Lawn Mowing Tips

Mowing a lawn seems simple enough… just pull the string really hard or climb onto the cushioned seat and start forth toward a tamed lawn and pleased neighbors. Maybe it really is that simple.

BUT have you ever stopped to consider that maybe every single mowing strategy or technique you have devoted yourself to coImage result for lawn mowinguld possibly be doing more harm than good? OR have you ever considered that every single mowing strategy or technique you’ve relied on is actually 100% correct and absolute perfection? (dang, good job)

No matter which category you fall in, checking in and making sure you’re doing the absolute best you can for your lawn is quite a wise decision! So read on. Educate yourself. Grow your mind as to be able to properly care for your home. Stand up for your lawn’s right to look healthy and beautiful.

Okay… so let’s get to the actual tips.
  • When should you mow?Image result for mowing stripes
    • Later in the evening (for those cooler temperatures) on DRY grass
  • How often and which pattern should you mow in? Try not to depend on any sort of schedule (weekly, bi-weekly, whenever your daughter comes home from college). Instead, mow based on the length of your lawn.
  • Frequency depends on your individual grass, BUT it is good to remember never to cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade. (so cut when it’s around 3.5 – 3.75 inches)
  • But what if you waited too long??
    • That’s okay! Just raise the mower height and cut it once, then lower the deck and cut it to the proper height! See? It all works out.
    • Be careful not to cut the lawn too short! This is called scalping.
  • VARY your cutting pattern
    • One week, go east to west
    • Next week? North and south.
    • Next one? Why, go diagonally! Not only will it prevent ruts that your mower may create over time, but it will also add some excitement to spice up your gardening ritual.
  • Okay, okay, okay, but what is the correct height for grass?
    • Early Spring – Keep the height of the grass around 2.5 inches
    • Summer months – Raise the mower deck high, at least 3 inches (more shade for soil). The hotter, the higher.
    • Fall – Lower the deck back to 2.5 inches
  • Also, don’t bag. If cut with a sharp blade at the proper height, the clippings provide nutrients that will break back down into the soil.

I have to say though, all of this is pointless if you don’t keep your lawn mower in good condition! Start by keeping it clean every week, then go here, Lawn Mower Maintenance, for some great ways to keep your mowing running great.

Okay, so I hope this provided some valuable information for all you lawn mowers! My own personal preferences also involve some good noise defying headphones and some rockin’ jams to really get the vibe pumpin’, but that’s up to you. The rest though, the rest you should seriously try to follow! It’s possible that reading through this and actually following these tips could take you from worst looking lawn in the neighborhood to the very first recipient of the prettiest, most well-kept lawn in the neighborhood award.

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Winter Damage; snow mold and voles

As the snow melts, a little earlier this year, there will more than likely be some damage to your lawn that happened during the winter. Two of the biggest problems are voles and snow mold. Snow mold is simple to deal with if identified property. Voles are a nuisance and can be tough to rid out of the lawn and landscape.

Let’s take a better look at voles, which are common during the winter because they use the snow as cover to mover around. Below is an image of the tunnels they create above the surface. This is a sign that there is vole damage, which can be easily confused with moles. Moles will stay below the surface and are not active in the winter. These runway looking paths can be severe, where the grass has died off. Or just mild damage where the grass is flattened.

Voles look like mice, but have longer fur and shorter tails. They are stubborn and can create communities of up to 300 voles per acre. They are herbivores and come out at night to feed on vegetation. There is winter damage because they navigate through the snow, protected from predators so they can create a good amount of damage in your lawn.

Vole control is difficult and unfortunately almost futile when it comes to trapping or any chemical baits. So start with these tips;

  • take away the food source (excess vegetation)
  • take away protection like wood piles and grass clippings
  • keep the lawn trimmed, cut short at the end of the season
  • wrap trees and shrubs to prevent them from being eaten

Mold damage –  Typically snow and dampness will create a brown looking lawn. It will be matted down and appear to have killed the grass. Often times a simple raking and good fertilizer program will quickly fix the issue. And with most molds, a little sunlight and dryer weather may be all that is needed. Don’t go overboard with extra treatments or fungicides. They are often not needed.

One cause of snow mold is when certain areas of the lawn are covered more than the rest, causing these areas to matte down. If there are leaves and piles of grass clippings left behind and then covered with snow, this will probably lead to mold. The big pile of snow that takes the longest to melt may be an area of concern. Sometimes the snow pile cannot be avoided, but the left over leaves and grass is a big no-no. Your technician should yell at you if it is seen. Please request a late season drive by from your lawn tech and he can let you know if your lawn is ready for the winter.

There are simple ways to avoid snow mold, and also some easy fixes, so don’t stress too much about it. First off, the lawn has to be clean and cut short at the end of the year. Make certain all leaves are gone and the grass is cut down to about 2 inches. This will help with the vole issue as well. Secondly, proper nitrogen applications are necessary, avoiding quick release products at the end of the year. All of our products are slow release.  And our winterizer application does not force a growth spurt, but goes into the soil to make sure the roots get the nutrients for the winter. Finally, controlling the thatch layer is important. You can do this through de-thatching and aerations to loosen up the soil. Allowing the ground to ‘breathe’, increasing airflow and oxygen into the base of the grass will reduce the likelihood of snow mold.

The proper ways to fix both these problems is to rake and fertilizer. If needed, seed the areas. The vole issue may be an ongoing fight for a while. An outdoor housecat will probably work wonders, they tend to get all the little critters away from the house. And the snow mold can easily be prevented and remedied.

Last week we went over lawn mower maintenance, and next week will be on lawn mowing techniques. The single most important post we send out all year is to ensure the lawn is cut properly. Keep an eye out for that post and we look forward to talking to you. Thanks,

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Lawn mower maintenance

Lawn mowing is a critical job to a healthy lawn and if done poorly, the lawn will be limited and weak areas will die off. In order to properly cut the lawn, your mower has to be running in peak performance. In this post, we’ll go over some of the simple steps to get your mower ready for the upcoming season. These tips are for a typical cutting season, approximately 30 cuts, so adjust the maintenance if you are the
neighborhood lawn guy!

To get the best cut —> use a sharp blade spinning at max rpms

To achieve this, follow this list;

  • Keep the mower clean
  • Follow owner’s manual
  • Use high octane, fresh gas (buy enough for only a few weeks)
  • Check oil often (don’t screw cap in to check level)
  • Once a year, change oil, oil filter, air filter, fuel filter and spark plug (tune up kit should have all these things)
  • Keep blade sharp, like a butter knife, not like a razor
  • Keep tire pressure consistent
  • Tighten belts
  • Lube and grease as needed (follow manual)

One of the simplest ways to ensure your mower is spinning at max capacity – keep it clean. Do not allow any build up under the cutting deck, around any belts, or on the engine. A hose could do the trick, or use your hands and a putty knife. If your hands go near the blade, then disconnect the spark plug. Spinning the blade by hand could possibly ignite the engine.

The owner’s manual will be a valuable source of information when it comes to maintaining your specific mower. It is written by the people who built the mower and they should know the best what to do.

Use high octane fuel and don’t let the mower run out it while running. Most recommendations are for a minimum of 87 octane, but I like to use the good stuff. The more expensive gas will last a bit longer on the shelf, but keep only enough for a few weeks. At the end of the season drain the tank or use fuel stabilizer. Bad gas is usually the cause for engines not starting.

Oil is critical to a properly running mower, considered the blood of the engine. Check it often to make sure it is at the proper level. There are different guidelines to checking different engines, but usually you do not have to screw the dipstick it. So make sure it is checked properly. Any debris that is visible, get it out and if the oil looks dark, than change it. Every time the oil is changed, replace the oil filter as well and dispose properly.

Tune up kit – The air filter should be checked constantly. It clogs quickly and collects a lot of dust and debris. There is usually a foam filter around the air filter and this piece will collect most of the junk. These are easy to clean, and they are inexpensive so clean or replace often.Image result for mower tune up kit

The spark plug is a simple item to change also. Often this piece is replaced only when the engine fails to start. It is inexpensive and easy to change, so just take care of it every year. Same thing with the fuel filter. I would suggest this is the most overlooked item to check. It should be part of a tune up kit and fairly easy to change.

Sharpen the blade, properly. Here’s a checklist.

  • Disconnect spark plug
  • Flip mower up and keep carburetor side up to avoid getNew blade and tools hanging on pegboardting oil in it
  • Mark the blade to make sure it goes back on the same way
  • Take single bolt out of the middle of the blade, be careful and use proper tools
  • Sharpen with a file or grinder to ‘butter knife’ sharp. Too sharp will actually dull quicker. And careful with a grinder, it might heat up the blade and ruin it. Also, only sharpen one side, the top side. 50 strokes with a sharp, 10 inch file should do it.
  • Balance the blade by hanging it on the wall, should be level to the ground. If not, shave some more off the heavy side
  • Put blade back on securely

The guidelines listed here will allow your mower to operate as efficient as possible. A sharp blade spinning at max rpm’s is the goal. We will get into mowing techniques in a later post as the spring nears, but the best techniques are useless if the mower is just damaging the grass. This is step one.

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New Site and Blog

The new site is up and running, along with our revamped blog page. We look forward to providing great information throughout the year to all homeowners interested in a healthy lawn. The archives have some helpful posts from last year, and we will continue to add a lot of content. To keep up with all this info, sign up for our weekly tips and we can walk you through the best methods of caring for your lawn and landscape, or check back often for new posts.

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