Mowing is the single most important step of lawn care. It is done more regularly than other forms of maintenance and is often the origin of the most common lawn troubles. When it is done correctly it can provide such benefits as maintaining or even decreasing weed levels, ease pest problems, minimize thatch build up and reduce your water and fertilizer needs.
When should you mow
On the other side of the coin, however, if done poorly it can be the cause of these exact things. Mowing can be done in any season that it is required, this will vary depending on the climate and the type of grass that you have. The time of day is another thing to consider. If the grass is too damp from rain, watering or morning dew it can lead to grass clumps being left on the lawn, tire marks across your grass and cause the spread of the fungus; you will always get a better finish with a dry lawn. Late afternoon or early evening is the optimal time to mow. Mowing is very stressing on the grass, and a midday sun can increase this stress. The leaves are a grasses source of food, watering the day before and allowing the leaves to recover overnight is beneficial to the lawns health.
Height and frequency of the mow
The two most important factures that effect how attractive and healthy your lawn is when mowing, are the height of the mow and the frequency. The height of each grass will vary depending on the species. Each grass has a recommended growing height, and you should always mow when it is at the highest level of this recommendation, this can easily be found on a seed packet or from your garden store. Mowing at this height has many benefits and will help to ensure strong deep roots, less space for weeds and the retention of fertilizers and water. No matter what type of grass you have, make sure only to cut the top 1/3 of the grass blade.
Even if the grass is very long, it is better to cut it as high as possible and then wait a few days and mow it again; this will ensure that the clippings are not too dense and hard to break down, which can lead to thatch.Removing more than 1/3 leaf is often referred to as scalping and places excess stress on the grass causing browning, shallow roots and ultimately leads to a weak lawn that is susceptible to weeds and pests. When the grass is cut using the 1/3 rule it is best to leave the clippings on the grass, they do not lead to thatch and are full of nutrients that will feed your lawn and soil, helping to reduce the need for extra fertilizers.
Do not leave the clippings if the grass is wet, too high or if there is a large amount of leaves and sticks covering the lawn, it is at these times that large clumps can be left behind by the mower, and this is when the clippings may cause problems, where possible rake before hand or do multiple mows spaced a few days apart. The frequency of the cut really comes down to following the 1/3 rule again. For example, the most common optimum height of the grass is 2 inches and, therefore, should be mown when it reaches 3 inches in height. You do not need to be too pedantic about this but the closer, the better.
Your grass will grow at different speeds throughout the year, depending on the weather, rain, season, grass type and so on; this basically means that having a rigid lawn mowing schedule is not the most beneficial way to care for your lawn. It is better to simply mow whenever your grass grows to the point that you will only be cutting off the top 1/3 of the leaf and then left with the recommended maximum height of your grass. This may require the odd weekday mow, but it is well worth it regarding the benefits that your lawn will receive.
The importance of sharp blades is often overlooked but can also make a noticeable improvement to the appearance or your lawn. Dull and chipped blades can bruise the grass as they tend to rip the grass leaves more than cut them, this may cause poor mulching, susceptibility to diseases and a shabby finish. Blade sharpening should be done every 2 to 3 months, depending on how often mowing is required. This is an inexpensive service at the mower maintenance shop and is not difficult to do yourself. If you choose to do this, yourself always remember to take the spark plug out before starting, remove the blade and use a file to do the sharpening following the cutting edge on both sides of the blades to maintain it balanced. It can also be a good idea to have a new sharp blade around for a backup.
Mowing in the same direction every time you mow is called training your lawn. It is actually better for your lawn if you vary the pattern when you mow. This may involve simple things such as starting where you finished last time so that the mower is running in the opposite direction and shifting the whole pattern 90 degrees. This will ensure grass blades stand more erect and do not develop into a set pattern.
Safety is a very important issue, as there are some accidents involving lawn mowers each year. Make sure you always wear safety clothing, such as boots and sunglasses, clear all large debris from the mowers path, keep children and pets out of the yard, mow across steep slopes never up and down them and keep your mower in good working order.
What type of mower should you use
There are countless options when considering what type of mower to use. They range from the environmentally friendly push mowers right up to large ride-on mowers. Some of the things to keep in mind if you are looking for a new mower is whether they mulch or catch the grass, mulching is when the grass is cut into small pieces and dropped back into the lawn as a fertilizer, and a catcher is used to collect the grass that has been mown. Some new mowers have both options in the one mower, which is ideal. It is gaining popularity to mulch rather than catch, as it provides benefits for your lawn as well as being faster and easier for you. There are mowers to suit all needs and budgets, and the last thing that you will need to consider is if you want to join the mulching trend too.
Remember that mowing is really the key to making a lawn almost self-sufficient, if you follow the 1/3 rule it may seem like a little extra work now as you have to mow more frequently but in the long run it will save you on fertilizers, watering, pesticides, weeding, dethatching and the jobs and time that go with them. Also make sure to sweep your lawn before mowing, check out our article on lawn sweepers.