Zero turn mowers aren’t just for commercial use anymore. A number of manufacturers, including Gravely, produce smaller scale zero turn mowers that are designed for home use. If you are looking for your first zero turn mower, the Gravely ZT is a good model to start with. It’s available in three cutting widths, features seven cutting heights and is comfortable and easy to use. The mower is designed for yards up to 3 acres, depending on the size of the cutting deck.
What to Know Before Buying a Zero Turn Mower
Quite simply, a zero turn mower gives you the chance to cut your lawn more effectively and efficiently. Professional lawn care companies have been using zero turn mowers for a long time now. These days, zero turn models are also available for residential use.
There are a few things to know about zero turn mowers before you decide to invest in one. For one thing, it helps to understand what “zero turn” means.
Traditional ride-on mowers have a turning radius that’s anywhere from 15 to 30 degrees. That means every time you turn the mower, such as to round a corner or start a new row, a patch of grass is left uncut. To make sure you don’t miss any areas of your lawn, you’ll need to go over and over the spots.
In contrast, zero turn mowers have a turning radius of zero degrees. You can easily pivot the mower a full 180 degrees without leaving any grass uncut.
The location of the steering controls also differs between a zero turn mower and a traditional lawn tractor. Usually, you steer the front wheels, using a steering wheel, when you drive a ride-on mower.
You can see some of that in this video by Gravely:
When you drive a zero turn mower, you steer using the rear wheels. Rear wheel steering is what allows the mower to have a much smaller turning radius. It can also improve stability as you mow, especially if you’re moving at a faster speed.
Speaking of speed, that’s another difference between a zero turn mower and traditional ride-on machines. Your average lawn mower might reach a speed of about 3 or 4 mph. That’s much faster than you’d go when operating a push mower, but still not that fast.
Meanwhile, residential zero turn mowers can travel at speeds up to 8 mph. Mowers made for commercial use can go as fast as 13 mph.
What to Look for in a Zero Turn Mower
Although there are a few big differences between zero turn and traditional mowers, when choosing a zero turn mower, you want to look for a few of the same features you’d look for in a regular lawn tractor.
For example, the size of the cutting deck is an essential feature to pay attention to. While some zero turn mowers have larger cutting decks (up to 60 inches) than regular mowers, a number have smaller decks, measuring just 34 inches.
Cutting deck size matters not only for determining how much of your lawn the mower can cut at once. It also determines whether your zero turn mower will fit on your property. A 54 or 60-inch cutting deck might make short work of mowing your lawn.
But a machine that size won’t fit through typically lawn gates and might be too large to fit through the doors of a storage shed. Unless your shed has double-wide doors or unless you don’t have to move the tractor from one area of the yard to another through a gate, a smaller cutting deck might be better for you.
Cutting height is another feature to pay attention to when choosing your zero turn mower. Some grass types need to be cut higher than others. Alternatively, if your lawn is overgrown, you don’t necessarily want to come in and shear it all off. You’ll need to start with a higher cutting height and work your way down.
Having a wide range of cutting heights, and the ability to easily adjust the height of the blades, is preferable to having just a few heights.
Comfort is another features to pay attention to when choosing your mower. When it comes to zero turn mowers, many manufacturers don’t shy away from comfort features, such as high-backed seats and ergonomically positioned handles. If you feel cramped or develop lower back pain using your mower, you’re less likely to get out there and mow the lawn.
How to Use a Zero Turn Mower
There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to driving a zero turn mower. If this is your first time buying or using one, it helps to practice before you get out on the lawn and start mowing.
Zero turn mowers don’t have the same type of brakes as a traditional mower. Instead, you stop the mower by bringing the two handles to a straight up and down position. To make the mower go forward, you push both handles to the front. If you want to reverse, you pull the handles behind you.
Since many zero turn mowers don’t have steering wheels, you also use the handles to steer the mower. To turn to the right, you push the left handle to the front. To turn left, you push the right handle in front of you.
Start out going slowly and increase your speed as you get more comfortable operating you zero turn mower. It’s also a good idea to practice going over your lawn a few times without the blades turned on.
Our Take on the Gravely ZT Mower
The Gravely ZT mower is a zero turn mower specifically designed for residential use. It is available in three cutting deck sizes, ranging from 34 inches to 50 inches. The 34-inch model is ideal for smaller yards, no bigger than 2.1 acres. The 50-inch model can tackle yards up to 3 acres.
The mower also features seven cutting height options. Depending on your lawn’s needs, you can easily adjust the height of the deck using a foot operated lift. The easily adjustable cutting deck height is designed for both comfort and ease of use.
The Gravely ZT mowers can reach a speed of up to 6 mph, which isn’t very fast for a zero turn mower. If you’re looking for a mower that’s sized for residential use but that has features even professional lawn care specialists can appreciate, you might consider the Gravely Compact Pro instead.
The Compact Pro has a cutting deck that’s 34 inches wide, meaning it is small enough to fit through most gates and doorways. It can reach a speed of up to 9 mph. The also has a number of features designed with your comfort in mind, such as a high-backed seat and comfort-grip handles.
Gravely isn’t your only option when you want a zero turn mower for residential use. A number of other manufacturers, such as Husqvarna, produce zero turn residential mowers. The Husqvarna 967324101 V-Twin 724 cc Zero Turn Mower is the same size as the largest ZT mower, making it a good option if you have a large yard. The Husqvarna mower also features anti-scalping rollers, which will help protect your lawn and keep you from ripping off too much grass at once.
Like the Gravely mowers, the mowers in the Ariens Zoom series are available in a range of cutting widths, from 34 inches to 50 inches. They can be another option if you’re looking for a zero turn mower for a more compact yard.