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Guide to Mowing Steep Slopes

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    During the summer, it is common to see individuals using tractor mowers and similar machines to mow steep inclined hills on the freeways and highways. Observing them can be almost miraculous, but it can also be quite scary. Mowing on hills can be dangerous since it can cause a loss of traction and stability, leading to the mower tipping over and potentially injuring the operator. Therefore, it is not a situation that should be taken lightly.

    Not everyone has a lawn that is perfectly level, and having a slope in your yard can be attractive, despite making mowing more difficult. Mowing a small hill may not be too challenging, but as the hill gets steeper and taller, things can become very challenging very quickly.

    Landscape contractors, greenkeepers, and groundsmen should ensure that their equipment is designed and maintained with safety in mind. Additionally, operators should always be familiar with the terrain conditions on which their mowers are being used to avoid any unexpected surprises or accidents.

    But how can they do this without feeling panic on a moving machine that appears to be on the verge of flipping upside down or rolling down the slope at any moment? The solution may surprise you. If you ever need to mow your steep slopes or hills, there are a couple of correct ways to mow, and many incorrect ways to mow.

    How To Mow A Steep Hill Safely?

    Having a strategy for mowing uphill slopes is crucial for safety reasons. Sloped lawns can be more visually appealing than flat ones, but they can be a pain to maintain. Mowing a steep slope presents risks if safety measures are not taken. 

    When mowing a hill, rather than going up and down the slope, you should mow at a 45-degree angle. If you have access to a self-propelled mower, use the lowest speed setting. 

    Turn the mower's height up to its highest setting and put on shoes with good traction. It's important to evaluate the slope's stability before beginning any mowing on a steep grade. Meadow grass is low-maintenance and can prevent erosion if planted on slopes with an incline of 1 foot for every 3 feet of horizontal width.

    Safety First

    To prevent accidents, it is essential to begin, end, and make turns on flat ground whenever possible.

    It's recommended to mow in smaller sections, giving you more control over the mower. Use the slowest gear on the transmission, and proceed at a leisurely pace. This will allow you to better anticipate upcoming obstacles and avoid them, or hit the brakes in time.

    Wearing sturdy shoes or boots with good traction, eye protection, and hearing protection is always necessary to ensure safety while mowing.

    Mowing Grass on a Slope

    Mowing on a slope can be a challenging task, especially when dealing with steep inclines. Tractor mowers and walk-behind mowers can usually handle the grass, brush, and weeds found on lower slopes. However, it's essential to be aware that ride-on tractor mowers are not recommended for use on incline slopes with grades greater than fifteen degrees, which is usually specified in the owner's manual. 

    Professional workers on highways and freeways use special tools and techniques to manage the brush, grass, and weeds that reach high up the slopes. For lower brush, a weed whacker or string trimmer is used, while specialty mowers are utilized for thicker and taller grasses and brush on steeper inclines.

    For homeowners with a small hill, using a string trimmer or weed whacker can be time-consuming. A specialized mower may be an option, but they are quite expensive. You may be able to find a used one at a city auction, or they can be rented from hardware stores and equipment rental centers.

    Perform a Pre-Mowing Inspection

    When mowing a hill, it's essential to make sure the lawn is free of any obstacles that can pose a safety risk. Rocks, holes, clumps of mud, and toys are just a few examples of things that can trip up even the most robust of mowers and throw you off balance.

    To prevent accidents, take some time to inspect the area you plan to mow before you start. Remove any debris, such as sticks and stones, that can be dangerous for both you and your mower. Also, be mindful of the landscaping, like ponds or water features, that may have soft soil that cannot support the weight of your mower. Exercise caution when mowing around these areas.

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    Mow Laterally Along the Hill Rather Than Up the Slope Straight

    Mowing hills safely requires avoiding certain dangerous manoeuvres, such as pushing the mower straight up a slope, which can cause the operator to lose control and fall. Mowing backwards downhill or losing control of the mower are both possible outcomes. 

    Instead, you should mow down the hillside crosswise, from one side to the other. This may take less effort and give you more control. One way to do this is to walk sideways while tilting slightly towards the vertical axis, putting more emphasis on direction change than on going up or down. Mowing on a steep slope from the side with a riding lawn mower requires extra caution as it could easily topple over.

    Choose The Right Mower

    Mowing inclines can typically be done using either a ride-on or walk-behind mower, but steeper slopes require specialized equipment or techniques. Most ride-on mowers are not suitable for slopes with a grade greater than 15 degrees. 

    To safely mow steeper hills, you will need a mower with a low center of gravity and wide wheelbase. Self-propelled or four-wheel-drive mowers provide better traction and control, while a wide cutting deck saves time and energy.

    Mower manufacturers provide slope ratings to indicate the maximum angle at which a mower can safely operate. A 10-degree slope is a hill, 20 degrees is a steep hill, and 25 degrees is a very steep hill. It can be difficult to walk up a 30-degree slope. Before mowing, check your mower's slope angle rating to ensure it can handle the task. Some mowers, such as Ventrac mowers, can be configured to mow slopes as steep as 30 degrees.

    On The Hill, Utilise A String Or Brush Trimmer Instead.

    Help may be sought when mowing steep hills for two main reasons, both of which have already been mentioned. First, mowing the hill can be strenuous and tiresome work, especially for people who aren't as physically fit as others. Second, it's risky to mow on steep inclines because you could easily lose control of the mower if you slip. Moving too quickly while mowing on the side raises the risk of tipping the mower.

    It may be prudent to refrain from mowing the hillside entirely so as to reduce the potential for injury. A string trimmer, which is more manageable due to its lighter weight and smaller size, could be a better choice. A string trimmer is a potentially safer alternative to mowing, despite the fact that it takes longer and doesn't give you the same results in terms of precision and uniformity.

    FAQs About Lawn Mowing

    A recommended maximum slope is commonly 15 degrees. However, many individuals cannot evaluate slopes just by sight. Some mower manufacturers have warned about too steep slopes and have provided slope gauges for users to determine the slopes in natural settings.

    Zero-Turn Mowers: This is another type of riding lawnmower that is often the preferred mower for hills since it doesn't have a tall center of gravity like other ride-on mowers, such as lawn tractors that tend to be quite high and prone to tipping over. These lower zero-turn mowers often have cruise control, too.

    15- to 22-degree slope -- tractor mowers are approved for these areas. 22-degree and up slope -- these areas are mowed with string trimmers, push mowers or specialized equipment.

    Raise the deck of the mower to its highest point. Then mow upward vertically. Never try to turn the mower to mow downward as the bulk of the weight of these mowers is under and behind you and it could cause the mower to flip on top of you going down.

    Because you're standing, you can do this quickly, making even a steep hill with less of a challenge. Besides being able to shift your weight, stand-on mowers are recommended for hills because the center of gravity is lower than that of a zero-turn mower.

    Mow At The Lowest Speed

    To ensure safety when mowing on a hill, there are a few precautions to take. First, make sure the brakes on the mower are working properly to maintain stability and prevent the mower from rolling backward as you drive up the hill. Additionally, use a tire pressure gauge to check the air pressure in the tires and adjust them to the manufacturer's recommendations.

    If you must use a riding mower on a hill, use the lowest gear to maintain control and drive at a slow and steady pace. This will help prevent accidents and leave your grass looking healthy. The same goes for using a push mower on an incline - a slow and steady pace is recommended for safety and optimal results.

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    Avoid Mowing When The Grass Is Too Wet Or Too Dry

    It's important to be cautious when mowing on wet or dry slopes. Wet grass can be very slippery, leading to falls and injuries, while dry ground may not provide enough grip and traction for the mower to move smoothly. In either case, it's best to exercise extra care and take appropriate safety measures to ensure that you don't lose control of the mower or slip and fall while mowing on a slope.

    Raise The Deck Height

    Raising the mower deck is an important step to take when preparing to mow a steep lawn. Having the deck set too low can create difficulties in moving the mower, making it challenging to maneuver on an incline. It is crucial to maintain a steady forward motion while mowing on a slope to avoid losing balance and tumbling down the hill. Raising the mower deck allows for a smoother and easier mowing experience. 

    Mowing high is also beneficial for the grass, not just on steep inclines but on flat lawns as well. Cutting more than a third of the grass blades can cause damage, leading to stunted growth and browning. Setting the mower deck at a higher height is the best way to ensure that only the upper third of the blades are cut. 

    Keeping the grass slightly taller can also help stabilize the mower's wheels while mowing on a slope. The additional grass blades provide more traction and reduce the chances of the mower slipping on the incline.

    Conclusion

    Mowing steep slopes can be dangerous, as it can cause a loss of traction and stability, leading to the mower tipping over and potentially injuring the operator. To ensure safety, landscape contractors, greenkeepers, and groundsmen should ensure their equipment is designed and maintained with safety in mind and operators should be familiar with the terrain conditions on which their mowers are being used. There are two correct ways to mow steep slopes safely: using a 45-degree angle, using the lowest speed setting, and wearing shoes with good traction. Meadow grass can prevent erosion if planted on slopes with an incline of 1 foot for every 3 feet of horizontal width. Safety first is essential to prevent accidents.

    Mowing on a slope is a challenging task, especially when dealing with steep inclines. Professional workers use special tools and techniques to manage the brush, grass, and weeds that reach high up the slopes. For homeowners with a small hill, a specialized mower may be an option, but it is expensive. To prevent accidents, it is important to inspect the area before mowing and remove any debris that can be dangerous for both you and the mower. Additionally, be mindful of landscaping that may have soft soil that cannot support the weight of the mower.

    Mowing hills safely requires avoiding dangerous manoeuvres such as pushing the mower straight up a slope, which can cause the operator to lose control and fall. To safely mow steeper slopes, a mower with a low center of gravity and wide wheelbase is needed. Mower manufacturers provide slope ratings to indicate the maximum angle at which a mower can safely operate, and some mowers can be configured to mow slopes as steep as 30 degrees. Help may be sought when mowing steep hills due to strenuous and tiresome work and risk of tipping the mower. A string trimmer is a safer alternative to mowing a hillside, but it takes longer and doesn't give the same results.

    To ensure safety, make sure the brakes are working properly, use a tire pressure gauge, use the lowest gear, and avoid mowing when the grass is too wet or too dry. Raising the mower deck is an important step to take when mowing on a steep lawn. It allows for a smoother and easier mowing experience, and is beneficial for the grass, as it only cuts the upper third of the blades. It also helps stabilize the mower's wheels and reduces the chances of the mower slipping on the incline.

    Content Summary

    • Mowing on hills can be dangerous, causing loss of traction and stability, leading to the mower tipping over and potentially injuring the operator.
    • Landscape contractors, greenkeepers, and groundsmen should ensure their equipment is designed and maintained with safety in mind.
    • Mowing at a 45-degree angle is safer than going up and down the slope.
    • Using a self-propelled mower on the lowest speed setting is recommended.
    • Meadow grass can prevent erosion if planted on slopes with an incline of 1 foot for every 3 feet of horizontal width.
    • It is recommended to mow in smaller sections and use the slowest gear on the transmission while wearing sturdy shoes or boots with good traction, eye and hearing protection.
    • Ride-on tractor mowers are not recommended for use on incline slopes with grades greater than fifteen degrees.
    • Specialty mowers are utilized for thicker and taller grasses and brush on steeper inclines.
    • Using a string trimmer or weed whacker can be time-consuming, but a specialized mower may be an option.
    • Before mowing, inspect the area to remove any debris that can be dangerous for both the mower and operator.
    • Be mindful of landscaping, such as ponds or water features, that may have soft soil that cannot support the weight of the mower.
    • Mowing down the hillside crosswise is safer than pushing the mower straight up a slope.
    • Mowing backwards downhill or losing control of the mower are both possible outcomes.
    • Mowing on a steep slope from the side with a riding lawn mower requires extra caution.
    • Most ride-on mowers are not suitable for slopes with a grade greater than 15 degrees.
    • A mower with a low center of gravity and wide wheelbase is needed to safely mow steeper hills.
    • Self-propelled or four-wheel-drive mowers provide better traction and control.
    • A wide cutting deck saves time and makes the process easier.
    • A slope in your yard can be attractive despite making mowing more difficult.
    • Observing individuals using tractor mowers and similar machines to mow steep inclined hills can be almost miraculous but scary.
    • Mowing a small hill may not be too challenging, but things can become challenging quickly as the hill gets steeper and taller.
    • Having a strategy for mowing uphill slopes is crucial for safety reasons.
    • Sloped lawns can be more visually appealing than flat ones.
    • Safety measures should be taken when mowing a steep slope.
    • Meadow grass is low-maintenance and can prevent erosion if planted on slopes.
    • Specialty mowers are used for thicker and taller grasses and brush on steeper inclines.
    • Before starting to mow, take time to inspect the area and remove any debris that can pose a safety risk.
    • Rocks, holes, clumps of mud, and toys are examples of things that can trip up even the most robust of mowers.
    • To prevent accidents, begin, end, and make turns on flat ground whenever possible.
    • Mowing on a slope can be a challenging task, especially when dealing with steep inclines.
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