Silly question time... :-)
I've been mowing our lawns with the ride-on in a kind of spiral pattern,
starting from the edge and working my way inwards.
All well and good at first, but our lawns are some rather oddball shapes,
and there are various buildings and trees to navigate around - toward the
end it seems like I spend a lot of time mowing narrow strips which get
left at various points (which require turning the mower around), or on
moving between areas that get 'left behind'.
Just wondered if there are any tricks or tips out there to plan a route
better and use less fuel, or even do something other than the spiral thing
(back-and-forth seems like it'd be worse though, somehow). Googled, but
didn't find anything obvious...
No doubt someone's done a PhD on the subject and written some software
somewhere for calculating an optimal route ;)
Well, you could always do it the way the Roomba (little robot vacuum
cleaner) does it...
but, then again, probably not.
You must be an engineer AICMFP! ;-)
If its any consolation, you are not the first to have had this dilemma!
For straight ish bits I find a combination of either ever decreasing
circles (although not decreasing at the narrow ends - so you still get
full length (or width) stripes), or the "walking rectangle" work well.
The problem with that is the 5 to 6 transition since you can't usually
turn the mower round in the width of a single cut.
The walking rectangle get away from the problem of sharp turns. Usually
using in combination with a bit of "figure of eight" round some trees
seems to work well.
I'll second your 'walking rectangle' - but with the addition of what I
think is called a 'headland' - being a couple of stripes cut first at
either end _across_ the normal line of cut - which means that you have a
bit of room to maneouver when turning..
Not sure if there's any great benefit - bit it seems to make the job
I'm sure I read somewhere that you should, from time to time, cut the
entire lawn in a 'different' direction - to avoid a pattern biulding up
over time.... don't know how true that is.
Something I do (when I remember) is to stagger the second cut (your no 3
& 4 above) by half a width - as otherwise you're mowing in exactly the
same position each week, and I fele that this can't be good for the lawn..
All of this theory is mitigated by practicalities - there are some parts
of our land than can only be cut 'upwards' or 'downwards' - due to the
gradient - and then there's trees, shrubs, chicken runs and other
obstacles to make it all the more interesting!
I don't really know how important it is for grass cutting but continual
ploughing of small strips of land in the same circular pattern back in the
days of strip farming was deliberately used to create higher areas
interleaved with drainage dips. Each year the strip would be ploughed in a
circle with a single bladed plough so gradually the soil was moved inwards.
This is the origin of most of the "ripples" you see in fields around the
country today, they are a little echo of our heritage.
Well Jules, I gut the oddball bits first - like painting where you 'cut
in' the corners, and save the long flowing stripey bits till last.
On one square section I go all around teh outside periphery, reversing
in one corner at each cut until I have about 3 meters of edge done, then
I zigzag across that to finish off, using the edges to turn.
The rest is somewhat trickier: However it passes the extremely tedious
time mowing working out and trying new algorithms.
It makes piss all difference to the time, whatever I do though.
But cutting in different directions is good for the overall effect.
..he..he.. was thinking long and hard about this today as I was
cutting the paddock with tractor and topper. I go all the way round in
a series of nearish squares until the central bit gets too small to do
the 90 degree turn properly, and then do a sort of clover leaf pattern
turning in the opposite lock to keep the corners square. Obviously not
too efficient, but as the poor old Fordson (circa 1959) effectively
can't reverse as the inertia of the topper spinning keeps the gears
turning and you are unable to select gear without crashing them. Let
the topper spin down and it's ok but that takes over a minute. The
alternative is to charge round the outside several times until there
is enough headland to turn, then do a series of stripes, but with
tractor and topper being about 20 foot long you need a big headland!
Ask a farmer, they have exactly this problem when they work fields of crops
but it matters much more to them as the tractor trashes a proportion of the
crop as its wheels go over it.
You are of course correct, there is very clever software combined with GPS
systems used on big fields to get the absolute maximum yield as well as to
use minimum chemicals, time etc.
This was all worked out years ago to minimise the effort involved in
cultivating land with horses. Because single furrow ploughs only turn
the soil one way, you can't simply go back down the row you have just
done without walking further and further at each end as the worked piece
gets wider. Holding the plough out of the ground while the horse plods
along the headland is hard work and wastes time. Working lands is the
most efficient solution.
Applied to mowing lawns this means cutting the outside first (headland)
to create space to turn. The remainder is then bi-sected parallel to the
straightest/longest edge; choosing an amount to give a reasonable
headland run. Initially the return cut will be along the headland until
the new cut is wide enough for the mower to turn comfortably and work
inside the new piece. Eventually the headland turn on the new piece will
be longer than that for the residue which should then be finished off.
And so on:-)
Don't have a ride on mower, but I did spend years selling ride on automatic
floor scrubber/driers - as used to clean the floors of shopping malls,
supermarkets & the like.
Scrubber/driers do reverse, but leave a puddle of water behind & don't like
sharp 'U' turns for the same reason. Back & forth doesn't really work as
the 'U' turns leave puddles, but a series of overlapping back & forth passes
and a final ride around the edges picks those up.
Mentally dividing the areas into rectangles and using the ever decreasing
circles method works pretty well, only leaving one puddle in the centre.
Dave - The Medway Handyman
I have to mow an olive grove, several acres with a regular pattern of
trees. The field itself is an odd shape - it's actually shaped like the
map of Italy only with a bent knee.
I use a 1.85m wide flail for the mowing, it still takes a good 14 hours
work to mow. My tractor can't do tight turns without ripping up the turf
so I'm limited in what I can do, so I mow in a spiral as you suggest.
This leaves "islands of unmowed grass pointing up and downhill from each
tree so I then do a final zig-zag mow side to side to mow down each
Heh, yes I do that too, and always play around with slightly different
strategies (all of them somehow spiral-based, although I've tried
splitting the lawns up into different sections to see if it helps).
Whatever I do always seems to end up with a certain amount of
doubling-back, or strips that can no longer be done in a spiral due to the
limited turn radius of the mower. I was wondering if I was missing
some trick that the porfessionals use (or even if the spiral approach was
flawed), but it sounds like everyone has the same problem.
It's not *that* big a deal; since I did some engine work and deck work I
can cut in under 2 hours now - it just bugs me to think I might be
wasting fuel that I don't need to :-)
Interesting - it does seem that way, except that it's more complicated,
because straight lines between points aren't always possible (objects in
the way), and the limited turn radius of the mower negates certain 'moves'.
I'm in a geeky mood, so off the top of my head a computational solution
might be to abstract the grass as a series of grid squares (the diagonal
of each square being the width of the mower deck), specify rules as to
allowed movement between squares (doubling back is made somehow
'expensive', but possible), and just let a computer crunch away testing
different routes and calculating optimal ones.
As for actually programming the darn thing so that it rejects anything
that's obviously silly, and doesn't try to run the exact same route more
than once, though... the number of possibles must be quite astronomical.
Another issue is that some obstacles - e.g. trees - end up being smaller
than a single grid square. Maybe I'll throw down some bark chips or
just attack those with the lawn edger ;-)
Is it? I thought it was usually the way things like 'serious' chess
programs and other game-related progs work; by testing options - along
with rules to reject anything that's obviously barmy.
I have come late to this thread as I have only just returned from a long
I probably agree with much of what has already been said but I have
noticed that as my mower changes so does what I think is the optimum
course for awkward areas, and my grass is just about all awkward areas.
It seems to me that if it is time you want to save and you have a mower
that will not cut in reverse (as I have at present) the last thing you
want to do is stop and then reverse if you can at all avoid it so my
cutting is aimed at keeping moving even if it means going over some
areas several times.
I also try to build some variation into the pattern so I so I don't
continually cut on the same lines but there are some places where I have
no choice but to mow the same way time and time again.
And finally my current mower has an offset deck so I really have to mow
edges in one direction only or get the strimmer out as well.
FWIW I think that you will do less distance if you cut a main area first
and then mop up the missed patches before moving on to the next area but
whether that is significant or even at all beneficial depends to a large
extent on the nature of your awkward shapes.
Not sure what newer mowers are like, having never had one, but ours is a
pig to switch between forward and reverse anyway (I'm not sure if it's
just crappy gearing design or wear, but I have to really back off the
throttle and 'tickle' it into gear, often whilst slipping the clutch), so
I prefer not to back up if I can avoid it.
Ours is central, thankfully, but it makes sense to cut one way anyway I
think, just so I'm not blowing cut grass all over the bits I haven't yet
mowed (a grass collector would be nice, but I don't stand much chance of
finding one for our ancient mower, and I don't know enough about how they
work to try and DIY one)
Yes, that might be. We don't really have a 'main area' as such though -
there's a barn, fire pit, workshop, wood pile, house, sheds, septic tank
caps, propane tank, clothes lines, power pole, telegraph pole, and
various trees all conspiring against me. That's before factoring in that
the perimeter of the grassed area looks like one of those Rorschach ink
(sounds hellish, but I don't mind - I enjoy mowing, I just always end up
wondering if I'm going about it in the best way)
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