Mid-August. The time of year when many people wonder why they bother taking care of their lawns. It gets hot, it gets dry, the lawn turns brown. Looks horrible. What do you do when your lawn looks so bad?
Let’s set aside weeds, insects, disease, and the environment for the moment – I’ve written plenty about those issues in previous blogs – and look at another nemesis that faces every lawn. The person in the mirror. Almost every lawn malady has a human element in it. How you manage your lawn can either affect the lawn in a positive way or a negative way. Mowing your lawn correctly is very important to lawn management.
There are things that you can control about your lawn, and things that you cannot. For instance, you can choose to install an underground irrigation system to keep your lawn from going into drought stress, but there is nothing at all you can do about avoiding heat stress, a similar type of lawn stress that yields the same brown lawn. Learn More about Heat Stress & Drought Stress on your Lawn.
There are many things you can control, but let’s narrow it down to just one for today – your lawn mower. Here are tips on how to mow your lawn so it will look better during the hot summer months.
How High to Mow your Lawn in the Summer
Leave the short grass to the golf courses – you do not have the time or resources to duplicate what you see on TV or the last time you played eighteen. A home lawn should be cut between 2 ½” and 3” in height. I firmly believe that once you have established this grass height, you should not deviate from it all season long.
How Frequently to Mow your Lawn
The one-third rule states that you should not remove any more than one third of the height of the lawn in any one mowing. That roughly translates to mowing the lawn on a regular schedule once per week. The exception to that schedule occurs during the spring when the lawn is growing like crazy; you may need to mow once every five days for a while. The other exception is in the middle of summer when there is not a lot going on in terms of growth. You may be able to get away with mowing every other week and still fall within the one third rule guidelines.
Your Lawn Mower Needs a Sharp Blade
So much damage is caused when a blade has lost its edge; hit a bunch of rocks or a few tree stumps. Mowers are designed to cut cleanly so that the wound at the tip of the leaf heals quickly. A dull or damaged blade rips and shreds leaves instead of cutting, leaving a gaping wound that is a perfect breeding ground for disease. Sharpening or replacing your blade with new annually should be all that is needed to avoid this problem.
Lawn Mower Maintenance
I was walking along a sidewalk yesterday in front of an office building when I noticed a lawn mower blade and its mounting bolt sitting on the lawn. Boy, did the lawn look funny after that blade fell off. Seems like the person operating the machine didn’t even notice that they were only cutting half the lawn. Pretty amazing to me but it does happen. If you do not perform routine preventive maintenance on your mower, you can expect it to fail just when you need it the most. Murphy’s law applies to lawns too.
In addition to changing the oil on a regular basis, almost all mowers have belts that drive the blades. These belts will fail and should be inspected and replaced as they wear out. The belts spin a shaft called a spindle that the blade is attached to on the underside of the mower deck. These spindles have large bearings on either end that will eventually wear out. When they do, the blade will not only ride lower than the others (assuming there are multiple blades on the mower) but it will also wobble. This results in an uneven cut that is visually unappealing. This problem can be prevented by simply bringing your mower to the repair shop at the end of the season and allowing the mechanics to go over it during the winter. Don’t wait until spring to do this important step because shops become exceptionally busy when the grass begins to grow. You may have to wait more than a month to get your mower back. In the meantime, your lawn will still be growing!
Use these lawn mowing lawn care tips and you will notice a big improvement in the quality of your lawn.
- Bob Mann, Agronomist