Lawn Mowing seems as if it should be fairly simple. When mowing your lawn, Drag out the mower, cut the grass then have a cold drink. However, there are a few things that really should be taken into consideration when mowing your lawn.
Sharpening the Mower
You wouldn’t consider getting a haircut with a baseball bat, would you? That’s exactly how most of us cut our lawns. I’m probably as guilty as anyone when it comes to this. Unless you are using a reel mower (which uses a scissor like action to cut) the odds are that you are using a rotary type mower. The blades revolve at a high speed and do a reasonably good job of cutting, as long as they are sharp. When dull they shred rather then cut, leaving a ragged edge. You can often tell when your blades need sharpening simply by looking at the quality of the cut blades of grass. If theres a nice clean cut then your blades are fine, if the cut is ragged, it’s time to sharpen the blades.
There are purist that would have you hand file the blades. I use a handheld grinder. They two key points being that I never grind so much that the blade turns cherry red (You’ll lose the temper of the blade if you do that) and that the blade is balanced after sharpening. You can check the balance of the blade with a pencil, dowel or a piece of PVC pipe. Insert it into the hole and rotate in in either direction, when you stop the blade should balance itself into a level position. If after a few attempts you see that it leans more towards any one direction then you need to remove metal from that side to get a good balance on the blade.
When to Mow
The time of day you mow is important to the overall health of your Lawn. Typically the coolest part of the day is when it is best to mow. Evenings are usually best. The mornings are cool and you also have dew to contend with. The clippings tend to clog your blades and and clump together making cleanup difficult and especially troublesome if you are mulching your clippings back into the lawn. Another problem with dew or wet clippings is that damp conditions make it easier to spread lawn diseases.
Generally speaking the taller you cut your grass (Within the recommended mowing heights for each grass type) the healthier your lawn will be. Look under the different grass tyoes that I have listed on this site for the recommended mowing heights. ONE CAUTION that is universal, you should never mow more then 1/3 of the height of the grass. So if your lawn is three inches tall, 2 inches is as short as you should mow it. If it’s 6 inches tall then 4 inches should be the max you should take it too. This may mean multiple passes to get it to a desired height. If I slip and let it get to high I will usually mow off 1/3 of the height. Give it a day or to to recover and then mow again to the desired height.
I am a believer in mulching when mowing your lawn. You’ll find references recommending that all clippings be removed for certain kinds of grasses. I believe that it’s a great source of free fertilizer, helps keep moisture in the ground (and not in the air as an evaporate). You’ll have to be the final judge on your own lawn. But please consider the benefits vs the cons of mulching when making your decision. The one time when you probably wouldn’t want to mulch is when the lawn has gotten too tall. You’ll end up with big clumps of clippings which are probably better off bagged or in a compost pile. Ideally if you mow often enough the clippings will be of small lengths and will pretty much disappear into your lawn.
I love an edged lawn. I think there is a pristine neat quality to it that screams “look at me”! There are two key ways to edge a lawn. There are manual edgers that are basically a rubber wheel with blades attached to it. They work fairly well but don’t raise the thatch like a power edger does. The power edger, typically a small blade with a high rate of spin gives you a nice clean cut, digs a small trench so there is a clear deliniation between the lawn and walkway or drive and raises the bed of the lawn slightly along the trimmed edge giving it a great clean look.