Mowing with a ride-on, particularly a lawn or garden tractor, can make the job feel like a breeze but steep slopes and hills present a particular challenge. There is a significant risk to mowing on a slope, whatever machine you are using, and being aware of the potential dangers, correct technique and best mower for the job is essential.
While tractors are better suited to steeper inclines than most other mowers, there are still many things to consider before you take yours out and start climbing. The most important rule when mowing a steep hill with a tractor is that you should always mow up and down the slope, never across it.
This article will go into detail about the best way to mow your sloped land in a tractor, why it is so important to take these precautions, and which different machines are best for the job.
What Direction Should I Mow on a Slope?
There is sometimes a temptation to mow across a slope because it requires fewer turns to complete the job, but it is highly dangerous. Driving your tractor sideways at an angle highly increases the risk of tipping, which is one of the greatest dangers when using a ride-on, so you should always mow vertically up and down the incline.
How Should I Turn My Tractor on a Slope?
The key to turning safely on a slope is that you don’t, instead you should be turning on the flattest areas before returning to the incline. Making a turn on a hill is very likely to result in tipping over, so you should drive onto the flat land at the bottom or top of a hill before turning.
How Fast Should I be Moving While Mowing on a Hill?
You should always be mowing at a slow, steady pace, but this is most important when you are dealing with sloped land. A low speed and a low gear will allow you to make your way up and down the slope without having to shift gears going up and without allowing the machine to pick up speed going down.
Can I Stop My Tractor on a Slope?
Stopping on a slope presents several dangers when using a tractor, particularly that sudden speed changes when stopping or starting up again can cause you to tip over. Taking your tractor out of gear, or rolling down a hill in neutral, is also a risk as you give up your ability to control your speed and brake effectively.
What Other Dangers Should I Look Out For?
Even the slightest bump or wobble is a much greater danger when you are driving at an angle, so make sure that you have seriously inspected the terrain before starting. Look out for holes, divots, rocks, and branches in particular, and never mow on a slope near a body of water as the soil can easily give way.
Can I Use an Attachment on a Slope?
There are many different attachments, like grass catchers, which you might be used to using on flat land that add unnecessary risk when you are mowing on a hill. Anything that is likely to change the balance of your machine is generally an unwise addition, although some tractors do come with specialised weights designed to increase stability on slopes.
How Do You Prevent Tractor Roll Over When Going Up Steep Hills?
As tipping over, or rolling, is the greatest risk to your safety when on a slope you want to follow all of the simple rules mentioned above. Investigate the area for risks before you start, maintain a constant, low speed in a low gear, don’t stop or turn on the slope and always mow up and down, never across.
What Makes a Tractor Safer for Hill Mowing?
Any time you are mowing on a slope, you need to make sure that your tractor is equipped with a rollover protective structure which is like a roll cage and is designed to keep you safe in the event of tipping. You should also ensure that your machine has a secure and effective seatbelt to keep you in place.
What Type of Tyres Are Best for Steeper Slopes?
Wider tyres are much safer than skinny tyres when you are driving your machine on a slope, and ideally, you want them to be spaced as far apart as possible. Chunky tyres with a good distance between them, on the front and rear of the vehicle, have much better stability and are more likely to keep the tractor upright.
What Type of Engine Should a Tractor Have for Mowing on a Slope?
You need a machine that has a heavy transmission and is capable of giving out good power in a low gear, to be able to tackle a slope. You want an engine that has a high torque-to-weight ratio so that it is able to give you a constant speed when you are climbing a hill.
Can a Zero-Turn Mower be Used on Hills?
Unless it is specifically designed for use on slopes, zero-turn machines are much more likely to tip over backwards when driving uphill than a tractor. Performing a zero-turn while you are on a slope is also risky, so using one requires careful consideration, and is not recommended for inclines of over 10° unless it is designed to do so.
How Steep is Too Steep for a Tractor?
Often, garden tractors can handle an incline of up to 15°, which will be listed in the manual, though there are few that are specifically designed to do so. If are looking at a slope greater than 15°, you will want a specialist machine, like the Kut Kwick Slopemaster which is rated to tackle slopes of up to 40°.
What Do I Do If Something Goes Wrong While Mowing on a Slope?
Even if you are careful and smart about using your tractor on a hill, the unexpected can happen, so you should always have an escape route planned. Know where you will try to guide the machine if you start to feel a wobble, and don’t even set off without your seatbelt and roll over protection in place.
Hi, I’m John Stephens, chief editor and writer for Totalgardener.com. I’ve been gardening and raising animals for over 15 years starting with a small backyard plot in Northern Virginia where I grew corn, potatoes, squash, and using a high mulch technique called the Ruth Stout Method. I also raised ducks and small mammals for meat and eggs in a movable pen similar to the ones used by Joel Salatin. I later moved to Colorado where I experimented with growing greens using aquaponics inside. I eventually added a microgreens setup and home sprouting operation. I’m excited to share everything I’ve learned plus more from the other local gardening and animal raising experts I know.