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June 17, 2006

Swisher ZT2560 Zero Turn Mower

Swisher make the claim that they were the first to introduce the zero turn mower concept and that they did it nearly 50 years ago. If this is true, and who's about to counterclaim it? then one would assume they know what they're talking about when it comes to zero turn mowers.

The ZT2560, with 60" blades, has a larger deck than it's little brother's the ZT2350 and the ZT18542 which carry 50" and 42" blades respectively. It's also powered by a 25hp Briggs & Stratton Extended Life Series engine.

If you compared the Swisher ZT2560 against is the comparable Toro 74249 (Z500 Estate Series) you would find it almost impossible to pass by the Swisher. The Toro carries the same deck but in 7 gauge steel while the Swisher has produced theirs in 11 guage. The Toro sports the same sized engine but it's a Kawasaki which really comes down to preference. I've heard good and bad for both engines.

But the big difference is the price. The Toro will cost you almost double the Swisher. Most retailers price the ZT2560 around the US$4k mark while the Toro retails for almost US$8k. Why the big difference? I'd love to know.

While the Swisher ZT2560 has limited attachment options it does carry the basic range. A lawn sweeper, a choice of 40" and 60" Trailmowers and a decent Lawn Vacuum that could easily rival a Cyclone Rake.

For overall quality, price and reliability I would certianly rank the ZT2560 very highly. This is a machine that will outperform many of its competitors and will cost you less as well.

The best time to water your lawn

best lawn time water
Water is a precious commodity and lawns are the biggest users of it. Why? Firstly because they have a huge surface area obviously requiring more water to keep it healthy. Also, due to the surface area it means that evaporation can occur much more rapidly than from shrubs or foliage plants.

Lawns are also unable to be mulched whereas a garden bed can be and will slow down the evaporation and therefore necessity of more water. This is why many people are replacing their lawns with garden beds or laying more paving.

Here's a quick guide for watering frequencies that may be useful for you. I will substitute the month names for season times so that it can be interpreted by gardeners in any part of the world. You may have to adjust this for your own gardening zone but at least it will give you a rough idea.

Month Frequency
Summer #1 Every 2nd day
Summer #2 Every 2nd day
Summer #3 Every 2nd day
Autumn #1 Every 3rd day
Autumn #2 Every 5th day
Autumn #3 No watering
Winter #1 No watering
Winter #2 No watering
Winter #3 Once per fortnight
Spring #1 Once per week
Spring #2 Every 4th day
Spring #3 Every 3rd day

As I mentioned before, you will need to tweak this to suit your own climate but if you follow the pattern it will give you some good watering guidelines.

Once you've adopted a watering frequency plan the next step is to plan for the best time to water your lawn. The worst time is in the heat of the day for as I stated previously the surface area will allow evaporation to occur quite rapidly. You will find that the water you are pouring on will almost immediately be evaporated and won't help your lawn at all. In fact, it may even harm your lawn by burning the tips of the blades.

The best times to water your lawn is early in the morning or after sunset. I would recommend early in the morning as watering before it goes dark may cause some problems with mildew. These times are the best because they allow the roots to take up the required moisture without having to compete with the sun.

June 10, 2006

How to lay turf

Like any project in life there is an easy way and a hard way to achieve a great end result. The hard way is to make many mistakes along the way and then try and rectify them later on. The easy way is to do it right the first time. If you follow these steps you're sure to have installed your lawn well and then it's time to hit the hammock and rest those weary muscles.

Step 1. - Ground Preparation

The critical ground preparation

This is the 'make or break' situation. If you don't prepare the soil before you lay your turf you'll create a whole heap of problems later down the track.

  • Eliminate any weeds
  • Remove any roots, rocks or building refuse
  • Make sure there are no hidden surprises lurking below the surface such as broken soak wells, cracking pipes etc

Step 2. - Levelling

Using a turf rake level the sand and feeding mix

The next step in installing your lawn is to add some builder to the soil. Many soil centres sell a product called "Top Dressing Mix" which is meant for rejuvenating established lawns. It is usually a mix of chicken manure, coarse sand and peat or sawdust. In this case I would recommend that you add this to the soil as you are levelling it. It will add so much nutrient to the soil and readily feed the lawn rolls.

When levelling the soil make sure it slopes away from any structures to allow heavy runoffs. Also keep in mind that you need to bring it below any coverings such as paving bricks or concrete pads bearing in mind that it will grow another 2-3cm in height.

Step 3. - Laying the Turf

Start laying from the longest corner

Once your soil is levelled and prepared well it's time to start laying the rolls of turf. Start from the longest corner and work down the longest side. Use a brick pattern effect so that the ends of each roll don't butt onto each other creating a single line. The brick pattern gives the turf strength as the lawn begins to set its roots into the soil during its early days.

Step 4. - Check the Turf Edges

Ensure the edges don't have gaps

If the edges have come apart or their are some that have scorched while they've been laid then cover over with a little 'Top Dressing Mix' or coarse yellow sand.

Step 5. - Watering

Start watering immediately

The key ingredient for a successful start to your rool on turfis to get the watering happening immediately. If it doesn't happen soon after laying you will find that turf will begin to show signs of stress and will struggle to adapt quickly to its new environment.

True Blue Turf have a great watering schedule for your new lawn and also once its been established for a while.

June 8, 2006

My turf farm excursion

Hectares and hectares of different shades of turf overwhelmed me as I did a trip to a friend's turf farm. Leonard and Riann run True Blue Turf and have been setting it up since last year. The fruits of their labour are now evident as you begin to see the extent of the operation.

They mainly concentrate on their zoysia's, Empress and Empire. However, they still do grow the staples Kikuyu, Winter Green, a fine leaf couch, and Sapphire, a soft-leaf buffalo. They are even venturing into some new possibilities including a sample roll-on mondo grass.

Hectares of lush green turf

Leonard showed us around the farm and we even had a chance to get amongst some of this beautiful lawn and see how it's processed. This machine guides itself along the edge of the lawn ensuring straight rolls every time. This tractor, basically a complete mobile turf processing plant, is only one of a few in Australia and it's hard to see how you could operate efficiently without one. It certainly makes the job quite easy.

Cutting some zoysia to fill a client's order

We needed to cut a few rolls, 20 to be precise, just to finish a clients order and it would have taken less that 15 mins from leaving the workshop to arriving back at it ready to be delivered. The tractor turf processor automatically cuts each roll to a certain width and length sending it up a conveyor belt and rolling it before a person at the back, in this case Rod, takes it and stacks on a pallet. Once the pallet is full it can be removed by a forklift and ferried to a waiting truck or trailer ready for delivery.

Rod working hard to keep up with the machine

At the back of True Blue Turf's farm is a workshop which is surrounded by small plots of lawn. These sample plots allow the customer to view and compare different types of turf available. You can easily see the difference between the blade size, colour and feel of each type of lawn.

The turf farm workshop and lawn sample plots

The irrigation equipment was monstrous and as you can see in this picture it all revolves around a central bore and pump that waters the entire farm. The guys are looking at expanding soon and are planning to put in another 2 central pumps at different places across the farm.

Irrigation equipment

June 2, 2006

8 Steps to growing a "greener" lawn

green lawn
I was inspired by this recent article, Detoxing Green Velvet where Amanda MacMillan shared her 8 steps to a greener lawn. I'm going to use her headings but expand a little more on the key ideas.

  • Don't buy or use synthetic pesticides - this goes without saying. Even if you're not deliberately trying to be "green" when it comes to your lawn you still shouldn't use synthetic pesticides. There are better ways to do this after you've identified your lawn weed.
  • Use least-toxic pest control - if organic methods aren't working for you to eradicate your pest problems then try using products that have the least toxicity. The most toxic brands cn actually just be overkill and a waste of money.
  • Use organic compost instead of fertilizer - this isn't that hard to do. Even using diluted worm castings as a liquid fertiliser in the spring months will greatly improve the green-ness of your lawn and build its structure.
  • Choose an alternative lawn cover - there are so many options that gardeners aren't just limited to turf. Prostrate herbs, dandelions, dichondra etc are all great options that don't even require mowing.
  • Grow your lawn at least three inches tall - this is a great tip for those guys who don't enjoy mowing. The longer you keep your lawn the less it needs to be mown. Keeping your lawn higher has a lot of benefits including requiring less fertilisers as the lawn isn't in a constant state of high growth.
  • Choose tools made from sustainable wood or recycled plastic and rubber, not PVC - makes sense! This may be a little hard to achieve for manay gardeners as these types of tools are usually substantially more expensive than their counterparts. It takes a long-term view to actively seek these products out.
  • Buy garden and lawn furniture made with FSC-certified wood from well managed forests - I'm guessing the FSC-certification is a US deal but in each country there would usually be standards that wood manufacturers would need to adhere to regarding the sourcing of materials. Buy from these guys.
  • Retire your gas-powered lawn mower - this is a great tip. If you've been reading some of LMR's posts you'll have seen a trend towards new robotic and electric mowers that are far better on the environment.

  • Stuart Robinson
  • Busselton, Australia
  • Email Me

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