Preparing Your Garden for Winter

Preparing Your Garden for WinterYou may be used to winding down lawn care as winter approaches, but what about your garden? By doing a few things now, you can help your plants survive winter weather and get a head start on spring.

Don’t Stop Watering

Plants will still need water as they go dormant, especially if you’re having a dry fall. Keep watering until the first freeze.

Use Your Leaves

Instead of disposing of leaves, mulch and collect them with your mower. As long as you don’t have black walnut trees on your property, the resulting mulch is perfect for applying to garden beds. What’s wrong with black walnut leaves? They contain high levels of juglone, a chemical that is used by the tree to push out competing plants. Many ornamental and edible plants are susceptible to this poison.

Collected leaves can be used as mulch and ground cover, or they can be composted, creating rich organic material both directly and through the growth of leaf mold. This also breaks downs juglone, making black walnut mulch to use on all plants.

Remove Dead Vegetation

Cleaning out your garden doesn’t just make it look better, it also stops the spread of plant diseases that can survive the winter.

Prepare the Soil for Spring

Now is a great time to fertilize your soil for the next growing season. A soil test will tell you what nutrients need to be added to give your plants the nutrient support they need. If your soil needs lime, applying it now will give it time to dissolve and reduce acidity.

Plant Bulbs

Bulb plants, including tulips, daffodils, crocus, onion, and garlic need exposure to cold weather before they’ll come out of dormancy. Planting needs vary from plant to plant, but most varieties do best when evening temperatures are in the 40s. All bulb varieties do best if they’re planted in soil with good drainage.

Lay Down a Thin Layer of Mulch

Adding one to two inches of mulch over gardens and around trees will shield plants from the worst effects of winter. However, a thicker layer may insulate the underlying soil, keeping it from freezing. This can leave insects, weeds and other detrimental organisms alive come spring.

Protect Your Trees

If you have young, thin-barked trees, they’ll need some protecting from temperature fluctuations in the winter. As the surface heats up, water thaws in the bark and trunk, only to refreeze at night, splitting the bark. To keep this from happening, apply a paper wrap, covering the trunk from an inch below the soil surface. The ends can be taped together with some duct tape.

Evergreens are still active in winter, but they can dry out easily in the winter air. Keep them watered and consider applying an antidesiccant.

Protect Roses with Cones

Roses should be protected with a rose cone after the first hard freeze, the point at which temperatures dip below 20°F. Prune the plant just enough to fit into the cone. Filling the cone with leaf mold or straw will add extra protection if you live in a very cold climate or you’re growing a cold-sensitive variety like a hybrid tea. When temperatures rise in the spring, remove the cone when temperatures are above 30 degrees, then put it back over the plant at night.

Get Caught Up on Equipment Maintenance

Whether you’re looking to add a bagging system to your mower, or you have equipment that’s due for a yearly tune-up, visit Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We’re an authorized dealer for a wide range of consumer and commercial brands including everything from BCS to Yanmar. Visit our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA.

We also ship parts and accessories for all the brands we carry to any address in the U.S. or Canada. To order, visit us online at

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Echo Bear Cat LS22 Log Splitter

ECHO Bear Cat Log Splitter LS22The leaves have fallen, and that means log splitting season is here again. If you have an Echo Bear Cat LS 22, there are a few things you should know about maintaining and operating your log splitter so you can get the most from it.


The LS 22 is powered by a Subaru SP170. For detailed use and maintenance information, check the engine owner’s manual: service intervals and methods can vary widely from version to version.

Before shutting off the engine, move the throttle lever to “slow” and let the engine return to idle speed. This makes shut down easier on the engine and the hydraulic pump.

Hydraulic System

When operating at temperatures below 20ºF, let the engine warm up and fully extend and retract the cylinder four times to warm up the hydraulic fluid. Using the log splitter in temperatures below 0ºF can damage the hydraulic system.

The hydraulic tank is built around the trailer axle. To check the level, set the splitter on a flat surface with the jack extended, then remove the filler cap on the left side of the tank. The entire hydraulic system holds four gallons of Dexron III/Mercon automatic transmission fluid.

The hydraulic filter should be changed after the first 50 hours of use, then every 200 hours thereafter. To install a new filter, lubricate the seal with Dexron III, tighten it by hand, then tighten it an additional ½ turn with a filter wrench.

Spacer Plate Alignment

Check the alignment of the splitting wedge spacer plates before using this equipment. If they’re misaligned, the wedge won’t travel in a straight path, causing it to rub against and can damage the splitter. It’s normal for the plates to move with use, especially if the full power of the hydraulic system is used repeatedly to cut difficult logs.

To adjust the plates, loosen the three bolts clamping them to the beam. The bolts and nuts do not need to be removed. Push the plates against the beam, positioning them so they’re parallel with the wedge, and tighten the bolts by hand. Once everything is lined up, torque the bolts to 110 ft-lbs.

Check the alignment by extending and retracting the wedge. If the plates are in the right position, the wedge will move without binding.

The wedge is bolted on using a Grade 8-rated black oxide ½ by 4-inch carriage bolt. If this bolt is damaged, replace it with an identical bolt before using the splitter. When installing, position the cylinder ram so it’s against the wedge and tighten the bolt to 110 ft-lbs.

Using the Splitter

The splitter can handle logs that are up to 24 inches long. Both ends of the log must be cut square.

Lift the log into place by picking it up by its sides. Set it on the tray so that the wedge will cut with the grain.

Stand behind the splitting area and use the controls to extend the wedge. If you need to support the log, place your hand on the side, well away from the wedge.

Once the log has split or the wedge is fully extended, use the controls to retract the cylinder. Wait until it’s fully retracted before removing the log pieces.

Vertical Operation

In most cases, it’s best to use the beam in the horizontal position. However, having it in the vertical position makes it easier to split large logs. It’s best to keep the trailer hitched to the tow vehicle for stability when cutting vertically.

To switch modes, pull out the spring-loaded pin on the main beam and tilt the beam until it locks into place.

When placing a log on the end plate, turn the log until it leans against the beam.


Before towing, lock the beam in the horizontal position and fully extend the wedge to increase the stability of the trailer. As with any trailer, you need to make sure the safety chains are attached to the tow hitch and the hitch bolts are tight before transport. The trailer is designed for a maximum towing speed of 45 mph.

Need Something for Your Log Splitter?

Shank’s Lawn Equipment is an authorized dealer for a wide range of professional outdoor equipment brands including Echo Bear Cat and Subaru Power. That means we can service your equipment or provide you with the parts you need to do it yourself. Our shop is at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway at the south end of Chambersburg, PA. We also ship parts and accessories across the United States and Canada. If you need something for your Echo Bear Cat, visit

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Briggs & Stratton CO Guard: Making Portable Generators Safer

Briggs & Stratton CO Guard: Making Portable Generators Safer

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious danger when using a portable generator, especially for impulse buyers who need power after natural disasters. While new industry-wide safety standards are going to be rolled out in the next two years, Briggs & Stratton is taking the lead by adding their new CO Guard to their models ahead of time.

Solving the Leading Safety Problem with Portable Generators

Carbon monoxide emissions from portable generators are responsible for approximately 70 deaths and 2,800 injuries each year. While these devices are safe if used correctly, it’s common for new owners to ignore instructions and set up their equipment in areas that can lead to poisoning.

Why is this such a big problem? When natural disasters shut off power for days, people buy units and use whatever extension cords they have on hand to plug in their devices. To get these cords to reach, they often place their generators inside garages, just outside windows or on covered porches where carbon monoxide can collect. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that attaches to red blood cells, preventing them from carrying oxygen. Early signs of poisoning including headaches and nausea are easy to ignore, increasing risk.

While this problem is well known, getting an industry-wide solution hasn’t been easy. When it comes to government regulation, it isn’t clear if carbon monoxide should be handled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) because it’s a safety hazard or by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it’s a pollutant. To work around this problem, the Portable Generator Manufacturer’s Association (PGMA) was founded in 2009 to bring a voluntary standard. Today, this industry organization represents 80% of the market.

In the early 2010s, the CPSC developed a low CO emissions tech demo using laboratory conditions that the PGMA argued was unrealistic for real-world use. In response, the PGMA started two groups to develop a new solution: one group worked on low emissions engine akin to the CPSC proposal, while the other group worked on a shut-off system. The latter system won out as it was inexpensive and easy to implement, while plans are in the works to bring low emissions engines to market in the next few years.

A New Standard in Safety

The CPSC, PGMA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) built on this work to create the new ANSI/PGMA G300-2018 standard. Along with safety requirements for electrical, thermal and mechanical dangers, this new standard finally applies a standard method for CO management. G300 applies to all generators 15kW and under including inverter generators, open frame, and construction models, with compliance expected by March 31, 2020. It’s estimated that these shut-off devices should be more than 99% effective at preventing fatalities if the generator is operated in an enclosed space.

CO Guard: Getting a Head Start on Safety Technology

While manufacturers have a while to comply, Briggs & Stratton announced last April that they would roll out their CO Guard protection system as soon as possible. The first generators are reaching the market now with a phase-in across their entire line over the next 18 months.

Designed to comply with the new standard, the system has a CO sensor built into the ignition system. When the sensor detects unsafe levels of the gas, it shuts off the engine and turns on a warning light. The system won’t reactivate the ignition system until CO levels drop.

How Well Does It Work?

Briggs & Stratton spent a lot of effort in research and development to make sure CO Guard works reliably. To conform to the new standard, the sensor is designed to work in temperatures ranging from -20 to 122ºF. In early tests, they found the system could be triggered by wind blowing exhaust gases directly onto the sensor. To stop these false triggers, the sensor is housed inside a case that prevents direct air contact.

While CO Guard makes these generators safer, it isn’t fool-proof. The generator still needs to be operated outdoors, and even minor exposure to carbon monoxide can cause tissue damage.

Looking for Help with Your Briggs & Stratton Generator?

Shank’s Lawn Equipment is an authorized Briggs & Stratton dealer, selling and servicing everything from the company from small engines to power equipment like these new generators. If you’re looking for a portable power solution or you need help with your current equipment, visit our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. To get here, take Exit 10/Marion from I-81 and drive one mile East.

Need parts for your generator? Visit our website, We ship across the U.S. and Canada.

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Echo Bear Cat DL 10 Debris Loader

Echo Bear Cat DL 10 Debris Loader

A debris loader is invaluable when you need to load fall leaves for disposal, but it can be hard finding something that’s the right size for your needs: small loaders are easy to use but are slow and can clog easily, while large loaders aren’t as flexible and can be pricey. Echo Bear Cat’s DL10 debris loader covers all the bases by being small enough to be hand-carried or mounted on a hitch receiver while using innovative design feature to make the most of its available power.

Better By Design

At 340 lbs, this machine is no lightweight, but high-mounted handles make it possible to move the loader and position it for mounting without needing a forklift.

Debris enters through a 12-foot intake hose capped with an aluminum nozzle with two handles, one for each hand. That puts less weight on the operator and offers more hand position options for reduced fatigue. The boom has a central swiveling joint and supports the hose with two chains, leaving less weight to lug around while reducing hose angles to preventing clogs.

While other brands may offer an adjustable chute as an upgrade, the DL10 comes with a 360-degree swiveling discharge tube straight from the factory. This lets you get just the right position when loading debris and move the chute out of the way during transport.


The DL10 is powered by a 570cc Vanguard V-Twin. It comes with an electric starter and a pull start back up, as well as the features you expect in a commercial engine like full pressure lubrication and a heavy-duty air cleaner. This engine drives a 16-inch impeller with four serrated blades. These blades chop up leaves as they pass through the chamber, reducing their size so you can carry more debris with each load. A replaceable liner takes the brunt of the wear, protecting the impeller case for a longer service life. Maximum suction power for this unit is 3,900 CFM.


Using the right combination of parts, you can get debris into any container. There’s a 16-inch vertical chute extension for reaching over tall beds, a four-foot flexible horizontal chute extension to drop debris directly into your truck or trailer, and a deflector cap that aims debris right where you need it.

From the factory, the loader is designed to be permanently bolted onto a flat surface, but it can also be attached to the rear of your truck as needed using the receiver mount kit.

Worried about shorter days cutting into your work time? The 12-volt work light runs off of the engine’s electrical system, shining light toward the rear of the loader to give you more time to wrap up the last job.


The Vanguard engine is covered by Briggs & Stratton for three years of residential or consumer use. The rest of the DL 10 is guaranteed by Echo Bear Cat for three years of residential use, one year of commercial use or three months of rental use.

Spring or Fall, Shank’s Has You Covered

When you’re looking to add some equipment or have your current machines serviced, visit Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We’re an Echo Bear Cat Signature Elite dealer, which means we’re one of the top dealerships in the country, offering the service and support you need to get the most from your equipment. Visit our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. That’s one mile east of Interstate 81 via Exit 10 to Marion.

We can also ship the parts and accessories you need for your loader to any address in the U.S. or Canada. To order, visit us online at

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Shindaiwa Brushcutters

Shindaiwa Brushcutters

Whether you’re taking care of your own yard or you landscape for a living, having the right tool can make any job faster and easier. Shindaiwa has listened to their customers, updating their brushcutters to deliver more power and torque to get the most out of cutting blades while being easier to operate and maintain, so they’ll still be your first choice for trimming grass.

Shindaiwa currently offers four models. The C262 and C302 are all new, while the C282 and C344 have been updated.


Shindaiwa’s smallest model is 70.5 inch long and weighs just 12.3 lbs. It’s powered by a 25.4 cc two-stroke and uses a 1.62:1 gear reduction for more torque at the head. The head and engine are linked using a solid steel drive shaft.

The C262’s 2-in-1 debris shield works with both trimmer line and blades, making it easy to switch between mowing and cutting. When using line, this model cuts a 20-inch swath. A shoulder harness is included.


While slightly shorter than the C262, this brushcutter weighs in at 15.7 lbs. This added weight is due to a larger 28.9 cc engine with electronic ignition and a bicycle-style handlebar that makes the cutting head easier to control when cutting brush and saplings.

This model is intended mostly for cutting, limiting the maximum cutting swath to just 15 inches, Both a speed-feed head and blade hardware included. This model uses a solid steel drive shaft.


With its 30.5 cc engine and 1.8 hp output, the C302 is the most powerful trimmer in Shindaiwa’s lineup. A 1.62:1 gear reduction head increases torque. Even with all this power, it weighs in at 14.8 lbs.

It has a bicycle handle like the C282, but it comes with over-molded hand grips like you’ll find on power tools. This adds a rubber layer around the plastic where you need it to quell vibration while keeping weight down. Weight is further reduced by using a magnesium fan housing. A flex cable sends power to the head while absorbing engine vibration. The cutting swath of this model is 20 inches.

For easier restarts, the carburetor is equipped with a bellows intake that draws in cool air away from the engine.


Want a powerful brushcutter without the compromises of a two-stroke? This model comes with a 34 cc 2/4 stroke engine.
This Shindaiwa-exclusive design combines a four-stroke cycle with a two-stroke oiling system, so it stays lubricated no matter how you turn it. This keeps emissions and fuel consumption down and makes the engine much easier to start than two-stroke models.

The C344 is the heaviest brushcutter at 15.6 lbs, but otherwise, it’s mostly similar to the C262. A speed-feed head and blade hardware are included, it uses a solid steel driveshaft, and it cuts a 20-inch swath. The controls are mounted on a bicycle handlebar with rubber grips.

Blades and Accessories

The 9-inch. 4-tooth blade fits all blade-capable straight shaft brushcutters. It’s perfect for light brush, shrubs, and grass.

All other cutting blades are designed to fit the C242, C254, C282, and C344. The 10-inch, three tooth blade is perfect for cutting thick brush. The 9-inch maximum duty blade works well cutting undergrowth and thinning out small saplings. The 8-inch heavy-duty blade has saw teeth that can chip away wood, which is great for cutting down young trees.

Shindaiwa redesigned their debris shield, adding more protection while still being compatible with older models. The Pro Harness distributes weight using wide hip and shoulder pads, increasing operator comfort and reducing the chance of contact with the line or blade.

Getting parts for maintenance is easy thanks to Shindaiwa’s “Youcan” maintenance kits. Two versions are available: one has everything you need to do a tune up, while the other includes everything needed to rebuild the fuel system.


Shindaiwa guarantees all of their brushcutters for two years commercial of commercial use or 5 years of consumer use.

When You Need Service for Your Shindaiwa, Go to Shank’s

Shank’s Lawn Equipment is an authorized dealer for Shindaiwa, so we can provide you with equipment, parts, and support for anything from the company. Visit our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. That’s one mile east of Interstate 81 via Exit 10 to Marion.

We also ship OEM parts and accessories for Shindaiwa and many other brands across the U.S. and Canada. If you need something for your brushcutter, visit

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Tips for Fall Lawn Care

Tips for fall lawn care

Summer lawn care is mostly a matter of fighting the heat, while late fall brings preparation for harsh winter weather. What about the time in between? As temperatures drop, there are some changes you can make to keep your lawn green and healthy.


Your lawn needs plenty of water to survive the heat of the summer, but as temperatures drop, heat and evaporation are less of an issue. Gradually lower the amount you water you use to keep the soil moist without saturating it. To keep your lawn at its healthiest, you’ll need to keep watering until the first freeze.

If you have an irrigation system, now is a good time to schedule end-of-season maintenance and shutdown.


Mow by height, not by time. Grass growth will gradually slow down from late summer to the first freeze; your final mow may be as long as a month after your previous mow. As always, limit the amount of grass you cut to 1/3 of the total grass height. If you need to mow more, split it into two mows with a couple days in between to let the grass recover.

Diagnosing and Treating Brown Patches

Summer weather can force grass to become dormant, turning it brown. This is fine, as it helps the grass survive drought and heat. Once temperatures drop, this grass will come out of dormancy and turn green again. If brown areas don’t spring back to life, your soil is probably lacking in nutrients. Now is a good time to get a soil test so you know exactly what your lawn is missing.

As daily high temperatures drop into the 60s, warm-season grasses will retreat as warm-season grasses spring to life. If your lawn turns brown during this time, overseeding with a cool season variety will extend the growing season.

Treat Grubs

A few grubs are a normal sight toward the end of summer, but an infestation can cause major problems for your lawn. Their activity can turn soil spongy and even separate the root system of your grass from the ground, letting you peel it up like it’s freshly-laid sod. Grubs are also food for birds, armadillos and raccoons, drawing these pests into your yard.

To see if you need to treat for these insects, dig up a small section of your lawn. If you have more than 10 grubs per square foot or 5-10 grubs per square foot in a lawn that has other issues, you should consider applying an insecticide.

Ideally, insecticides should be applied in the spring when grubs are young, but you probably won’t see the infestation until this time of the year. Using a treatment now will help slow the damage and manage the population. There are effective natural treatments based on neem oil that can be used without affecting the rest of your lawn, making it a good choice if you’re trying to fit insect control, fertilizing and seeding into a packed lawn care schedule. The sooner you can treat the lawn, the better: depending on where you live, grubs will feed on your lawn through October or November. After that, they’ll burrow deep into the soil to survive the winter, putting them out of reach.

Prepare for Fall Lawn Care

Now is a good time to plan out your fall lawn care strategy.

Thatch — This layer of woody material covering the soil can be healthy, but it can cause irrigation and root system problems if it’s too thick. If the thatch layer is over ½ inch thick, it needs to be removed.

Soil compaction — Heavy foot and vehicle traffic can crush soil, making it harder for water and air to reach the root system. When the soil is moderately dry, try pushing through the turf with a spade. If this is hard to do, the soil is compacted.

Fertilizer — If your soil test shows some deficiencies, plan on applying a fertilizer that matches what your grass needs.

Overseeding — If your lawn is turning brown early in the season and there aren’t any major problems with pests or nutrients, it’s simply warm season grasses going into hibernation. Overseeding with cool season grasses in the fall will extend the growing season so your lawn can stay green longer.

Need Help with Your Equipment?

Shank’s Lawn Equipment has helped homeowners and professionals with their outdoor equipment for over 30 years. We cover a wide range of brands and equipment from Oregon’s cordless lawn care tools to commercial mowers from Skag, Exmark and Woods. Whether you’re looking for something new or you need service or parts for your current lawn care equipment, visit us at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA.

We can also ship the parts and accessories you need to any address in the USA or Canada. To order, visit us online at

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Woods Batwing Mower

Woods Batwing MowerWoods built the first flexwing cutter over 50 years ago, giving landscapers and road workers the tool they needed to mow large sloped areas. While most development on these mowers has concentrated on power, the newest Batwing mowers address their owner’s most common issues and requested features, making this wide area mower attachment easier to use and maintain.

New Sealing Technology

The quickest route to bearing wear and breakdowns is a leaky seal. Add in some gear oil and grass clippings, and you have a recipe for a messy, expensive repair. The new Batwing design brings seals made with new materials to help the seals stand up to heavy use and harsh environments, making them less prone to break down when exposed to UV light, dust and debris. Woods is so confident of their design that all seals are included in the equipment warranty.

Easier Attachment

Connecting to the PTO is an awkward process with any attachment due to the weight of the driveline. To make this easier, Woods added a lift assistance system that supports the driveshaft so you don’t have to lift it while trying to get the splines lined up with the PTO. The shaft rests on a steel roller, making it easy to extend and retract the driveline.

Tougher Deck

There’s no telling what may be hiding under tall grass, so Woods has added some enhancements to help the Batwing withstand impacts from stumps and foreign objects. This starts with steel tubes welded into the corners of the deck, reinforcing the joints between the deck tops and skirts. Baffles are standard, increasing vacuum for better cut quality. These are welded in place so they won’t loosen when subject to jolts and vibration. Heavy-duty steel skid shoes are mounted to the front and sides of the deck, and an integrated chain shield on the front edge of the deck keeps debris from being thrown forward. Side skirts on these decks are a quarter inch thick.

The deck now has curved deck edges makes it easier to maneuver around trees and keep it from getting caught on branches and fence posts, while the top is sloped to keep debris from collecting on top of the mower. Power is transferred from the PTO to the gearbox using a Cat 6 driveshaft, while the spindles connect to the gearbox with Cat 4 driveshafts on .50 and,60 models and Cat 5 shafts on .70 models.

Easier Maintenance

Shaft joins are protected by hinged metal shields that can be flipped up without tools for easy access. Hydraulic hoses are also shielded to prevent tears while still providing access to connectors. Greasable quick-change blade pins on the top side of the deck make it easier to replace blades or remove them for sharpening.

Better Performance

Blade tip speeds can reach 15,000 FPM at 540 RPM and 16,000 FPM at 1,000 RPM. Cutting height can be set anywhere between 2 and15 inches.

The wings can flex up to 90-degrees up and 22-degrees down, helping them hug the ground for a consistent cut. With the wings up, all models have a 96-inch transport width.


Woods makes three models available in two wing 15 and single wing 10 versions.

BW 15.50 and 10.50
45-200 hp PTO
2.5-inch diameter cut capacity
210 hp splitter gearbox
200 hp wing gearbox
Two-inch output shaft

BW 15.60 and 10.60
55-275 hp PTO
4-inch cut capacity
275 hp splitter gearbox
225 hp wing gearbox
Three-inch output shaft

BW 15.70 and 10.70
65-300 hp PTO
4.5-inch cut capacity
275 hp splitter gearbox
225 hp wing gearbox
Three-inch output shaft


These accessories are available on all models:
Double row chain shielding for mowing land covered in thick, woody plant growth
Dual wheels for better support on uneven terrain and lower ground pressure when operating on muddy ground
Rear LED lights add visibility when working near roadways

These accessories fit .60 and .70 models:
The shredding kit adds two blades to cut thick stalks
Deck rings reinforce the spindle mounts to better withstand impacts
Spring axle absorb bumps
Walking tandem axles let the wheels move independently of the deck for better tracking on uneven soil


Woods guarantees all components of their Batwing mowers including the gearbox and seals for 6 years.

Get Professional Service for Your Professional Equipment

Shank’s Lawn Equipment has been in business for over three decades, providing professionals with the equipment and support they need to do their jobs. If you’re looking to add a Batwing mower to your collection of equipment, visit us at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. To get here from I-81, take Exit 10 and drive one mile East.

We also ship parts and accessories for Woods and many other major brands of lawn care equipment across the US and Canada. To order, visit our website,

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How and When to Aerate Your Lawn

How and When to Aerate Your Lawn

Poking holes into your lawn may seem crazy, but aeration can relieve pressure that is preventing your grass from reaching its full potential. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the equipment to aerate your lawn, the right time to do it and the right techniques to make it as easy and effective as possible.

What is Aeration?

Surface soil can become compacted due to foot or vehicle traffic. Without microscopic holes running through this dirt, roots can’t get the oxygen and water they need to thrive, and the roots of new plants can’t penetrate the soil. Aerating is the process of cutting into the soil to relieve this compaction. Aerating is needed after heavy construction and in areas that see heavy traffic. Typically, aerating is only necessary every two or three years.

How Does Aeration Fit in With Dethatching?

Aeration and dethatching are not the same process, but they can solve similar problems and are often done together. Thatch is a layer of woody plant material that gathers on top of the soil. If the lawn is in good shape, the microorganisms in the soil will break down this material rapidly. Overfertilizing, bagging, and other bad lawn care practices can lead to thatch building up faster than it can be digested, leading to buildup that can prevent water and oxygen access, just like compacted soil. For most lawns, thatch becomes a problem if it’s over ½ inch thick.

Both dethatching and aerating are usually done before planting grass seed. With the thatch out of the way, the seeds can fall directly onto the softened soil where they can take root. Dethatching first makes it easier for the aerator’s tines to penetrate the soil.

What’s the Difference Between Spike and Core Tines?

Core tines are hollow so they can cut plugs out of the soil. By removing parts of the soil, the remaining dirt can spread out. The soil plugs left behind are unsightly, but they can be mowed into smaller pieces that will blend into the turf.

Spike tines punch holes into soil, breaking up the surface to reduce compaction. However, this force compacts the walls of the hole left behind, so it’s less effective than coring. Jrco’s hooker aerators get around this by moving in and out of the ground diagonally. This pulls out soft soil instead of hard cores while minimizing compaction around the holes.

Choosing an Aerator

Not long ago, the aerator market was dominated by drum rollers. These heavy objects had tines that would poke through as they turned, punching holes into the ground. Weight distribution was uneven, and turning was a complicated process requiring the tines to be disengaged before lining up the aerator for the next pass. It was common for operators to simply drag the drum across the lawn, damaging the turf. Advances in technology have led to designs that eliminate these problems, making an aerator no harder to use than a lawn mower.

Exmark makes both walk-behind and stand-on aerators. The walk-behind model uses an engine to propel the machine, while weights over the tines to help push them into the soil. The tines can be lifted mechanically when it’s time to turn the machine.

A stand-on aerator uses hydrostatic drive motors to deliver zero turning radius operation, while supporting large tine reels to bust through soil quickly. These machines are far faster than walk-behind aerators, which can be a huge benefit for professional landscapers. Depending on the model, an Exmark stand-on aerator can cover between 1.4 and 1.8 acres per hour.

Looking for something between these two extremes? JRCO’s hooker aerators attach to either the front or rear of your riding mower, letting it do most of the work. These aerators use the company’s universal mounting system, which is compatible with a wide range of mowers including models from Wright, Scag, and Exmark.

Tips for Aerating

The ground needs to be moist for the tines to penetrate the soil. Watering a day ahead of time will make the job faster and easier on your equipment.

Mark sprinklers before aerating. The tines move with enough force to break these underground fixtures.

Giving the soil plugs time to dry out will make them easier to mow. Cutting plugs is hard on the edges of mower blades, so plan on sharpening the blades before your next mow.

Unless you’re overseeding or helping a lawn recover from a construction project, you can save time by limiting aeration to areas that have seen heavy traffic.

Need Help With Your Aerator?

If you’re looking to buy a new aerator, or you need your current equipment serviced, visit Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We’re an authorized dealer for several manufacturers including Jrco and Exmark. Stop by our shop, located at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA.

Is your current aerator due for a set of tines? Do you need something to get it running? We can ship the parts and accessories you need to any address in the United States or Canada. To order, visit us at

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Mantis XP Cultivator

Mantis XP CultivatorIs a mini-tiller not big enough for your needs, but you still want something lightweight and easy to move around? Mantis’ XP cultivator pairs the same innovative design that makes their smaller tillers the industry leader together with a reel that’s 50% wider than their other models. Add some accessories, and this tiller can be used for lawn and garden chores throughout the year.


The XP is powered by a Honda Mini 4-Stroke engine. This diminutive motor delivers as much power as comparable two strokes, but it doesn’t need pre-mixed gas, it uses less fuel, it’s easier to start, and it has a wide powerband, so it doesn’t get bogged down easily. A clever oiling system keeps the inside of the engine lubricated no matter which angle it’s operating in. Its four-stroke design also gives it a long service life.

Like Mantis’ other tillers, this cultivator has its engine and transmission mounted directly over the tines to help push them down into the soil. The solid worm gear transmission has a low gear ratio to deliver the torque needed to cut through the toughest dirt at speeds up to 240 rpm.


At 16 inches wide, the XP’s tine reel is the biggest in Mantis’ lineup. It’s fitted with curved tines that dig into the soil better than standard flat tines, so there’s no need to fight the tiller to keep the tines in the ground. Mantis will replace worn tines for as long as you own your tiller. In their normal position, these tines have a maximum tilling depth is 10 inches. If the tines are flipped around, the back sides of the blades will skim across soil which is great for pulling out weeds.

This tiller weighs 35 lbs, which is far lower than comparable full-size models. That makes the XP easier to transport and lift into truck beds and trunks.

To reduce hand and wrist strain, this model is fitted with Mantis’ Sure Grip handles. These use over-molded grips that combine thick plastic grips with rubber inserts, just like the handle on an electric drill. This ergonomic design supports the hand and limits the transmission of shock and vibration. The handle is also adjustable, giving the XP a comfortable arm position for operators of any height.


By itself, a tiller’s use is limited to a few big landscaping projects during spring and summer. By adding these accessories, you can use your XP for a variety of jobs through the year.

The furrowing attachment uses a pair of tines to dig 6 inch wide furrows for planting or making trenches to run underground irrigation hose and low voltage wiring. The plow attachment digs shallower furrows while tilling, preparing garden beds for vegetable planting.

The dethatcher and aerator attachments expose soil to increase water and air access and prepare turf for overseeding. The dethatcher replaces the tilling tines with a wheel-supported reel that has 60 spring steel tines, dethatching 15 inches of turf with each pass. The aerator attachment replaces tilling tines with flat-bladed aerator tines that slice through soil compacted by foot traffic, vehicles and construction equipment.

The border edger replaces the tines with a 6-inch wheel and spring steel edging blade to cut clean edges around driveways, sidewalks, flowerbeds, and bushes for a perfect finish.

The wheelset attaches to the rear of the tiller, making it easier to transport and allowing it to stand freely for maintenance and refueling. It also adds stability when using the tiller with the border edger attachment. Once the mount is in place, the wheels can be attached or removed in seconds.


Mantis will replace bent or broken tines for the life of the tiller. The Mini 4-Stroke has a three-year warranty from Honda, while Mantis guarantees the rest of the tiller for 5 years.

Looking for More from a Tiller?

Shank’s Lawn Equipment is more than a Mantis dealer: we’ve helped homeowners and professionals with their lawn care equipment for over 30 years. We can help you find a tiller that fits your gardening needs and offer the parts and support you need to keep it running. We’re located at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. To get here from Interstate 81, take Exit 10 to Marion and drive East one mile.

Not in the area? We can ship parts and accessories to your door whether you’re in the US. or Canada. To order, visit us at

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Selecting the Right Mower Blades

Exmark Mower Blades

Which mower blades should you be using with your mower? There are several designs out there, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s how you can tell them apart and choose the right ones for your needs.

Lift, Vacuum, and Cutting

A blade doesn’t just slice: it also acts as a fan, pulling the grass up to get an even cut. By adding extra lift, large clippings can be blown back up into the mowing chamber to be cut again. Modern mulching decks use this to slice grass into small pieces that can be digested by microorganisms in the soil. Due to their lower surface area, small clippings don’t catch as much wind and can fall through the blade and onto the turf.

A stamped deck can be shaped to have a round chamber that hugs the blade, increasing vacuum. Constructed decks have flat sides, creating turbulence and increasing the chamber size, decreasing vacuum. Most companies that sell mowers with constructed decks offer mulching kits that include baffles. These reshape the mowing chamber to give it more vacuum while still letting grass move across the deck toward the discharge chute.

By fine-tuning the shape of a blade, it can be built to suit specific types of mowing.

Side Discharge Blades

These blades have an almost flat profile that flings clippings out of the chute instead of throwing them up to be recut. This reduces the amount of grass being cut at a time, lowering the stress on the deck. These blades are lighter than other designs, increasing maximum blade speed and taking stress off of the spindle bearings. By moving clippings out of the deck as soon as possible, the mower is able to cut thicker, taller grass.

Mulching Blades

These blades use steep angles to move more air, increasing vacuum. Some manufacturers also add cutting surfaces to the back edges of their mulching blades. While this doesn’t help with the initial cut, it does help chop clippings down to size so the deck can handle thicker grass. Dixon takes this a step further with their Gator blades, offering three designs that let buyers choose between low weight and high tip speeds or more cutting power and a longer lifespan.

Multi-Use and Bagging Blades

The type of blade needed for bagging will vary depending on the mower design. Some decks need to be used with a low-profile side discharge blade to hurl clippings through the side discharge and into the hose that leads to the bags, while others are designed to mulch clippings, compacting them for more onboard storage.

Blades designed for bagging and either side discharge or mulching are commonly labeled “2-in-1.” These blades are designed with the deck in mind for the best bagging performance, using a profile for bagging and side discharge or bagging and mulching. “3-in-1” blades are designed for mulching, bagging, and side discharge, but covering all three modes means making some compromises to performance. If you have a choice between 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 blades, go for the 2-in-1 design.

Scag’s Marbain Blades

Most mower blades use a quench-and-temper process to create a hard surface on soft steel. This results in a blade that is flexible enough to absorb impacts while having a long-lasting cutting surface. Fisher Barton’s Marbain blades use austempering instead of quenching and tempering. This process takes longer, but it leaves the blade with a surface that’s harder than standard blades and is free of microcracks that can lead to failure. Scag worked with Fisher Barton to make these blades the OEM standard for their mowers. While they may be pricey, owners report lower cost of ownership and less maintenance thanks to these blades’ ability to hold an edge.

Get the Blades You Need for Your Mower

No matter which mower you use, Shank’s Lawn Equipment has the blades you need to get the best cutting performance. We’re an authorized dealer for several major mower brands including Dixon, Scag, and Woods, and we stock aftermarket parts from manufacturers including Oregon, Rotary and Stens. We’re located at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. That’s one mile east of I-81 via Exit 10.

We also ship parts across the U.S. and Canada so you can get the blades you need for your mower with a few clicks of your mouse. To order, visit

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