How to Mow Your Lawn the Right Way!
Today I will reveal to you the single biggest way homeowners are wrecking their lawns without realizing it… …and it is completely free and preventable. But first, some background: The concept of “Life and Lawns” is summed up nicely in an article I wrote about “Your Wife and Your Lawn” which demonstrated how years of love and care can be destroyed with one mistake. In relationships, as with lawn care, it takes constant monitoring and work to keep things looking good and steadily growing.
It only takes one bad “cut” to destroy a marriage or a lawn.
Forget the relationships, let’s talk about saving that lawn!
Proper Mowing is the Key
That’s right, if you are not cutting your lawn properly, you will NEVER achieve thick, green turf despite your best efforts. You can spend hundreds of dollars on fertilizing, aerating, seeding and watering, but if you don’t utilize ALL of the following tips, you’ll have nothing but a yellow, thin, scalped patch of dirt and weeds.
There are a number of resources out there that tell you how high to mow your grass depending on the seed types contained in your lawn. If you have bluegrass, it’s between 2.5 and 3″ or if you have fine fescue, it’s 3″ or more, etc. But do any of you really know what’s in your lawn? What if you have varied grass types depending on shade content from the front to back yard? Are you gonna adjust your mowing height in the midst of the cutting process? Of course not!
So here’s some easy advice that is goof-proof: set your mower wheels to the second-highest setting and forget about it. If you do this, you’ll be just fine and your grass will not suffer from scalping.
Scalping occurs when you take off more than 1/3 of the grass blade in one cutting. This causes the less-course “underbelly” of the grass blade to be exposed to direct sunlight and dries it out.
In addition, if you cut the lawn too low overall, you are exposing the root system to direct sunlight and it will dry out and shrivel or go dormant. Grass plants need that blade to produce food through photosynthesis, so don’t take that away.
I tell customers to think in terms of themselves: If I lose a fingernail, I will be just fine and it will grow back; but if I cut off my entire arm, I will be in some serious trouble.
Not only is mowing height important, so is the consistency of the cutting. Remember, we do not want to remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade in any single mowing. If you let the lawn grow tall for 3 weeks and then cut it, you will be removing massive amounts of the grass blade no matter how high you have your mower set.
The minimum requirement for most lawns is weekly cutting. Anything less than this and you are in danger of harming your turf. If you do happen to miss a week because of vacation, I recommend raising the wheels up to the highest position for the cut, and then a couple days later, mow again at the normal setting illustrated above.
Another problem associated with letting the lawn grow too tall prior to cutting is the clumping of the discharged grass. Even if you have a good mulching blade and powerful mower, long grass will clump if left uncut. These clumps smother areas of the lawn and kill it, leaving thin spots for weeds to invade the next year.
Grass clumps also cause a thatch buildup that will ruin your lawn in time as well.
If you can’t mow your lawn consistently, I advise hiring a service to do it, or maybe you should consider moving to a condo. You owe it to your turf to keep it nicely groomed!
Mower Blade Sharpening
I had a little discussion with fellow blogger, Snow Lark over this point the other day, and it is an important one.
A dull mower blade will rip the grass blades. Those ripped tips turn almost white and will give your lawn an overall brownish appearance. Imagine having your hair cut with a dull razor blade … not a pretty site!
I tell homeowners to have their mower blade sharpened at the beginning of each season. If your lawn is big (over an acre) you may consider having the blade(s) sharpened again in July just to be safe.
If you don’t want to sharpen your own mower blade, you can take it (or the whole mower) to any lawn mower maintenance shop and they will do it for under $10. They also can do a quick run over your mower and check the oil and filters for a few additional dollars.
Mulch or Catch the Clippings?
This one is as debatable as Ford vs Chevy but I will give you some sound advice anyway.
If you are going to mulch the clippings (let them grind under the mower deck and fall back into the lawn) you will need to first verify that you have an actual mulching blade installed on your mower. Don’t try to convert your bag-only mower into a mulcher by removing the bag and cutting … this will cause clumping. If you’re not sure about the blade, either consult your mower shop or go buy a new one labeled for mulching and install it new.
In addition, I have seen so-called mulching mowers that don’t have the horsepower to properly mulch the clippings. If you are going to mulch, your mower should be a minimum 5 HP but 5.5 or 6 would be better. You need to have that blade turning fast in order to properly mulch the clippings to tiny bits.
Mulching is good for the lawn as it recycles the nutrients back to the soil. If you are using a properly-powered mulching mower with a sharp blade, you will be fine. A common myth is that mulching mowers contribute to thatch buildup. Once again, the right mower makes all the difference here.
I have a very nice Lawn Boy mulch/catch mower and I bag my clippings. I do this for the simple fact that I don’t have as much sidewalk and driveway clean up to do after I cut. I also use the bagged clippings for mulch around a few small trees I am cultivating in my back yard.
Finally, you should mow your lawn in different directions each week so it does not lay down one particular way. If you mow the exact same direction every week, your grass will be trained to lay one way (much like training your hair to lay over) and this will cause issues.
Did you ever wonder how they get the perfect stripes in the outfield of baseball parks or the infield of NASCAR tracks? Click here and read my article telling you how to mow stripes in your lawn. And, just updated, another article entitled, “Advanced Lawn striping TIps and Advice.” I would recommend your subsribe to my RSS feed now so you don’t miss it. If you prefer, you can subscribe by email (enter your email address in the box on the far right sidebar top… nope, I won’t send you spam crap either) and get updates in your inbox.
If you take the above tips and follow them correctly, you will be setting a good foundation in taking your lawn to the next level in color and thickness.
Your questions are welcome.
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