on Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Often when people are having their mowers serviced or are looking to purchase a new lawn mower, we get a lot of questions about the basics of lawn mowing and what our experience tells us are the best tips when caring for your lawn. In this article, we've surfaced some lawn mowing best practices to make this process easier while providing the best care for your yard.
Getting Started: Sharpening Your Mower Blade and Basic Maintenance
A dull mower blade can leave your lawn looking ragged and uneven. These jagged edges can become dull and brown, causing the grass to weaken over time. A weakened patch of grass is susceptible to stresses like heat or drought and disease or insect damage. Also, always check to ensure your blade is installed correctly and has no blockage or buildup. Using the blunt side of the blade damages your lawn, and not having the blade installed securely or having debris buildup that can misfire is a safety hazard. A few steps for how to sharpen your blade:
- You can sharpen the blade on the mower, but disconnect your spark plug or power source
- Use files, abrasives or an angle grinder
- The most common angle to sharpen the blade is between a 35- and 45-degree angle
- Although there is a cost, most hardware stores will have someone that can sharpen the blade for you
Before you mow is also the best time to perform any other standard maintenance on your lawn mower. Make sure it has enough fuel and oil. Not sure what type of oil to use in your lawn mower? 10W30 is the most common motor oil grade for many lawn mowers, but your owner's manual will tell you the exact grade required for your machine. Then, start your engine. Of course, that can be easier said than done. Depending on whether you have a gas-powered or electric mower, how to start your lawn mower follows different steps. Again, your owner's manual is the place to look for this information and any troubleshooting tips your model might need.
Remove Any Debris from Your Lawn
Make sure that you remove any bits of trash or sticks from your yard that would be too big for your mower to mulch. Debris shooting out of your mower creates a safety hazard for you and any family, friends or pets nearby.
MOWING TIP #1 – MOW IN THE MORNING
Mowing in the AM is not required, but we recommend cutting earlier in the day. It's better for your grass, and the cooler temperatures are better for you by keeping you out of the mid-day sun.
Know Your Lawn and Set Your Blade Height to Match
Most experts recommend only cutting the top third of the length of the blade of grass in your mowing session. During the most active growing season, this will mean mowing a little more often, but longer blades support root development while leaving a canopy to allow water and nutrients to enter the soil and not burn off. This canopy will also help manage weeds and, bonus, it will be much softer to walk on when you want to feel the grass between your toes. Like anything else, there are a few exceptions. Knowing your lawn comes in handy if you know that you have a less common grass species. For example, centipede and zoysia grass prefer middle mower settings, and creeping bentgrass and Bermuda grass will grow best with the blade set low.
Don’t Mow Your Lawn on a Set Schedule
The first step in knowing how to mow your lawn is to know when to mow your lawn. It’s easy to set your mowing clock to cut every Saturday but knowing how often to trim your lawn depends on what’s best for it. Monitor your yard and mow when it needs it. This scheduling considers your grass type, growing conditions, growth pattern, weather, and season. During active growth, this may look more like twice a week, but you can wait much longer during hot summer months.
MOWING TIP #2 – VARY YOUR MOWING PATTERN
Not only is mowing in the exact pattern every time boring for you, but it can also put your grass to sleep. Your grass will start to lean toward the mowing pattern and not appear as healthy and thick. When deciding how to mow your lawn, remember to switch things up between your straight lines, diagonal lines, or even circles; you and your lawn will be more engaged.
New Lawn? Don't Mow Too Soon
After seeding a new lawn, you need to wait and let your grass take root and show around 2" of growth before you mow. As mentioned before, set your blade height so that you will not take off more than the top third of the blade so that you don't stress and shock your new plants. You don't want to stunt the growth of your lawn from the get-go. The grass and turf experts at Scott's recommend these grass heights for new growth before mowing:
- Bahia: 2-2 ½ inches
- Bermuda: 1½-2 inches
- Bluegrass: 2-2½ inches
- Centipede: 1½-2 inches
- Fescue: 2-3 inches
- Perennial Ryegrass: 2-3 inches
- Zoysia: 1-2 inches
If you are starting your new lawn with sod, wait at least two to three weeks before you mow. Waiting will give your sod a chance to take root.
MOWING TIP #3 – SAFETY FIRST
As the saying goes, "it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." Any time you are mowing, there is a potential for debris to misfire, so always wear sunglasses or protective eyewear when operating your lawn mower. Oh, and maybe change out of your flip-flops so you can protect those toes, too.
Use Lawn Clippings to Your Advantage
As long as you are mowing at reasonable intervals, your grass clippings should be left on your lawn. These clippings have nutrients your lawn needs and will serve almost like a fertilizer. If your grass is very tall or you have a large number of leaves in the fall, you will probably want to remove your clippings to avoid smothering your lawn because it can't get the sun or water needed to thrive.
With a bit of preparation, knowledge of your grass and a few safety considerations, you can mow your lawn like the pros and be the envy of your block with a healthy, manicured lawn.
- lawn mowing tips