Cutting grass on a hill

jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)August 15, 2006

What kind of lawn mower/tractor do you use?

We just have one of those small lawn tractors but now that we know better, we are considering buying something that is better for cutting on a hill. In order to avoid going across the hill, we have to go down the hill then come up the driveway and then back down the hill. That obviously takes a much longer time than if we could cut across the hill or turn on the hill.

We also use a self propelled push mower for those areas that are too steep to get with the tractor. AND for those areas that are even too steep for the push mower we use a weed wacker on wheels (which is also great for bush hogging on a hill - we used it to clear over an acre).

What do you do to cut grass on a hill?

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I plant groundcovers! Grin. Sorry, couldn't resist!
I wonder who requested this board. Does anyone care? Cry! Sob!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 12:43PM
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We have a very small hill to mow, but it was a struggle nevertheless, until I got a new electric lawn mower that weighs only 30 pounds. It is SO much easier to mow with something lightweight than with something beefy.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 1:43PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I remember this forum being requested, hillsides to offer benefits and chalanges that most of us do not face. A fantastic ay to always have a nicely trimed lawn on a hillside is to get sheep out there, they will munch and munch continuosly all season, then at the end you can sheer some wool and have lambchops.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 4:31PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

Actaully, we did consider sheep or goats - but just briefly since we have no outbuildings to shelter them and no fence to keep them in. And we tend to take off on weekends for motorcyle trips, sometimes at the spur of the moment. But it would be much better for the environment, no gas needed! There is a small community here that has a park area surrounding an indian mound. The area is fenced off to keep people from walking on the mound and they do bring in llamas in the summer as it was too steep to mow.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 9:07PM
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If the area isn't too huge and the grass isn't too long, I've found manual reel mowers to be easy and safe to use on slopes.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2006 at 9:45AM
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Hi, Jeanner:

I recognize you from the Ponds Forum.

I too have a really steep hill on the east side of my house. It was totally bare when we bought this house 21 years ago and was a "bear" to cut. I started out just planting whatever flowering bush or shrub I could afford to buy and whatever plants my friends wanted to get rid of. Everything has filled in pretty well. In fact, I had to move several bushes because they were too close to the trees. It's funny how you tend not to think about spacing when they are small but after a year or two I usually find I've put them too close to each other.

I have rhododendrums, butterfly bushes, rose of sharon, flowering crabapple tree, north caroline saphire cedar. harry lauder walking stick, a volunteer magnolia tree that is now about 20 feet tall, beauty berry bush, forsythia, and japonicas,just to name a few. To say the least, they are packed in pretty thick but I have found that this helps to keep the grass and weeds out.

About two summers ago we started mulching the steepest part and ended up using about 10 to 15 large rolls of landscaping fabric and four or five large loads of mulch. We now have very little grass to mow and simply have to weed whatever decides to seed in the mulch. So far its held up pretty well although I'm sure we'll need more mulch by next summer.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 7:08PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

Hi Ann! Your hill sounds wonderful. I'm trying to do the same - maybe in 21 years I will be done .... I'm not sure that I am that patient. I have several butterfly bushes but they are not doing a thing, they've been there three years and haven't grown at all. The rule in my garden is three years, if by then they aren't doing well, they get moved or donated to friends. I just planted a beauty berry bush and really like it - unfortunately so do the deer! I also have some forsythia, I'm going to try propaging more from the branches in the spring, I've heard they are easy to do.

Thanks for the ideas!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2006 at 10:06PM
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If you use a gas powered mower, make sure you are conscious about oil mix. I've learned the hard way that mowing at a slant for a significant amount of time can deny the mower proper lubrication. So, vary your swath.

A two-cycle works best, but when mine died a couple of years ago, I couldn't find a suitable replacement. So, I bought a real cheap one, knowing I'll ruin it after a couple of seasons.

New to the forum, and excited about it. In addition to the hill at my "main" home, we've just bought a lake lot that makes the hill at the main home look like a jet runway.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 9:20AM
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For mowing some of my hills, I have a Simplicity Conquest, 21/44. I have a 12 years old Toro Super Recycler for some of the hilly spots the tractor can't get to.

I had the real bad hill in the back landscaped out this past summer. Now I have a flat grassy area, terraced areas to plant and an informal step setting to go down to the lower 40!

And of course the good old weed wacker to clean up the trim areas.

Enjoy the journey.

eal51 in western CT

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 4:44PM
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Hi Jeanner,
We learned this trick from watching a lawn service cutting our neighbour's grass (this tip is for cutting grass on very steep slopes).

We use an electric mower and tie a long rope to the handle. We find a somewhat flat spot at the 'top' of the hill (or your mowing area) and use the rope to slowly lower the mower down the hill (this only works if your hill is a somewhat consistent slope so that the mower blades don't get caught on bumps).

This probably isn't necessary (and will make maneouvering more difficult), but if the slope is too steep for your comfort level, calculate the maximum length of the slope and make sure the rope doesn't exceed that length. You can then tie the other end to a fixed object (e.g. a tree, stake in the ground, etc...). It's a little intimidating at first, but not difficult once you get the hang of it.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 6:42PM
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madtripper(5/6 Guelph)

Why try to grow cut grass on the hill?

Grass is best for walking on and playing on - a hill is not good for either. If you really do not want to take special steps to grow things on the hill, just let the grass that is there grow.

I cut my hill once after monving in - it is now a big hill garden.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2006 at 7:47PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

Believe me if I could get away from cutting grass I would. We didn't cut the grass the first year we were here but since the hill is right in front of the house, it really looked bad, even to me, and I like the natural areas on our property the best. The hill is about a 1/2 acre and it is also our leach field. So trees and bushes are not an option and I can't maintain a 1/2 acre garden that's in full sun (I've had several skin cancers removed already so I have to minimize my sun exposure). My goal is to turn the other acre of grass (at the bottom of the hill) into a natural pond with some prairie plants, bushes and trees. But the grass on the hill will have to stay.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 9:27PM
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Maybe you could switch to a low growing grass species. Then you will never have to mow.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 6:04PM
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Jeanner - sorry to drag up an old thread, but have you considered Buffalo Grass? Mow it once during a season, and you're done.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 1:28PM
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Back to the goat sheep idea -- could you rent them in your area?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 11:54AM
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If you need to cut grass on a hill, invest in a front wheel drive lawn mower. I use a 22-inch craftsman mulching mower 4-cycle engine. FrontWD pulls rather than pushes. Lift on the handle, and it pulls, but 22 inch swaths take forever. The grade of the yard must be considered. Most machines will not work well on anything over 15 degrees, but my craftsman works well on 25 degrees and a little more since it is low to the ground.
I tried other rear wheel drives like the Quick 36 that I thought would do the trick, but it smoked, and dived down hill due to the front weight. The manufacturer said it had too much oil in it, but the manual said it wouldn't work well in areas over 17-degrees. I was lucky they took it back, but it cost me $220. to return. They told me to get a Goat due to their poor salesman ship.... But I have one... MY CRAFTSMAN 22-inch MULCHING MOWER. Small but powerful, and a better beautiful lawn. If anyone knows of a similar
machine with a wider cut Please E-mail me.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 12:46PM
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This is a topic that's "near and dear" to me, as you might say, because the better part of my front yard is a 40% grade. For the hills that are too steep for a riding mower, I suggest a good walk-behind mower (either push mower or rear-wheel drive self-propelled) as your best bets. I don't recommend front-drive self-propelled mowers. These usually have only one walking speed, whereas a rear-drives commonly have multiple or variable speeds, which will allow the user to go much slower on the hills, while cruising faster across the flats.

Also, (in my experience, at least) the back (non-driven) wheels on a front-drive mower have a greater tendency to slide to the downhill side than with the rear-drive. My personal choice is the Toro Personal Pace RWD (20054, as I don't bag). It has a cast aluminum deck that won't rust. It's also comparatively light, as self-propelled walk-behinds go, making it easier to handle on a slope.

Regardless of what mower you use, there are a few simple things you can do to make cutting on a hill much safer and easier with any walk-behind mower. Always cut across the face of the hill (not up and down) with a walk-behind mower. Never cut when the grass is wet as you are more likely to slip. Start at the top and work your way down, letting gravity do some of the work for you.

And the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do if you're using a walk-behind on a steep hill is go to Wal-Mart and buy yourself a cheap pair of softball (football, soccer) cleats. You'll be glad you did.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 11:33PM
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