What are the best practices for cutting my lawn?
And, what techniques do the professionals use to make lawns look so good?
Look, homeowners across America are always looking for the hottest tips to make their lawns look their best.
So we wanted to share with you the top ten tips for lawn mowing. Including tips the pros don’t want you to know!
Are you ready to improve your lawn mowing techniques? Then let’s dive in!
Look, this may seem obvious, but I will say it anyway.
If you don’t maintain your lawn properly. Your grass won’t look the way you want. No matter how you cut it.
So, how do you maintain your lawn properly? Well, that is a topic onto itself, and we don’t have time to cover that in this article, but you can start here.
Assuming you are maintaining your lawn sufficiently, let’s move on to Tip #2!
According to the pros, the best practice is to never cut more than the top third of the grass blade.
Listen, this is by no means a hard and fast rule. In fact, it is nearly impossible to follow all of the time.
Unless you have the time to cut the lawn 10 times a month, or at least twice a week, it’s just not going to happen.
However, you should still mind how much you are cutting at once. Generally, if you cut the lawn every week at the same setting, your lawn will be perfect… most of the time.
Of course. heavy rain and warm temperatures will cause the grass to grow much faster. If you can, you should cut it twice a week in those conditions. And if your lawn ever gets too out of hand you should check out Tip #10.
All too often I see homeowners scalp their lawns by cutting way too low. Worst of all, they do it time and time again. And, it’s TERRIBLE FOR THE LAWN!
Cutting the lawn too short is one of the worst mistakes homeowners can make. Unless your lawn is perfectly flat, with no dips, you should never cut below 3 inches in height.
Why 3 Inches? There are a few reasons.
First of all, when you cut a lawn any lower than three inches. Imperfections in your lawn are more noticeable. A small dip, or change in height of the soil in the lawn, can easily lead to the blades striking earth. This will result in killing the lawn in that spot, and all your hopes and dreams of a perfect green lawn along with it!
Two, the taller the grass, the more water a lawn retains. Of course, if you let the grass get too long, the water retention will make cutting the lawn more challenging. But, cutting the lawn too low can lead to a water deprived lawn. A lawn that is only 1 and a half inches tall, will hardly stand a chance against drought. Maintaining a lawn between 3 and 5 inches is ideal for water retention.
Three, the root of grass typically grows around 3x deeper than the typical grass height.
This means a lawn cut and maintained at:
As you can imagine, roots that are 9 inches deep are much more likely to receive nutrients, and survive adverse conditions than roots which are only 3 inches deep.
Of course, the ultimate height will vary between grass varieties, and even the time of year. A general rule of thumb is to leave cut the lawn at about 3 inches in height.
Most people don’t know this, or even think about it. Cutting the same pattern every week is an easy mistake that many homeowners will make. Especially while striving to make those perfectly straight stripes.
Unless you are push mowing, cutting the same way over and over again can lead to ruts in the yard from the lawn mower constantly driving the same path over and over. Think about it, if you cut your lawn every week, you are running the same path four times a month. This can quickly lead to compaction of the soil where the tires ride.
Changing your mowing each week will not only prevent ruts, it will also prevent your grass from laying in the direction you mow. This will lead to grass which stands straighter, is more evenly cut, and looks better all around.
There are 4 common patterns you can mow your lawn with:
Of course, there are many other patterns, but those 4 are the most common. Feel free to experiment, each lawn is different.
Pro Tip on Striping:
One of the secrets the pros like to keep to themselves is this…
The direction you cut will determine the shade of the stripe.
A line cut away from you will cause the grass to be darker, a line which was mowed toward your point of view will appear lighter.
That is why it is best practice to alternate your cuts towards and away from your starting point. Unfortunately, if you are using your standard riding mower and not a zero turn, alternating stripes is a challenge, but you will figure something out.
This is a no brainer. When possible cut the lawn when it is dry. Now, this is by no means a rule that can not be broken. Sometimes you will have no choice but to cut the lawn when it is wet. But, not only is a wet lawn harder to cut, it is more likely to clump up which can make cutting the lawn take longer.
It gets worse. Wet grass can slow down your blades, and your lawn mower will no longer be able to cut at its optimal speed. As grass builds up in the deck, the blades slow down which leads to a mower tearing rather than cutting the grass.
Torn grass is more susceptible to disease, drought, and in my experience it just doesn’t look as nice.
Now, it may come as no surprise, but there will be times when you have to compromise between Tip #2, the 1/3rd rule, and cutting the lawn when it is wet. There will always be times of the year when cutting wet grass is simply inevitable.
When it comes to cutting a wet lawn, or breaking the 1/3rd rule, just mow the wet lawn.
There is a lot of debate about whether you should leave the clippings on the lawn, or to bag them up and take them away.
The answer is simple, in my experience the best thing to do is to use a mulching kit on your lawn mower, and leave the clippings on the lawn. A mulching set up on your mower will shred the grass into fine clippings, which will quickly break down and put nutrients back into the soil. This results in more nutrients remaining in the soil, rather than constantly removing a great source of nutrition for your lawn.
Alternatively, if you really don’t want any clippings on the lawn at all, you can bag them up and compost them. You can then use the composted grass clippings as a top dressing in your lawn in late spring or early summer.
One of the downsides to leaving the grass in the lawn as you mow, is that it will sometimes clump up.
Here’s the deal, in theory if you are practicing the 1/3rd rule, and cutting the grass when it’s dry. The grass should rarely clump up.
However, in practice, clumping is at times inevitable. It’s true that small clumps of grass will quickly break down and are unlikely to cause a problem. On the other hand large clumps of grass will quickly kill the grass beneath them, and this will cause patches without grass throughout the lawn.
If you are following all the tips and your lawn still doesn’t look up to your standards. Or you simply have too many clumps in the lawn no matter what you do. Take a look at the type of grass you are mowing.
It’s true, even a lawn of crabgrass can look great when maintained. However, there are times when it is impossible to maintain crab grass or inferior grasses properly.
For example, Crab grass grows thick and quickly and is prone to clumping. Additionally, It will grow so quickly that it will choke out other grasses, and even cause its lower leaves to die off. This will lead to yellow patches in the lawn.
In my experience, only about half of homeowners take the time to edge the lawn. Most don’t think about it, or simply think it is not that important. But it is.
Think about it.
A photograph looks great on its own, but when you put it into a frame, how much better does it look?
The same is true for your lawn. Sure, a well-maintained lawn looks great without having a proper edge, but it looks so much better when you take the time to create those nice straight edges.
Once you have established a nice edge along your walkways, driveway, curbs, and the roadway. With some practice, they can easily be maintained with a good string trimmer. Or you can save yourself from the learning curve and just purchase an edger.
We all get behind, it happens to the best of us.
It’s simple, if you know you won’t be able to cut the lawn for a few weeks, hire a pro!
But, if you didn’t have time to hire someone, and it has already been a few weeks since you last cut the lawn. You may have done some temporary damage to the lawn, but a few weeks of proper maintenance will whip it back into shape.
This is really a repeat of Tip #7, but it is more important now than ever. The biggest thing to keep in mind when catching up on an overgrown lawn is the clumps. As you can imagine, when the grass is overgrown, your mower will have to work much harder.
This is one of the few times that I recommend bagging up the clippings, rather than mulching. Do whatever it takes not to leave piles of dead grass on the ground. As these piles will choke out the new growth as it comes in.
When catching up on an overgrown lawn, start on your mowers highest setting. Then you can gradually lower the deck over time. Lowering the height of the grass a little with each cut. After a few weeks, your lawn will be back to the level it should be, and in most cases in a month or two your lawn will be looking better once again.
Overwhelmed? Well it’s no surprise, there is a lot of nuance to maintaining a lawn properly. We hardly even covered the other steps of maintaining the lawn such as aeration and fertilization.
This is shocking, but most people find that it is much cheaper to higher a professional team of lawn care specialists. Rather than buying, renting or maintaining all of the equipment necessary to maintain a lawn, you will often save money by hiring a professional.
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