Through the Garden Gate.
Sometimes at family dinners, my brothers and I like to brag about the tough mowing jobs we did for little or no money. While I'm sure that I'm the first to holler about now I mowed for next to nothing, I know now that what we were performing as kids was simply keeping the grass knocked down, not a service that was good for the lawns. The truth is that the way you mow the grass is as important as what you put on it.
Now is the time to raise the mower if you have not already done so. In the spring, our lawns benefit from a shorter mowing height. Tall fescue, bluegrass and perennial ryegrass should be mowed at 2- to 2 1/2-inches tall and raised up an inch as the temperature begins to warm for the summer. In the spring, it is nice to mow shorter because the grass tends to fill in when the leaf blades are kept shorter. When the air temperature begins to warm, it is better to let the grass get taller. There is a direct relationship between the grass blade length and the root depth. As summer begins, if we let the mowing height increase, the root depth should increase, making a healthier plant for the hot, dry months.
Falling into a routine of mowing every five to seven days is a mistake that many of us make. Mowing should be done as needed, not on a schedule. This is difficult for many nine-to-flyers, since the weekend is normally the time to get the mowing done. During the spring and fall, mowing every seven days is sometimes not enough, while in the heat of the summer it is plenty.
The rule of thumb for mowing is not to cut off more than a third of the leaf blade at once. Cutting off more than a third of the leaf blade will cause the grass to thin out and become coarse. There have been springs when I have been so busy that I didn't get the grass mowed when I should have, and I had to raise the mower deck as high as it would go, then mow the grass again a couple days later so I did not break the one-third rule.
Using a different pattern each time you mow is also important. Using the same pattern will cause compaction and turf wear from the mower wheels hitting the same place every time. The grass becomes grained or pushed over in one direction. I try to alternate mowing by going north and south one time, east and west the next, diagonally northeast and then diagonally southeast to give me four different patterns to mow In my side yard, which is very narrow, I have to make an effort to change paths every time because there is not enough area to directional mow and wheel tracks become evident.
The thing about mowing that is most forgotten is keeping a sharp blade on the mower. Commercial mowing companies sharpen their blades daily This translates, to an average homeowner sharpening mower blades after five or six mowings. Failure to keep blades sharp results in a whitish cast over the lawn because the leaf blades are torn rather than cut. A torn and tattered leaf blade does not do the same job of creating food for the roots as does a healthy leaf blade of the same length.
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