We have about three acres of lawn. Due to my obsessive need to plant trees, bushes, flowers and stick the odd lawn ornament right smack dab in the middle of a bunch of grass - my husband and I had to figure something out very quickly or things were going to get baaaad. Using a weed trimmer around all of these places AND mowing with a traditional riding mower would take an entire day. Mowing took 7 hours and the trimming (what little got done) would take an additional 4. Not a good way to spend a Saturday.
Obviously, I wasn't going to change my ways and obviously he was going to continue to mow right over the flowers and knock poor Wally into the fish pond over and over again. (See pic 4, he has a LOT of super glue holding him together.)
Since a divorce cost more, we opted to purchase the ultimate manly man (sic) lawnmower - a riding zero turn mower that would enable him to mow quickly and make tight turns around all my "decorations" without killing them. He won't admit that he actually enjoys cutting the grass now, but forbids me to do it, so there's my answer. I see him when he's out there and I know he is having fun. He did let me use it once (supervised, of course) and it was a lot of fun to use. It can go 6 mph. That may not seem all that fast, but trust me - it is when you are flying through the grass! You can see in picture 2 above the expanse of lawn (albeit dead lawn at the time of the photo), and in picture 3 - you can see how well the mower cuts the lawn.
Model, pricing and financing. The mower we chose is a 2006 model. The 2007/8 models have additional horsepower and the 2450 model (basically the same mower with a little more HP) has been awarded a Consumer Digest Best Buy. I don't think you can get a new 2350 anymore, the 2450 replaced it, but I did a quick search and found a lot of them out there with little mileage on them for purchase - right around the price we paid.
By the way, Gravely offered free financing, so we paid for ours monthly with zero interest. They have a "Yard Card" that you can apply for that enables 0 interest and we took advantage of it.
Specs. The specs are as follows: Kohler Courage Engine, 23 horsepower, 50" cutting width, 3.25-Gallon Fuel, 6 mph forward / 3 mph reverse, Pivoting/Lockable Front Axle, 3-Spindle Deck, 2-year warranty, 2 cylinder air-cooled, electric start, Cutting heights 1" - 4", 3 hardened 17" steel blades, 540 lbs, operator presence safety system, and you can get the following attachments: non-powered 2 bucket bagger, mulch kit, sun shade and a spreader.
Key features. There are a few key features that I wanted to point out that make a big difference to me and to my husband.
1. The first one is the safety seat. If you are not in the seat, the engine cuts off. I really like that and it may be a feature on others, but on a mower this fast, that is a comforting thought that if you get bumped off, the mower would not turn and run over you! (yea, I'm paranoid like that and have seen too many movies).
2. The second is the handles that govern steering. It isn't a wheel like in most mowers and this can take a lot of getting used to. You lean the handles forward to move and if you move one slightly ahead of another, the mower will turn in that direction. I went in circles for a long long time. Of course, pulling back reverses your movement. I wouldn't practice near anything you don't mind cutting down!
3. The third is the ease of changing the height of the cut blade. You can do that with your feet with the mower in neutral. This is great when you are moving along the lawn and may reach a shady area that you want to cut a bit lower - you don't have to stop the mower and get off to set the blades.
4. The last one is gas efficiency. We can mow the lawn three times on a fill-up. Our previous Craftsman riding mower had the same tank size, but would only cut the lawn once! Major improvement.
Seeing is believing. I made a video of my husband cutting the lawn today so you can get a since of how it works, but can't get the video feature here on SR to work for me -- it's been trying to upload a 29 second one for over 2 hours, so I'm giving up. You can see it here:
Although the quality of the video is terrible. It's the best I can do with my digital camera. At least it gives you an idea of how it works.
In summary, no doubt it is an expensive mower (and it is on the lower end of the price bracket on these). But if you have a lawn of a few acres, this really simplifies your life. We went through a lot of riding mowers and basically wore them out on our lawn. I think it was money well spent as my husband can now cut the grass in about 2 hours (versus 7 before) and he can maneuver so close to the beds that weed trimming is almost unnecessary.
Garden gnome safety. So in total, he may spend 3 hours as opposed to 11 cutting the grass. And we get along much better now that my flowers and gnomes are safe!
If I can answer anymore questions - please let me know! Thanks for reading!
Update On May 18, 2008: Mark and I have decided t convert 2 of our 3 acres of lawn to meadow. Lucky for us, the mower will still operate in that environment as the meadow will need a good shearing from time to time. We have been reading that lawns are one of the major water hogs & with the water shortages that hit us in the south each summer, we fight to keep it alive and it usually it still dies. We've noticed during this time that a lot of wild flowers spring up like wild violets, Queen Anne's lace and Black Eye Susans, which are beautiful. So in the back 2 acres or so, we are going to plant red clover this fall to give it a boost & see what happens! Wish us luck! I'll update.