It’s often said that grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. But have you ever wondered just how your neighbors get their lawn so full and green? Why isn’t their lawn full of weeds, bare patches, and browning grass?
It all comes down to proper lawn care. And the most frequently performed lawn care task is mowing your lawn. Done properly, lawnmowing can make the difference between a lush patch of healthy turfgrass and a brown, dusty patch of weeds.
Learn the simple steps you can take to help your lawn look its best through Mid-Michigan’s highly variable growing season. Best of all, these small changes to your current mowing practices are quick, easy, and don’t require additional tools or lawn care products!
Lawnmowing Tips for a Perfectly Cut Lawn
#1 – Cut Grass High
It might seem like a smart plan to mow grass as short as possible so you don’t have to mow as often. Yet, the reality is that mowing too low can reduce your lawn’s ability to manufacture food and therefore reduce the vigor of the turfgrass. Not to mention that a scalped lawn never looks good.
So, what’s the best height to mow your lawn? You might be surprised to learn that the recommended lawn height for the types of turfgrass we have in mid-Michigan is between 3 and 5.5 inches. That’s much higher than most people mow their lawns!
Cutting your grass higher reduces stress and helps green the lawn without needing extra fertilizer. Taller grass shades the soil, which keeps vulnerable grassroots cooler, preserves soil moisture, and shades out weeds so there’s less need for herbicides.
#2 – Follow the One-Third Rule for Lawn Mowing
Time your lawn mowing with the goal of cutting off only the top one-third of the grass blades. Cutting off more likely won’t kill your lawn, but it may force the turfgrass into dormancy. Plus, it’ll probably clog up your mower and leave large clumps of cut grass on the lawn.
In practice, following the one-third rule of mowing might look like this:
- Wait until the grass blades reach about 5 inches tall.
- Mow off 1/3 (a little over 1.5 inches).
- Your lawn grass will then be 3.33 inches tall, putting it within the recommended height parameters for a greener healthier lawn.
#3 – Sharpen Lawn Mower Blades Regularly
A very important, yet often overlooked, lawn mowing tip is to sharpen your mower blades often. This is a safety practice as well as a technique for a more beautiful lawn. Dull mower blades can weaken your grass plants by leaving ragged, injured, torn edges. While this is an unattractive look for the lawn, it is also a place for disease and pests to enter or attack the plant. A quality grass cut means you are shearing off the top of the grass cleanly.
Sharpen mower blades after every 20 to 30 hours of use time. How do you know how many hours you have mowed weekly? Time it! Then put a reminder on your calendar letting you know when it’s time to give a quick sharpen to the mower blades.
You can easily sharpen blades with a tool like a bench grinder, angle grinder, drill grinder, or tiger paw. No time or tools? No worries. Just send your blades out to a local lawnmower shop for professional sharpening. Some local hardware stores will also sharpen mower blades for you.
#4 – Change Your Mowing Pattern Each Time
We all know that a large riding lawnmower is heavy, but even a push mower will flatten and break grass blades and compact the soil. Mowing in the same direction every time will “train” the grass to lean to one side and cause stripes of dead or damaged lawn. And mower wheels can pull up grassroots if you make tight turns.
Minimizing backtracking and turns, as well as varying the mowing pattern, will:
- prevent ruts,
- help grass blades grow upright, and
- keep the lawn greener.
Whether you choose to mow in a diagonal pattern, in spirals, rows, or something else, make the pattern a feature of your lawn. Just remember to change it up each time.
#5 – Leave Grass Clippings for a Healthy Lawn
Leave healthy grass clippings on your lawn. Despite what you may have heard, lawn clippings do not cause thatch!
This technique is an environmentally friendly lawn maintenance act that also reduces the amount of work you have to do. Not only do you not have to rake and bag, but leaving lawn clippings for the season means that’s one less fertilizer application you need to make.
If you have a mulching mower, it will double-cut the clippings more finely. Grass clippings will drop down through the grass onto the soil where they’ll decompose and supply nutrients to your lawn.
Rake lawns only when the grass clippings are so deep that they stick together and clump on the surface of the grass. You’ll also want to remove and dispose of clippings if the lawn is diseased.
#6 – Wait Until the Lawn is Dry Before Mowing
Mowing your grass when it’s wet is most likely to cause clumping and build-up. This will look unsightly and block airflow to the lawn, creating brown spots and encouraging disease.
Wet lawns are also harder to cut evenly; blades are bent over or stuck together with moisture so some are cut while others aren’t. The end result is something like a really bad haircut.
Riding mowers can damage soil, roots, and grass when the lawn is wet, create deep ruts. It can also be a danger if your lawn is slippery.
#7 – Keep Up with Regular Lawn Mower Maintenance
Every lawn mower needs to be regularly maintained in order to extend the life of the machinery. By maintaining your lawnmower, you’ll also be saving money while keeping your lawn in great shape for years to come. Take your lawnmower to a lawnmower shop or do it yourself with the below tips as a guide to get started.
- Follow an annual lawnmower maintenance schedule – Whether you perform most of your maintenance at the beginning of the season or prefer to do it before you store your mower in the fall, it’s important to have a regular schedule. We like a good spring cleaning; it will kick off your mowing season safely and reliably.
- Read the lawnmower manual – If you are doing the maintenance yourself, read the manual first. People often skip this important step, yet it can give you important insight into the needs of your lawnmower.
- Perform annual lawnmower engine upkeep – It doesn’t take much to keep your mower engine in working condition.
- Replace the spark plug annually
- Change the oil annually
- Clean or replace the air filter every year (at least)
- Reduce corrosion by spraying fogging oil into the carburetor annually
- Clean the lawn mower regularly – Brush off the undercarriage after every time you mow to prevent buildup. Spray off the entire mower and undercarriage before storing the mower at the end of the season.
- Drain the lawnmower gasoline before storing – In the fall, after the last lawn mow, drain the gasoline from the lawnmower. Storing gas in unused machinery is unsafe and old gas can prevent the mower from starting again in the spring.
Questions About Lawns?
Do you have questions about your lawn or lawn mowing for the Bay Landscaping team? Just ask the Bay Landscaping Experts! We’ll answer your question online or, if you prefer, we can schedule an appointment to come out and diagnose and solve your lawn issues.
Bay Landscaping offers excellent landscape fertilization, weed management, and pest control program at an affordable price. Our lawn care experts provide custom lawn service to suit your needs (although we don’t mow lawns, we’re happy to give you advice on that too!). You can also buy our custom grass seed blends online or at our nursery in Essexville, MI.
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