Is there still a role for the cylinder mower in grounds?

. minute read

Using cylinder mowers to cut grass has been the standard since their invention in 1830. In the modern day, in both their walk-behind and ride-on forms, they are renowned for their pristine finishes, making them the perfect tool for golf and fine turf. Still, the cylinder mower has maintained its position as a staple in grounds maintenance too, holding its own not just on top playing surfaces with its millimetre precision, but also on the roughs of roadside verges.

With changing maintenance patterns however, UK councils encouraging more rewilding projects seeing grasses growing longer and coarser, the use of the cylinder may be in decline. That’s not to mention the fact that rotary mowing technology is evolving constantly, increasing in efficiency and precision giving the cylinder mower stiff competition.

So when it comes to the tougher conditions of parks and grounds, is there still a spot for this precision machine?

Why is a rotary mower the go-to grounds machine?

When it comes to grounds machines they need to be able to tackle a whole variety of terrains and a diversity of landscapes, cutting a wide range of grass types and lengths. Rotary mowers are typically exceptionally versatile machines capable of adapting to both rougher terrains and formal lawns alike.

The heart of their effectiveness comes from the rotary blade that rotates horizontally and swiftly; a design that allows for rapid grass cutting and the ability to mow properties with extensive grassy areas. Its ability to be adjusted on most models for different heights is also invaluable as it allows groundskeepers to tailor their mowing to specific aesthetic and functional requirements.

What’s more, the precision of finish achieved with modern rotary machines means they could be snapping at the heels of cylinders in that category too. Take the Toro Groundsmaster 3200 and 3300 – with rotary and Fine Cut Flail mowing decks available, they’re able to deliver an exceptional quality of cut even in the most demanding terrains. An innovative Tilt-Up deck design also means blade maintenance and deck cleaning is simple and straightforward.

This differs from the cutting mechanism of the cylinder, which sees the cylinder of helical blades rotate against a fixed blade creating a scissor-like action. Favoured for the shorter cutting heights of fine turf, taking this mechanism onto the longer grasses of municipal land can see the blades of a cylinder mower become clogged and tangled, requiring frequent stops to clear the cutting deck which can be both labour-intensive and time-consuming. It can also impact the mower’s cutting speed, leading to increased wear and tear, and potentially putting undue stress on the mower’s engine.

Parks and National Trust

That’s not to say the precision of a cylinder mower doesn’t have a place in the grounds sector, even with the advancement of its rotary counterpart, there are instances where precision continues to be a valued part of grounds maintenance.

When it comes to maintaining the grounds of a National Trust property, for example, often a careful balance must be struck between preserving historical authenticity, ecological balance and aesthetic appeal.

Many properties value the biodiversity that exists in the area, and as such prefer extended cutting cycles and varying grass lengths to create habitats for wildlife and encourage pollination. Depending on the site, some National Trust properties may be committed to protecting certain species and thus will base grounds maintenance around their needs. But interspersed with these rewilded areas are borders and edges, as well as lawns and pathways that make for easy visitor access that require a much shorter and precise level of cut – the perfect job for a cylinder mower.

As such, machines may have to adapt between robust mowing and practising finesse. Going between the two requires two things: a skilled operator and a versatile machine.

Operator skill

When it comes to cylinder mowers, the skill of the operator can often have a much larger bearing than with an out-front rotary and flail mower. Lifting and lowering individual units around obstacles found on municipal grounds can be a complex job. However, when operated correctly, machines such as the Toro LT3340 with its robust construction can be the hardest working groundscare mower around. Designed to tackle overgrown areas as efficiently as light trims, a cylinder mower like this can cope with longer plants and grasses and give a great performance in a variety of conditions.

And of course with Reesink there’s training available to make sure you get the very best from all ride-on mowers. Reesink Turfcare’s Safe Use of Ride-On Mowers course provides groundskeepers with the most up-to-date training on Toro mowers, which means a cylinder mower can work as efficiently as a rotary in many cases across more unkempt terrains. A tailored and thorough overview of machine operation as well the guidance on how to check and maintain the equipment, means an operator can transfer between finessing edges and tackling tougher growth with ease.

Versatility is key

When it comes to choosing between a cylinder or a rotary mower the solution might be easier than first thought. Cross-over machines can provide the best of both worlds. By adding an attachment, a machine can be transformed from a powerhouse triple flail mower to a fine-cut cylinder.

This innovative solution maximises usability, allowing operators to use just one efficient machine where they might have otherwise needed two. Machines such as the Toro LT-F3000 triple flail mower with its cylinder attachment are perfect for meeting the challenges of reduced frequency mowing cycles that can be common in the grounds sectors, while still being able to keep up with delivering the perfect cut in more prestigious areas. A FCF-30 cutter unit and Tempest flail blade design exclusive to Toro, provides fine-cut flail operation which means it can maintain grass both short and long.

So we think you’ll agree there’s no either/or. By combining the benefits of the rotary and cylinder mower you can save both time and money, switching with ease between short precision cuts and tackling longer, wetter, coarser grass without the need to switch out equipment entirely on the job. Cross-over machines are perhaps the definition of productivity by design – quite literally built to tackle everything.