Mowing Your Lawn & Finding the Best Mower

lawn mowing tips

The best lawn mower for your lawn is one that is designed to cut the type of grass you're growing and one that's the right size for the size of your lawn. The best type of lawn mower is a lawn mower that's well-maintained, meaning the blade is kept sharp and the engine (if there is one) is in good working order. Regularly mowing your lawn throughout the growing season will help it stay healthy and lush and will ultimately mean less work for you in the long run.

Mowing the Lawn 101

If you have a lawn, mowing it is the key to keeping it looking neat and tidy. There are two important points to remember when you mow a lawn. Don't cut the grass too short and don't mow too frequently.

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Different types of grass have different height preferences, and it's essential that you not cut the grass shorter than it prefers. The reason why is simple. The green blades produced by grass make the food that the roots need to thrive. If the grass itself is too short, the roots aren't able to get adequate food or nutrition.

Underfed roots are unhealthy roots. They are more likely to have trouble when your lawn is under stress, such as during the heat of summer or in the middle of a drought.

How tall should you leave your grass? According to Dummies, you want to avoid cutting off more than one third of the height of a blade of grass when you mow. Generally, cool season grasses should be left taller and longer than warm season grasses.

Knowing how tall your grass should be can give you an idea of when to trim it. For example, some cool-season grasses, such as fescue, have a recommended mowing height of 3 inches. That means you can cut 1.5 inches off once the grass has reached a height of 4.5 inches.

Warm-season grasses should be kept shorter. If you're growing Bermuda grass, which has a recommended mowing height of 1 inch, you want to mow when the grass reaches 1.5 inches, cutting off a total of 0.5 inches.

When you should mow depends on the time of year. During the active growing season for your lawn, you'll find yourself pushing or riding on the mower more often. According to Bob Vila, you'll want to mow every four or five days at the height of the growing season.

Remember that for the healthiest grass, you only want to remove one third of the blades' height each time you mow. Leaving too long between mowings can mean more work for you, as you might have to mow the same area twice to get the results you need.

How to Mow

The video above from This Old House is a good primer for how to mow your lawn. Throughout the video, they offer tips on how to mow and what to do to avoid damaging both your mower's blades and the lawn itself. The only issue with the video is that they bag up the clippings.

While bagging up the grass clippings leaves you with a clean and tidy lawn, there are some arguments in favor of letting the cut grass lie on the ground. As long as the clippings aren't too long, they will break down quickly and provide the remaining lawn with a good source of nitrogen and other needed nutrients.

One common question people often have about mowing the lawn is what type of pattern to use. Although it doesn't really matter whether you mow in a spiral pattern or mow in straight lines, it's important to vary your pattern every so often.

When you mow in the same pattern time after time, the wheels from the mower will begin to leave treadmarks on your lawn. Mowing in the same pattern all the time can also cause the soil to compact, affecting the health of your lawn.

Why Mow?

There are a few reasons why you should bother to mow the lawn. One major reason is because it keeps your lawn actually looking like a lawn. When the grass is allowed to grow freely, it ends up looking like a wild meadow or prairie than actual lawn.

Another reason to mow your lawn is to avoid getting a citation or ticket from your township. Writing in the Washington Post, Sarah Baker shared her story of having her lawn labeled a "nuisance" by her township. After a season of letting grow wild, she had to mow it.

Mowing is also healthy for the grass. Think of the blades of grass as you would your own hair. What happens when you don't cut your hair? It grows and grows and you get split ends. Going for a haircut gets rid of those dead ends and gives you a fresher, rejuvenated look.

The same thing happens when you mow the lawn. Trimming away the raggedy ends of the grass vastly improves the appearance of your lawn. Plus, cutting off the grass at the crown encourages it to grow in a way that creates a full, denser lawn over time.

One last reason to mow your lawn: it can help you live longer. Physical activity, including mowing the lawn, can not only lengthen your life, it can improve the overall quality of your life, as NPR reported.

Types of Lawn Mower

Not all lawns are created equal and neither are all lawn mowers. The best type of mower for you depends on the size of your yard and on the type of grass you're growing.

The two basic styles of lawn mower are reel (or cylinder) and rotary. Beyond that, lawn mowers can be either manually powered or engine powered. Some varieties are push mowers while others are ride-on mowers.

Although they might sound cushy, you really only need a ride-on mower if you have a big lawn. Using a ride-on mower for a tiny lawn is usually overkill.

Usually, reel lawn mowers are manually powers, although there are some gas-powered models out there. Reel lawn mowers use a scissors-like motion to cut the grass. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, they are best suited for turf and fine lawns.

Manually powered reel mowers do take some muscle power to use. That can be fine if you have a smaller lawns, but it you have a larger space to mow, you might quickly tire from using a manual motor.

Rotary mowers are better suited for taller grasses, the type you would find at many home lawns, according to the University of California. The blades of a rotary mower are mounted under the machine and spin horizontally.

Mowers can have an engine that is powered by either gas or electric. There are pros and cons to both types of engine. An electric engine is usually cleaner and safer for the environment, since it doesn't burn gas and produce exhaust. But, electric engines are also often less powerful than gas-powered ones.

Mistakes to Avoid When Mowing

From cutting the grass too short to using the wrong type of mower, there are a number of mistakes you can make when mowing the lawn. Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them.

One common mistake is mowing the lawn when the grass and soil is wet or damp. A good rule to follow is only mow when the grass is dry. Wet grass clipping are more likely to clog the blades of the mower. Plus, it's more difficult to get an even cut when you're trying to mow wet grass.

If the soil is wet and soggy, there's a chance that the wheels of the mower will sink into the ground and get stuck.

Another common mowing mistake is not maintaining the blades of the machine. Sharp blades cut grass cleaning and evenly. Dull blades can cause discoloration on the lawn and a ragged cut. Either sharpen or replace your mower's blades at the beginning of each season and it should be good to go.

A problem known as scalping can occur in certain areas of your lawn, if you're not careful when mowing. Scalping is simply cutting the grass so low that only the stems remain.

If you are turning the mower, or going around a bend, taking the turn too quickly, so that the blade dips down, can cause scalping. Mowing very close to the edge of a garden bed, so that the mower actually dips into the bed, can also cause scalping.

Good Mowing Practices Influence the Overall Health of Your Lawn

Mowing your lawn regularly, but not too much, has a positive effect on the overall health of a lawn. When grass is able to grow thickly, the roots get more nutrients are better able to establish themselves in the soil. Healthier roots mean healthier grass.

If you're ready to commit to regular lawn care and to choosing the best lawn mower for your lawn, we're here to help. We've got plenty of fun and informative articles on lawn mowers and lawn care, all located on the sidebar to the right.

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Source for fact: Duke University