This is a Hammer

Strategic Lawn Mowing

Q: I’ve always wanted my lawn to have those neat cross-hatch patterns like the pros do. How do I mow to get those patterns? – A Reader, via email

A: Mowing in a specific pattern isn’t the only way, nor the best way, to get those neat checkerboard stripes. A healthy lawn and proper mowing technique also are important. Neat patterns, or stripes, are made noticeable by bending the grass blades in one direction on one stripe, and another direction on an opposing stripe.
Here are a few tips:

• Raise your mower blades: Cutting the grass too low to the ground damages the plant, makes it grow unevenly, and leaves it vulnerable to weeds, diseases and pests. It also makes patterns difficult or impossible to create, because the shorter blades don’t bend very far.
• Never cut more than one-third of the grass height: Depending on the type of lawn you have, the ideal height may vary – Bermuda, for example, has an ideal height of about 1 inch, fescue or blue grass should be 2 to 3 inches tall, while St. Augustine should be mowed to a height of 3.5 to 4 inches. Let your grass grow at least one-third higher than its ideal height before mowing.
• Never cut wet grass: This one’s a no-brainer, but cutting when dew or rain is still heavy on the grass will prevent a clean cut, damage the grass, cause clumping and keep you from seeing that ideal pattern.
• Maintain your mower: Sharp blades are essential for a good cut, along with an engine working efficiently.
• Change direction: Once you get that nice pattern on the lawn, the best way to keep it is to change up the way you mow. Every other time, mow in a different pattern.
• Ideal pattern: There are a number of striping techniques. Scag, which sells professional mower equipment, has a tutorial with instructions on how to create several patterns (www.scag.com/lawnstriping.html). You’ll need a roller attachment to bend the grass to achieve that professional look.
• Overlap properly: Each pass should be overlapped by the next by about 3 inches to make sure you don’t miss a strip.
• Don’t worry about the corners… yet: If the lawn has sharp or difficult corners, skip them until you’ve mowed the pattern you want on the rest of the lawn. Then go back and finish off each corner. The same goes for uneven ground: Skip knolls until the end, then raise the mower blades so you don’t scalp the grass and carefully mow the raised areas.

HOME TIP: Not sure what type of grass you have? Take a picture or a small patch of sod to your garden center or home-improvement store’s lawn and garden section for help identifying it.

Send your questions or comments to ask@thisisahammer.com, or write This Is a Hammer, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

One thought on “Strategic Lawn Mowing”

  1. Hello,

    I own Arlington Landscape and we do quite a bit of mowing. This article seems to pass along the same kind of old thoughts that keep getting passed around and I understand not everyone can get the hours of mowing in that professionals do. I just want to give a professionals perspective.

    Cutting height is 3 to 3.25 inches generally, but longer heights up to 5 inches is requested as well. Longer grass will shade the soil and keep moisture in the soil longer than shorter grass. For striping I think that general height around 3 inches is the best. Grass blades are stiffer towards the ground and will hold the bend necessary for lines for a longer time.

    I see this all over the internet “Never cut more than one-third of the grass height,” but any lawn mowing professional knows that is impossible for us. We run weekly schedules and during May the grass grows like crazy. It’s very common to mow at 3 inches and come back in a week to have the grass at 8 or 10 inches. Homeowners have that option to mow twice a week during the growing season and that is great for appearances if they can but it’s not as dire as the internet would have you believe.

    Pattern – The best way to get a checkerboard pattern is to actually mow in two directions each time. If you only switch weekly like the above post suggests you may get the checkerboard look but it won’t be very prominent.

    Striping – Some mowers stripe better than others and thats simply due to their design. Striper attachments are absolutely available and if that interests you talk with the dealer that sold you the mower. There are generally attachments for sale specifically for your mower. In our business we make our own and we’ve tried all the techniques. I like to attach a thick piece of rubber to the back of the mower that forces the grass over just above ground level.

    I hope I didn’t ruffle any feathers, I just wanted to give a pros point of view. If anyone wants to discuss it with me personally you can find my contact information on our contact page.

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