawn but if you’re using a zero-turn for the rest of your lawn, then a string trimmer is a great accompaniment to your machine.
How to mow a sloping hill using a zero-turn
Zero-turn mowers are amazing machines for large pieces of land but are very limited when it comes to mowing hills. However, with gentle slopes, your z-turn can just as easily trim your grass the way you want it but with the right procedure. See "How to Mow with a Zero Turn Mower" for step-by-step instructions.
Ensure the slope of your hill
If you’re not sure just how steep your hill is and you’re not sure how to measure it, simply go down the hill and look at the highest point. If your head tilts at the top of the hill after 3 meters of distance then that is already too steep for your z-turn mower. The steepest your zero turn can mow is equivalent to the height of two stair steps of your house’s threshold.
Check your ZTR recommended slope for mowing
Not all ZTRs can handle 15-degree slopes. As a matter of fact, most smaller residential mowers can mow only up to 12 degrees. Always check the manual for the slope that your machine can handle.
Mow dry grass only
Mowing wet grass is not only a struggle for your blades and deck but it is also dangerous since it also means that your soil may be wet and tender. Always make sure the grass and soil are dry when you mow to ensure that the ground is leveled.
Always mow slowly downhill
Always mow downhill on a straight line in the lowest throttle. Mowing uphill will increase your chances of tipping over since the bulk of the weight of your machine is at the back of your mower.
Never reverse mow or change direction
Your zero turn mower is always prone to tipping over hence never try to change your direction when you’re mowing.
Disengage blades when navigating around bushes or trees on slopes
When you come across a tree or an obstacle in your mowing path, disengage your mower blades then move around the obstacle.
Maintaining a beautiful lawn can be a taxing job but always make sure that you are always on the safe side. Zero-turn mowers are amazing machines that really simplify and even add joy to the tedious task of mowing your lawn but they are quite dangerous machines. Putting your safety is a priority when it comes to mowing slopes. Always stick to the standard 10-15 degree slopes and never beyond.