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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all.
Short version and long to follow.

So, basically, the short version is:
Are the Trac-Vac style collection systems (separate engine/blower) worth the small investment?
What do you guys who pile up leaves do with them down the road?

Long version:
A bit of background.
I grew up in town, where the city picked up leaves, as long as you got them to the curb. Thats not all that difficult, no matter how big your lot in town.
Well, I lived in town. I spent quite a lot of time, probably as much as at home, at my Grandfathers, out in the country.
He had 2 acres. I used to think he had a lot of trees, but now that I have a ton of trees, he didnt have much at all, lol.
Anyway, Ive used my current 318, which used to be his, since it was new mowing and cleaning up leaves in the Fall at his place. It always worked ok, but not great. The 318 has a 50" deck, and powerflow with JRCO cart bagger (about the same as the MCS from Deere).
Anyway, it would pick up the leaves, but doesnt do much to chop them up. This lead to a lot of emptying of the cart. Out there, we just dumped them in the little stream, on the outside of a bend, where it was eroding. This, and the grass dumped there, helped keep it from getting worse. Oddly, it actually built that part back up fairly well after years of doing that.
Anyway, point being, at that place, it worked just ok. It left a lot of small stuff behind, but got the majority.
Fast forward about 15 years, and where we are now, in the middle of a 10 acre woods, 5.5 of which is ours, we have a small yard. Normally, its not a problem. Heck, I could push mow it if I had an hour or so. Trouble is, in the Fall, the leaves are crazy.
I have to be out every other day or they are too heavy to even think about picking up with the tractor.
My current issue is this.
Even at every other day or so, sometimes the leaves are so thick, the deck ends up pushing them, as it doesnt have good suction with the powerflow attached. Without it, its a monster. It leaves nothing under the deck. With it, it leaves (pun not intended) quite a bit of small chunks.
It also doesnt pack well, because its not really chopping anything up, just throwing them into the cart.
Because it doesnt pick up well, I cant go over the drive or other large gravel areas around the house. Those I use my blower on and just push them into the woods.
This creates basically a large "ridge" around the edge where they get piled up.
Along my drive, this ridge is about a foot tall, even in Summer due to this. I try to take the loader and push them back a bit, but the woods is pretty thick in places so that can be difficult.

Now, the thing is, even when I dump them, I have to eventually relocate them to burn them. This isnt too big a deal, but what I keep thinking is, if I had a Trac-Vac style collection system, they generally chop the leaves as they go through the "blower" into the hopper. Ive seen these fairly cheap locally.
My other thought, just last night after seeing a smaller version, is that maybe I should get one for my Exmark. It is lighter than the 318, and isnt wearing Tru-Powers on the rear to tear up the soft ground. It also does better with deep leaves than the 318, maybe due to the deck design, not sure why.
I could smooth out the trail somewhat, but that doesnt help the burning issues. I suspect I could get the Exmark back there and out easily enough...its more the problem of massive amounts of leaves that need to be dealt with over time.
My thought on the Trac-vac type system is that I could likely pick up leaves off the gravel areas too, instead of just blowing them into a ridge as is happening now.

Anyway, Id still have to dump the hopper and then move them later with the loader or something, as my trail to the burn pile isnt smooth enough to get my Exmark back there.
The reason I dont take the 318 and JRCO back there is because I already have a big pile of leaves on it now, and its been wet/damp so much that I cant burn them yet.
This is also something I need suggestions for.
 

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We live in the middle of a state forest and have about 1 acre to clear the leaves off including the driveway/parking area. They can get deep. After raking, blowing and tarping leaves for the first 20+ years, I picked up a used trac vac a few years ago. Its the best thing I bought in a LOOOOOONG time! :good2:

It cost $200 which was the price of the replacement Honda engine he put on it and i put another $200 in it having somebody make a new beam support system under the engine.

It works in the grass and gravel driveway. Sure I have to dump the cart about 5 times but between the deck and the trac vac chopper, it chops them up real good and after turning the pile a few times through the year, it composts into real nice soil after about 2 years. I hated raking and blowing leaves so this is a huge improvement in my chore list. I just rotate where i put the pile for the year and pull dirt off the composted piles. The only raking i do now is to pull leaves from the flower beds where the vac hose can't reach. Instead of waiting for them all to drop as I used to, I do about three or four rounds of leaf vac'ing on different weekends so they don't get too deep. I don't mind the extra time on the tractor. :yahoo:
 

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I bought an Agrifab sweeper that works well. I made a few modifications, instead of the lever you have to reach back and pull I use a long rope. I put a large screw eye on mower arm rest, rope through it to a 6" wood handle. So easy to back up dumping leaves just pull handle.
You have to set height adjustment carefully otherwise wheels skid. Works great for grass clippings also, I cut into long rows.


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I bought a Cyclone Rake a few years ago and tow it around with my LA135. It was not cheap, around $2k with attachments. But so, so worth it. It saves a ton of time.
 

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I have an Agri-Fab pull behind leaf sucker. Mine also has the chipper attachment. I have leaf duty for 2 acres of grass. 30 trees put off a lot of leaves, I have to suck leaves about every 3-5 days for the month of peak drop. I have to empty the hopper about 3x each day I use it. Absolutely love it, 2nd best lawn money I've ever spent, 1st best money is my GX345 for the power steering. I don't dump it, I use a hard take to empty it. Dumping it just doesn't work well for me...

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I have had a Trac Vac that I bought new close to 20 years ago. I would not be with out it. I believe it was worth the money then & still do. Although this year my be the first year that I will not use it.
That is because the leaves been falling slowly over the last 3 weeks & it looks like it may be a few weeks more before they finish. I have just been mulching them this fall.

Check craigslist for used ones.
 

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My Ferris ZT mower mulches 1’ piles of leafs to nothing in 1-2 passes. Not to mention it’s great for the soil.

You need a professional grade mower with a very high blade speed such as a 7 Iron or ICD to obliterate leafs and sticks. My old 7 Iron 60D would do slightly better than the Ferris.



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I bought gator mulching blades for my zero turn mower, and like magic the leaves disappear. It amazes me how well those blades work.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
My Ferris ZT mower mulches 1’ piles of leafs to nothing in 1-2 passes. Not to mention it’s great for the soil.

You need a professional grade mower with a very high blade speed such as a 7 Iron or ICD to obliterate leafs and sticks. My old 7 Iron 60D would do slightly better than the Ferris.



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I have a professional zero turn.
But you arent turning these leaves into nothing. 5.5 acres, heavily wooded. Quite a large number blow from the woods onto the lawn.
And leaves actually arent all that great for your soil. In large numbers, they will turn it acidic, which some grasses dont tolerate.
Soil tests will tell you more about your individual situation, but here, my soil is acidic enough without the help.
 

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Here is a video that Tractor Time With Tim posted today about the TeraKing TKV20 material collection system.
If I did not already have a Trac Vac 880, I would look hard at one of these units.
It is a lot more compact than the tow behind Trac Vac, plus you do not have to get off of the tractor to dump it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z36gHPS3_E8
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
That video is pretty cool, but thats too big for the 318 or the Exmark.

If I was smart, Id have bought the rear pto driven Deere MCS with hydraulic dump when I had a chance to pick one up a few years ago for $300.
I didnt, and now cant find anything like that for anywhere near that price.
They worked as well as the trac vac type, as they had a separate impeller and the hydraulic dump could be dumped on a trailer if needed.
 

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Yet another opinion

In general, it seems like different circumstances require different approaches. There's quite a few opinions on YouTube for you to enjoy.

We've been living in a house on a lot that is covered with large oak trees - lots of leaves every year. Here's a few observations based on 20+ years of leave removal.

The easiest year was when there were high winds for a few days - most of the leaves blew into the woods next to our lot. Wish that would happen more often.

The first few years, we were on a tight budget - two large rakes and a tarp. Time consuming and effective.

Later, we upgraded to a backpack blower. Very effective in creating large piles that can be raked on a tarp and dumped in the woods. I'd like to blow them all the way to the woods. But, there's often so many leaves, its faster to pile them up and drag them on a tarp. The blower reduces the time by about 50%. Its also very good at removing leaves from the plant beds. Our lot is sloped - the blower works much better going down hill.

I have gator blades on the tractor - they will shred the leaves quickly. I've used the tractor to blow the leaves into a windrow and then raked them onto a tarp. Beware - shredded leaves are much heavier when the tarp is full.

Last year, I found an older hydraulic dump MCS. I love it. Its a lot of fun. But, its hard to navigate around all the trees and it fills up really fast - we spend a lot of time dumping. I use it and like it and it works really well for what it was intended.

If there are a "small" amount of leaves on the yard, I'll mulch them. There is a down side to mulching oak leaves - they are acidic and will lower the pH of the soil which will adversely effect the grass. A good soil tester will help address this.
 

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That video is pretty cool, but thats too big for the 318 or the Exmark.

If I was smart, Id have bought the rear pto driven Deere MCS with hydraulic dump when I had a chance to pick one up a few years ago for $300.
I didnt, and now cant find anything like that for anywhere near that price.
They worked as well as the trac vac type, as they had a separate impeller and the hydraulic dump could be dumped on a trailer if needed.
When I saw the video, I thought that would work great on your 2025R, but I missed that you did not have a deck for it.
 

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I have a professional zero turn.
But you arent turning these leaves into nothing. 5.5 acres, heavily wooded. Quite a large number blow from the woods onto the lawn.
And leaves actually arent all that great for your soil. In large numbers, they will turn it acidic, which some grasses dont tolerate.
Soil tests will tell you more about your individual situation, but here, my soil is acidic enough without the help.
I used to mulch leaves and so glad you mentioned that and I was thinking the same thing. Virginia the land likes some lime so it would need to be added to offset acidic leaves.
I just make a big compost with leaves.

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I used to use a trac vac at a friend place when I was a kid. It’s was awesome. Been looking for a pto powered one for behind the 955. Or a hydraulic dump MCS.

The real benefit to these things though is that if you have a place to to keep the leaves that you gathers and mulch for a year or two they turn into the nicest black compost.


Free fertilizer. And it’s all natural. :)


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Discussion Starter #16
When I saw the video, I thought that would work great on your 2025R, but I missed that you did not have a deck for it.
It sure would, and the longer I have the 2025, the more I wish Id have gotten a deck. Probably wouldnt mow too awful much with it, but in the fall it would make quick work of things around here, and my neighbors too, but then Id want turf tires too, and thats more money....good grief, tractors are worse than a drug habit! :laugh::gizmo:
 

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Hi all.
Short version and long to follow.

So, basically, the short version is:
Are the Trac-Vac style collection systems (separate engine/blower) worth the small investment?
What do you guys who pile up leaves do with them down the road?

Long version:
A bit of background.
I grew up in town, where the city picked up leaves, as long as you got them to the curb. Thats not all that difficult, no matter how big your lot in town.
Well, I lived in town. I spent quite a lot of time, probably as much as at home, at my Grandfathers, out in the country.
He had 2 acres. I used to think he had a lot of trees, but now that I have a ton of trees, he didnt have much at all, lol.
Anyway, Ive used my current 318, which used to be his, since it was new mowing and cleaning up leaves in the Fall at his place. It always worked ok, but not great. The 318 has a 50" deck, and powerflow with JRCO cart bagger (about the same as the MCS from Deere).
Anyway, it would pick up the leaves, but doesnt do much to chop them up. This lead to a lot of emptying of the cart. Out there, we just dumped them in the little stream, on the outside of a bend, where it was eroding. This, and the grass dumped there, helped keep it from getting worse. Oddly, it actually built that part back up fairly well after years of doing that.
Anyway, point being, at that place, it worked just ok. It left a lot of small stuff behind, but got the majority.
Fast forward about 15 years, and where we are now, in the middle of a 10 acre woods, 5.5 of which is ours, we have a small yard. Normally, its not a problem. Heck, I could push mow it if I had an hour or so. Trouble is, in the Fall, the leaves are crazy.
I have to be out every other day or they are too heavy to even think about picking up with the tractor.
My current issue is this.
Even at every other day or so, sometimes the leaves are so thick, the deck ends up pushing them, as it doesnt have good suction with the powerflow attached. Without it, its a monster. It leaves nothing under the deck. With it, it leaves (pun not intended) quite a bit of small chunks.
It also doesnt pack well, because its not really chopping anything up, just throwing them into the cart.
Because it doesnt pick up well, I cant go over the drive or other large gravel areas around the house. Those I use my blower on and just push them into the woods.
This creates basically a large "ridge" around the edge where they get piled up.
Along my drive, this ridge is about a foot tall, even in Summer due to this. I try to take the loader and push them back a bit, but the woods is pretty thick in places so that can be difficult.

Now, the thing is, even when I dump them, I have to eventually relocate them to burn them. This isnt too big a deal, but what I keep thinking is, if I had a Trac-Vac style collection system, they generally chop the leaves as they go through the "blower" into the hopper. Ive seen these fairly cheap locally.
My other thought, just last night after seeing a smaller version, is that maybe I should get one for my Exmark. It is lighter than the 318, and isnt wearing Tru-Powers on the rear to tear up the soft ground. It also does better with deep leaves than the 318, maybe due to the deck design, not sure why.
I could smooth out the trail somewhat, but that doesnt help the burning issues. I suspect I could get the Exmark back there and out easily enough...its more the problem of massive amounts of leaves that need to be dealt with over time.
My thought on the Trac-vac type system is that I could likely pick up leaves off the gravel areas too, instead of just blowing them into a ridge as is happening now.

Anyway, Id still have to dump the hopper and then move them later with the loader or something, as my trail to the burn pile isnt smooth enough to get my Exmark back there.
The reason I dont take the 318 and JRCO back there is because I already have a big pile of leaves on it now, and its been wet/damp so much that I cant burn them yet.
This is also something I need suggestions for.
I have a MC519 with a aftermarket Hydraulic Lift Kit and I run Gator Blades On the deck on the X748 . I also Have a Peco Bagger for My Cub Cadet 106 has a similar set up to the Trac -Vac Doesn't do a great Job Mulching the leaves through the VAC But Gators with a MC519 I can collect double what I Can with standard Blades with a MC519. You could try a Trac-Vac with Gators/Predators(JD own version of Gators) on the Machine Your Going to use even with the 20-bu 3-Point Hitch MCS Gators will even Probably double the Capacity of the Terr-King Tim is Using :bigthumb:
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I currently run Gators on the 318/50" deck.
This combo is excellent, coupled with the speed up pulley.
The big issue I have is that the powerflow cant keep up.
Well, thats not new, before the speed up pulley, the ground speed had to be pretty low, even with just grass. That was with the low lift blades, and medium lift blades (Deeres only two options on that deck).
I believe this is why it doesnt do so well, and I believe its a result of the 50" being one of the first deep deck designs they had, and possibly a somewhat poor design on the powerflow used on it, either its too slow, or doesnt move enough air to keep up, or something along those lines.

Basically, this is why I was looking for an engine driven blower, as its likely to have a LOT more airflow than the standard powerflow blower, which means its likely that Sergent is correct about the gators and Trac-Vac being a great combo.

Guess Ill keep my eye out for a good deal on one.
 

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I made a box for my cart,got a hose and use the power flow.Works with both tractors.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I made a box for my cart,got a hose and use the power flow.Works with both tractors.
Thats a great idea, if your power flow works well enough to pick up everything, but as I mentioned, the older power flow and 50" deck combo doesnt work so hot for that.
Im kind of past needing one this year, which is actually a good thing because I can find one either over the Winter or next Spring for likely a better price than I could right now anyway.

I did see a Cyclone Rake for $500, and while thats a great price, Im going to hold off and put that money towards something else (finishing the ceiling in the garage). Priorities have switched a bit since the cold rolled in early this year.
 
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