Our company recently purchased a 36-inch Z-Plug Aerator from L.T. Rich Products. We currently own a Z-Max sprayer from the company, and recently decided to add aeration to our customer programs.
We looked at several other brands of aerators, but decided to go with the Z-Plug due to a number of factors. The ability to add other attachments was a big factor in our decision. We plan to purchase a slice-seeder attachment this spring to perform lawn renovations, and in the future, we may add a hydraulic hopper and a 20-gallon spray system to assist our Z-Max in applications, or as a backup to that machine.
Another advantage of the Z-Plug over other machines is its productivity. The machine will travel at speeds over 8 mph. L.T. Rich claims a productivity rate of 80,000 square feet per hour. We have not been able to vouch for that claim, as we do not have properties with that kind of open area.
We have been nothing but pleased with the productivity and especially the reliability of our Z-Max sprayer/spreader. Some minor parts have been replaced, but those parts were quickly shipped by L.T. Rich, or we were able to find the part locally, such as a starter solenoid we picked up at Auto Zone. The Z-Plug chassis closely resembles the Z-Max, so we expect nothing less from this unit, as well.
The unit itself is powered by a 19 hp Kawasaki engine. When operating the machine, we have not had to go full throttle, so the power is a bit overkill. They probably could use a smaller engine for better fuel consumption, but I guess it is better to have too much power over having too little. Unlike our Z-Max, we have to use a choke to start the machine, which we found sometimes take a couple of times. Our Z-Max usually fires up on the first turn of the key switch.
The Z-Plug has a floating aerator head that is attached by a front ball swivel and lifted by two chains. The front swivel is fixed behind the single front tire. It removes pretty easily to allow for other attachments, but since we do not have any yet, the head always stays on. One person can remove the head in about 30 seconds, but it is a bit more difficult to attach. A block of wood or a small bottle jack would help a great deal. Due to the floating head method of attachment, the aerator head itself can turn slightly to go partway around trees and does pretty well around wavy beds when the head is fully lowered. The aerator head is lifted and lowered by a lift cylinder in the center of the machine. The lift valve lever is located on the left side of the machine, mounted to the side of the upright control panel. One of our complaints about the machine is that we are used to operating our Z-Max with our left hand and operating its controls with the right hand. This machine is the opposite, so it is a bit of a learning curve.
Wide-open areas are where this machine really earns its money. We were not able to go the 8 mph as advertised, but it does cover quite a bit of ground. If you go too fast, the head unit will get too bouncy. We need to get better acquainted with the lift valve to control the height of the head. If the head is too low, it will start rocking back and forth; too high and you will not get much soil penetration. That will take some learning on our end. Plus, after a full day of aerating, I could actually walk the next morning and was able to stay up later than 9 p.m. that evening. That was worth the purchase price right there.
We found the most important factor in aerating, core depth, was adequate and very dependant on soil conditions, of course. In central Indiana we have quite a bit of clay. We usually get a bit over a 2-inch plug, sometimes shorter and sometimes longer in length. The more we have used the aerator, the longer the cores have become. This is probably due to the removal of the powder coating on the tines, and they have seemed to self-sharpened.
The aerator head itself weighs 150 pounds. It is weighed down additionally by four 105-pound bar weights, which are removable. A nice feature is that if you remove one or two of the weights, the other weights can be placed on their sides, preventing them from sliding around. The tines are mounted on two independent reels. Tines are attached with two bolts, and should be easy to replace if needed.
All in all we have been very happy with our purchase and feel it is a fine addition to our line of equipment. We would feel confident recommending this machine.
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