Lawn maintenance contractors have numerous mower attachments at their disposal, but a few stand out for their potential to drive both productivity and sales.
Dethatching during spring cleanup.
In Fort Atkinson, Wis., Rob Amadon of Rock River Lawn Care has been using an easy-to-install dethatcher on his front-mount zero-turn mower. This attachment simply hangs on the front of the deck.
“The way it is set up, I dethatch and mow at the same time,” Amadon says. “For the first pass over a lawn, I set the deck to around 3.5 inches with the dethatcher attached. Then I lift the dethatcher off, drop the deck a half-inch, and go over the lawn one more time. The mower’s integrated grass-catching system sucks everything up.”
Spring dethatching is a natural service add-on for existing maintenance customers. Amadon approaches it differently, though. Almost all of his spring dethatching customers are people he does not mow for.
Since Amadon catches his grass clippings, the properties he mows do not have heavy thatch buildup. So Amadon tends to pick up dethatching customers who use mowing contractors that do not bag. That’s an entirely new income stream to help kick off the season.
Up in the Northeast, spring dethatching is also a great opportunity for lawn maintenance contractors. Manny Carlino, owner of M&R Landscape & Design in Westfield, N.J., never had much luck with manufacturer-supplied dethatching units, though. So, he created his own.
“We’ve never found a more efficient way to clean up a lawn in the spring.” Manny Carlino, owner of M&R Landscape & Design
“I found that the dethatching unit that hangs on the front of the mower deck had really stiff tines,” Carlino says. “It did a good job of raking the lawn maybe too good. When we used them, they really scratched into the soil and kicked up a lot of dirt. A lot of that dirt got ingested into the blower fan on the mower which caused all kinds of problems.”
Carlino rigged up an alternative roughly 10 years ago. His crews have been using it ever since. The homemade dethatching attachment consists of six 24-inch leaf rake heads mounted to a frame made of square stock metal.
That frame attaches to a bracket that mounts on the front of the mower deck. The rake heads are positioned so that the shaft would be pointing away from the front of the mower. This allows the rake heads to rake the lawn while the mower drives forward.
“This does an excellent job of raking without kicking up so much dirt,” Carlino says. “The dethatcher can be easily raised and lowered as needed by a rope from the operator’s seat.”
To be precise, Carlino says his creation really can’t be referred to as a dethatcher. It is just a highly efficient, mower-propelled rake.
“We perform this service for all of our customers during spring cleanups,” Carlino says. “The attachment rakes up all the little gumballs and sticks that the mower won’t suck up. The tiny sticks get stuck in the tines. So, when the mower operator gets to one end of the lawn, he lifts the rake with the rope and gives it a little shake, so the sticks fall out.
“When the raking is completed, another employee goes out and manually rakes up those two windrows of sticks. We’ve never found a more efficient way to clean up a lawn in the spring.”
Fall leaves and aeration.
Rick Roulo, owner of Lawn Beautician in Hopewell, Va., says he could never find a bagging attachment that worked well with a riding mower. The wet leaves he needed to clean up in the fall kept clogging the chutes. A highly skilled mechanic, Roulo even tried rigging up some contraptions of his own. After a couple years of repeated trial and error, he gave up on the idea of bagging leaves with a mid-mount zero-turn.
“I decided that the most efficient way to do leaf cleanup was to get them into piles and suck them up with a big leaf vac,” Roulo says. Roulo’s crews tried walk-behind blowers, which worked very well. A better method proved to be a mower-mounted blade. “It was important that the blade was heavy-duty and could spring back a little, just like a snowplow,” Roulo says.
Roulo looks to one other mower attachment to help deliver fall services. Once again, after a lot of trial and error with different styles, he settled on a pull-behind drum aerator.
“We provide aeration services to the majority of our customers,” Roulo says. “By pulling a drum aerator behind a mower, we actually mow and aerate at the same time. So, we don’t really have any additional labor involved with aeration, at least on our large-acreage properties where we use the pull-behind.”
Additionally, Roulo says his pull-behind drum aerators are low-cost.
More opportunities. Having a variety of attachments at your disposal can help you increase your client base.
“They are just big barrels filled with water,” Roulo says. “The tines themselves are core-type spikes. These aerators run and run and don’t seem to break. Other aerator attachments I’ve tried only lasted a few years.
“But these aerator barrels we use now will last until you’re dead. The design is just really simple. The only moving parts are two bearings. If a spike happens to break off, which is pretty rare, you can just weld it right back on.”
Back up in Wisconsin, Amadon gets additional mileage out of his mower during the winter. He mounts a snowblower to his front-mount mower to make faster work of residential driveways.
“To make this work, it was really important to find a snowblower that was just the right size,” Amadon says. “With many of my residential accounts, quite a bit of sidewalk goes with the driveway. A lot of commercial-grade snowblower attachments are at least 60 inches. The one I use is only 42 inches, which is perfect for sidewalks.”
Weighing attachment alternatives.
Josh Doebert, owner of Atlantic Landscape Management in Chesapeake, Va., had used various mower attachments earlier in his career. But as of late, he just uses dedicated machines to dethatch, aerate and seed.
“We are performing those types of services for a lot of clients now,” Doebert says. “We prefer the convenience of just loading a dedicated machine onto a trailer. Taking attachments on and off all of the time can be a hassle.”
In the event that add-on services are performed intermittently, Doebert says renting could be a good option. Attachments require storage space, which a landscape contractor may not have. Renting a durable, dedicated machine could prove to be the most productive and cost-effective solution.
Productivity and cost-effectiveness are what it all comes down to. Sometimes a mower attachment is the answer – especially if it lets you put a mower back into production during “off” times of year.
More importantly, if an attachment helps you deliver services better, faster and more efficiently, there is no stronger argument to be made for having it.