Seven Steps to the Perfect Lawn
Mowing is an effective way to promote growth and keep your lawn looking great. It’s important, though, to make sure you’re doing it properly because you can help or hurt your lawn if you don’t do it correctly. Many lawn problems are simply caused by poor practices like—mowing too short, mowing with dull blades, mowing infrequently, or cutting too much at once.
Want to be the talk of the neighborhood? Follow these simple steps to the perfect lawn.
1) Mow High
Set your mower at the highest preferred setting and only cut the top 1/3 of the grass blades at any one time, even if this means you have to mow again after several days. Longer grass blades will grow and support more roots and develop a deeper root system that is better able to find water and nutrients in the soil. This is especially beneficial during the hot summer months. Cutting too aggressively, or “scalping the lawn,” forces grass plants to focus their energy on regrowing their blades, not deepening their roots. Scalping the lawn also makes your lawn more prone to weeds. Taller grass blades shade the soil and keep it cooler, helping prevent weed seeds from sprouting. Tall grass is also softer to walk on and helps cushion falls.
2) Mow a Dry Lawn
The best time to mow a lawn is in the early evening. Mowing at the peak of day, when temperatures are high, stresses the lawn as well as the mower. If you wait until the early evening, the lawn is usually dry, unless it has rained during the day, the sun is not as intense, and the lawn will have ample time to recover before the next afternoon’s heat arrives. Even if it hasn’t rained, lawns are usually wet in the morning because of moisture from dew or fog. If it does rain, wait for your lawn to dry before mowing, as cutting wet grass can result in an uneven trim. Wet clippings can also clog your mower and cause it to dump clumps of grass on your lawn; if they aren’t raked up, they can smother the growing grass and result in brown spots.
3) Alternate Mowing Patterns
Each time you mow, do it in a different direction. If you always cut your lawn using the same pattern, your grass learns which direction it’s being cut from and begins to lean in the direction you mow. By varying the mowing pattern, you help avoid forming ruts in the lawn and your grass will stand up nice and tall since it will be mowed from all different directions.
4) Mow As Needed
Don’t follow a schedule. Mow as often as needed for your grass type, growing conditions, growth pattern, and season. Sticking to a schedule, like every Saturday, doesn’t allow your lawn to be mowed when it actually needs it. When grass is actively growing in the spring, for example, it needs to be mowed more frequently but when growth slows during the heat of summer or at the end of the growing season, your lawn may only need to be mowed once every week or two. Of course, as long as the grass isn't too tall or the mower blade isn't set too low, your lawn can be mowed as many times as you want but the lawn doesn’t need it.
5) Wait Before Mowing a New Lawn
After seeding, it’s best to wait for your grass to get off to a good start before you start mowing. New grass seedlings can be cut for the first time when they've reached reached 5-7.5 cm (2-3 inches). Do not cut more than the top ⅓ of the grass blades. A dramatic cutting can shock and stress new grass plants, slowing down the growth of your new lawn.
When mowing a new lawn from sod, wait 2 to 3 weeks before mowing to give the sod a chance to root into the soil. You can check to see if it’s ready by backing off on watering and walk on the turf. If it’s firm enough to walk on, it’s good to mow. You can also gently pull up on the sod to check whether or not it has rooted. Don’t cut the grass shorter than 5 cm (2 inches) for the first few times. Be very careful while you mow so you don’t pull up any sod and if a section does get moved, just put it back in place.
6) Leave the Clippings
When mowing, leave the clippings on the lawn. Grass clippings break down quickly and return beneficial nutrients to the soil. Mow often enough so too much isn’t removed at once and clippings are small. Removing too much of the grass blade shocks the grass and leaves piles of long clippings on the lawn that do not break down quickly and can smother growing grass.
7) Keep Your Mower Blades Sharp
For a clean cut, sharpen mower blades at the first sign of wear. Dull blades tear the grass, causing ragged, brown edges. Continually using a dull mower blade can also cause your grass to weaken over time, making it more susceptible to disease, insect damage, and other stresses, like heat and drought. A mower tune-up and blade sharpening once a year helps in many ways: Your mower will start easier, make cleaner cuts, and slice your clippings without bogging down the mower blades. Also, remember to wash your mower after each use, to help prevent any blockages within the mower itself. Not only will your mower perform better—it won’t stink up the garage with a moldy grass smell.
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