There is far more to maintaining a beautiful, well-manicured lawn than simply buying a lawn mower, filling it up with fuel, and attacking the grass with determination and fervor. To keep your lawn looking healthy throughout the growing season, how you mow is just as important as fertilizing, mulching, aerating, and seeding.
Obviously, there is a lot more to successful landscape maintenance than the mower, on its own, can provide. What follows are five essential mowing tips that will help keep your lawn healthy and looking fantastic.
While this may seem obvious, few homeowners sharpen their lawn mower blades as frequently as they should. Dull blades tear and pulverize a blade of grass instead of cutting it evenly. This not only leads to a lawn with an overall ragged appearance, but it damages the health of the grass, potentially causing fungal growth and disease. Unhealthy grass often leads to weeds, which creates another host of problems for your lawn.
Most lawn mower manufacturers recommend sharpening your blades at least once a year. However, in the Pacific Northwest, we are often forced to cut grass when the ground is wet. This causes the blades of the mower to dull far faster than mowing a lawn in an arid climate.
We recommend sharpening your lawn mower blade at least twice a year, but if you have a particularly large lawn you may want to sharpen it more often. (At Apol's Landscape Maintenance, we sharpen the blades of all our mowers twice a week!) Fortunately, sharpening a lawn mower blade is relatively easy and takes no more than 10 minutes, even if you sharpen it by hand.
First, mark the blade so that you re-install it in the right direction, remove the blade and clamp it in a vise and sharpen using a mill bastard file. You don't want the blade to be razor sharp - think less steak knife, and more butter knife.
You may also use a grinder, but unless you're familiar with this technique you could damage the blade. There are some excellent sharpener tools on the market that can be used to sharpen mower blades, and also knives and scissors, allowing you to keep your fishing knives just as sharp as your mower blade.
Finally, balance the blade on a nail and continue to trim the heavier side until it is perfectly level. If you keep your file and wrench (and possibly a spare blade) in a convenient location, you make it handy to sharpen your blade whenever you deem it necessary.
It's easy to fall into a regular rut when you mow your lawn. Unfortunately, your rut can create ruts in your grass, possibly even damaging the lawn.
Before starting, plan your attack by mentally mapping out a pattern of cutting. If you mow north to south one week, change it from east to west the next. Mow in lines perpendicular to the fence-line and then change it to diagonal.
By alternating the path of your cut, your grass won't be crushed or flattened because of a regular routine. Also, you may enjoy experimenting with different patterns to see which are most appealing to the eye. There are numerous tips online for creating mathematical lawn masterpieces that focus on pattern.
This may be the most important tip to keep your lawn looking spectacular, although sometimes difficult because time has a way of slipping by - especially in the spring months when grass growth is most vigorous. Cutting your lawn every week not only keeps it consistently looking great, but also promotes the overall health of the lawn.
If you allow your lawn to become overgrown, you are forced to cut a higher percentage of each individual grass blade (see tip #4). Taller grass will take longer to cut because the roots of the grass never have a chance to dry. This means you are forced to work harder, and are exposing the grass to possible damage from mold and disease. When it's finally cut, the remaining grass often quickly browns, leaving behind an unsightly yard with grass that may never properly grow back.
Making a weekly commitment to your lawn is difficult during the summer, because when the weather is good, who has time to mow the lawn? If you'd rather spend your summer enjoying the season, it makes sense to hire a trusted local lawn maintenance company to do the job for you.
Obviously, this only applies if you are regularly maintaining your lawn on a weekly basis. As a general rule, you never want to trim more than 1/3 of the grass's blade when you mow. As you trim your grass during the hotter summer months, you may want to cut off a little less than a third with each mowing, to help the grass retain as much moisture as possible.
While some people truly enjoy mowing their lawn, most people see it as a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. However, rushing to finish may only end up creating more work in the future.
Ultimately, it's your newly sharpened lawn mower blades that are doing the real work of cutting each individual blade of grass. They need the time to adequately do their job, so rushing the job by pushing your mower more quickly may cause more ripping than cutting. This is especially true on wet grass where the lawnmower has to work extra hard to provide a clean cut.
So, put on some headphones, apply plenty of sunscreen, and maybe even add a drink holder to your lawnmower. If you take your time and follow these five simple steps to a well-manicured turf, you can sit back in your lawn chair when it's done and admire your handiwork.
If you'd rather fast-forward to the lawn chair, call the lawn maintenance experts at Apol's Landscape Maintenance today and ask us about our comprehensive landscape programs.