Yesterday after work, I was enjoying a respite from my professional life as I puttered along on my riding mower cutting my acre lot that was long overdue for a mowing. This is one of my favorite times. I can reflect on past events and brainstorm for the future without a deadline hanging over my head or a phone-message light or e-mail staring me in the face begging a response. I was looking at the clippings flying out of the chute of my mower forming fragrant windrows across the lawn, and I couldn't help but think about the insignificance of my little plot compared to all the turf acreage that we have in this country.

There are approximately 50 million irrigated acres of turf that require regular mowing. This doesn't include the 8 million odd miles of roadside or the 84 million acres of National Park Service land. It takes me about an hour and a half to mow one acre. So I figure it would take me about 75 million hours (8,562 years) to mow the whole country one time with my mower. The grass would be plenty tall by the time I got around to the second mowing. Probably miss the ⅓-rule (cut no more than ⅓ the turf height at any one mowing), too.

Needless to say, the turf business is big business. At $35 to $40 billion, it is the largest agricultural crop in many states, such as Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey and North Carolina. Mowing equipment and labor account for a large part of these expenditures. And this issue focuses on mowing.

I'm sure you've figured a way to mow all those acres. In fact, aside from the millions of homeowners who keep their lawns trim, there are more than 1.1 million professional grounds managers who enlist to the task of mowing with quite a bit more efficiency than my one ride-on. Kicking off this issue is our opening feature “Turning a Profit.” In it, you'll learn the secrets of the pros who maximize efficiency in an effort to beautify the landscape and turn a neat profit at the same time. Setting rates, estimating crew size, scheduling and selecting equipment are only some of the topics covered in this all-encompassing article on mowing.

Although zero-turns (landscape contractors, lawn care operators and institutional subscribers can see the Zero-turn Mower Spec Guide following page C16) have revolutionized the market, intermediate walk-behind mowers are still holding their own. See this month's “Focus On” for a complete list of intermediate walk-behind mowers accompanied by product photos and descriptions.

Intermediate walk-behinds and zero-turns are particularly well-suited for traversing obstacles on your grounds, like ornamentals. Yeah, I know, ornamentals decrease your mowing efficiency, but together with turf, they are the elements that carry the most weight in any landscape design. As such, it is your task to keep them in tip-top shape. Check out “Chemical Update: Ornamental Products” on page 26 for an up-to-date list of ornamental pest controls.

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