riding mower/lawn tractor

I am thinking of purchasing a lawn tractor.
Those of you that own one....are you able to mow over (shred) your leaves in the fall finely enough to either leave them on the lawn as mulch, or bag and compost them?
My property really doesn't need a rider (144' x 85') but if I could do my leaves myself (mostly oak which don't compost well unless shredded pretty finely) it would nearly pay for itself in one season. Last year it cost me $500 to have someone rake and cart off my leaves (a lot of trees). I'd like to be able to shred the leaves, then put the bagger on the rider, ride over them again, empty the bagger and dump them in a compost pile.
It will cost me nearly $500 to have someone mow this season (and that's only once every two weeks). I would love to be able to compost my leaves but I need to be able to shred them. The reason I don't mow myself is that after the 1 hours that it takes me in the heat of the summer, I am so wiped out, it ruins the rest of the day for me. I know...I'm a whimp. (I'm 49, hate the heat of the summer. I prefer 30 to 80.)
Anyway, what are your thoughts on this?
Bonnie in NJ
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I think what you have in mind will work OK, but you'll be emptying your collector every couple of minutes. They make tow behind leaf vacuums which you'd attach to an enclosed cart, which hold a lot more leaves. They cost though. I have a large lawn with only a few trees, when the leaves fall I mow them in a circular pattern around the trees, blowing them toward the trees. This method works pretty well as I'm left with a pile of mulch around the trees which I manually pick up and cart away. hth, Roy in NY

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i have big trees and i cut the leaves up with my riding mower and leave them on the ground every year. the key is to get a mower with a mulching deck , and mulch every day the leaves cover the ground.if not fine enough go over them again... if you wait till they are all down they will be to thick to mulch, lucas
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See inline responses:

===> Sure, I do that all the time. Before I got my present lawn tractor I'd just mow twice, a day apart, to finish the semi-mulching stuff. Leaves especially mulch in nicely. Also: Many lawn tractors these days come with what's called a "mulching plate" and "mulching blades", as mine does now. The plate simply plugs the chute where the grass clippings come out, and the blades have more of a shape to create a cyclone under the deck so the cuttings are held in the air until they're chopped so finely they're not much more than wet dust, which falls into the lawn and disappears quickly. It does an excellent job with or without the plate for mulching. The only drawbacks I've noticed are: -- You have to mow a little slower and a little more often for perfect mulch creation. You're not supposed to cut more than a third the length of the grass at any one time, so a neglected lawn might take a couple or three passes if you want it all to mulch so it doesn't leave obvious clumps of grass around. -- Mulching works better the dryer the grass is. Trying to mulch in the early day wetness of the grass can leave clumps of cuttings around and end up unsightly. It'll require another cutting later in the dry to dissipate the clumps. If it gets too damp, the grass can actually clump enough to plug the deck unerneath because it gets so sticky, and the fine cuttings build up on the tires like a quilt an inch or so thick. And, the deck becomes a real bi_ch to wash out. -- Mulching requires keeping the under deck fairly well cleaned out, as in a hose spray.
But, I like it so much, I do it all the time. I mulch about an acre total, less the house, garage and a large shed and it's a good way of feeding the lawn. Total I mow the full 5 acres about three times a year but of course only the house acre gets mulched. If you mulch properly, you don't have to de-thatch the lawn every year either - the clippings are so small they just disappear right into the soil and roots. A touch of fertilizer/weed killer in the spring, and you've got a nice, green lawn that won't brown up in the dry weather until long after other's lawns have. My lawns stand out like a big sore, green thumb late in the summers; everyone thinks I water all the time; I seldom water except in dangerously dry periods, and then only when I know the well levels are high enough.
On the other hand, if all you're worried about is really the leaves & small branches, a chipper/shredder is great. It's a lot cheaper (`$500, maybe less) than a lawn tractor at $1,2000PLUS. We even shred our newspapers and mail in it, and put it out front by the road: The Amish take it and use it for bedding to mix into the straw for the cattle. Never, EVER put wet stuff in a shredder, though; it'll plug it in a hurry! <g> Oh, get one with an automatic starter: they're bears to pull if they don't disengage the cutters! It's like spinning a huge gyroscope to get it started.
Pop

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Bonnie,
Many lawn tractors come with this feature. Mine has a "mulch plug" which blocks the grass outlet, resulting in the leaves being chopped to a semi dust consistency. I bet you can pick such a tractor up for much less than $500 second hand. I have several acres to mow and find the tractor to work quite nicely on the lawn. In the Fall I allow the leaves to fall and then pick a dry day to mulch. Mulching is best done using the tractor in one of the slower speeds. I think you'll be very pleased with the result and if you aren't sell the tractor next Spring and you'll get most of your money back.
Good luck, Dave M.
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I get more than the typical ton of leaves in my back yard and the riding mower has taken what used to be a three day raking job and cut it down to less than two hours. I just ride in a circle throwing the leaves towards the center. As the circle gets smaller the leaves are continually getting chopped up. Eventually I end up with a band of leaves abut 3-5 feet wide the length of the yard. It then takes less than a half hour or so to rake them up and cart away. Fortunately, I live next to the woods (that's where most of the leaves came from) and dump them right back to where they originated from. MLD
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That's what I had in mind. Thanks to all for your responses.

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Bonnie wrote:

I have a 30" Sears (Murray) riding mower. My lot is heavily shaded by mature elms and oaks which demand payback in the autumn when those leaves fall.
Equipped with a mulching blade I simply make two passes. Once without the bagger attached to chop them up. Later with the bagger to clean them up. This doesn't mean waiting until the last leaf has fallen to begin the job. I generally try for once a week during the season. With 1/2 acre I'm usually done in about an hour or so. In my case I dump the chopped leaves in the greenbelt to compost.
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