A ride-on mowers main function is to cut the grass. This type of mower is the smallest kind of garden machine, where the seat towards the front and the engine is at the back. Ride-on mowers have smaller cutting widths, from about 60cm, and engine sizes, from about 4.4kW. They are the least expensive to buy.
Generally lawn tractors are larger than ride-on mowers and are the opposite way around with the seat at the back and engine in front. Their cutting widths start at about 76cm and they have more powerful engines, from 8kW upwards making them suitable for larger areas of lawn, tougher terrain and harder tasks.
Garden tractors are real heavy-duty machines and have the most powerful engines, 11kW and above, the widest cutting widths and the strongest build. In addition to regular mowing, they can be used for towing, tilling and snow clearing. And for this reason it usually makes garden tractors the most expensive of all.
Ride-on mowers and tractors for a difficult lawn
Sloping or uneven lawns
Some of the more expensive mowers have four-wheel drive, also named ‘all-wheel drive’, often with a differential lock. These mowers or tractors are particularly useful for difficult gardens with sloping lawns offering better traction and less wheel slip.
Whichever mower you choose, it is important to go for as powerful an engine as you can afford, as this will have the force needed to tackle a slope. Also look out for engines that have pump lubrication to ensure that there is continual lubrication to the engine even when the mower is at an angle. Wheel chains can also help, as can a pivoting rear axle.
Most manufacturers give recommendations about the use of garden machines on sloping ground, and limits on the slope on which a machine can be perform normally.
A lawn that’s covered with obstacles
For lawns that have a number of obstacles, individual trees, large bushes, water features or ponds, a ‘zero-turn’ model could be the best option. These machines are designed to turn on the spot, so they’re easily negotiate obstacles on the grass. And there’s also no wasted movement when you’re turning at the end of each ‘stripe’, and they’re good for parking in tricky storage areas.
The ‘zero-turn’ models have two steering handles that separately control the rear wheels, instead of the conventional steering-wheel system, controlling only the front wheels. They usually have a faster top speed than most conventional models, too. Hydrostatic transmission models are better than manual ones for ease of manoeuvrability and tackling obstacles.
Mulching or grass collection
Whether you want ride-on mowers or tractors that collect the grass or mulch it, the information below may help you decide which is best for you.
Large areas of grass generate a lot of grass clippings, and what you decide to do with them will affect the lawn’s finish and the amount of work needed. There are two options for you to consider, you can collect and dispose of clippings on the compost heap or recycle them back into the lawn.
There are a number of mowers or tractors that have a rear collection facility. The cheapest rear-collection mowers rely on airflow to push clippings into a collection bag. However, the more expensive machines use a powered sweeper to brush them up, or have an integrated rear-collection system. If you don’t want to pick up your grass clippings, you can often buy a deflector, which goes on the back or side of the mower and helps distribute the clippings evenly over the lawn. But if considering this option check the size of the collection bag as the larger it is, the less frequently you’ll have to stop to empty it – although it will also be heavier. Some have to be emptied manually, while others have an automatic tipping system to reduce the amount of effort involved.
Lawn garden tractors that have mid-mount cutting decks with side ejection give you the option of spreading the clippings from the side of the deck when you don’t want to collect them. This is a good choice if you mow your lawn regularly and have a small amount of grass clippings as in hot conditions it helps to protect the grass from drying out and scorching.
As an alternative mulching mowers can give you the best result – the machines blade cuts the clippings until they are very fine, and then blows them on to the lawn. Here overtime they decompose and help feed the grass. You can combine or convert some collecting mowers into mulching mowers by buying a special mulching plate which you can alternate between mulching or collecting depending on the weather conditions and the length of the grass.