Michael is an avid writer and researcher in gardening and related topics.
The Right Way to Mow Your Lawn
Mowing your lawn could be viewed as a work of art. A lot of homeowners simply focus on reducing the length of the grass, but in the aesthetic sense, there is much more involved. It is an expression of creativity and beauty much like a professional artist or sculptor would engage their skills to come up with a final masterpiece.
It is therefore essential to master the proper way of mowing a lawn in order to keep the grass and soil maintained in a healthy state. The task of mowing your lawn is not simply to make it look beautiful, it also equips the setting to cope with dry spells, weeds and diseases.
Here are some tips to consider when undertaking this exercise.
- Preparation: Start by clearing the mowing area of rocks, sticks and other debris that can hinder the operation, damage your mower, or turn dangerous as airborne missiles.
- Frequency: The lawn does not need to be mowed every week. Cut the grass only when it starts looking unkempt or untidy. Remember, the grass also needs to be given sufficient time to regrow in order for the lawn to stay healthy.
- Don't always discard the clippings after you have mowed the lawn. Sometimes these can be used in mulching by reapplying them back on the grass. After the clippings decompose, they fertilize your lawn.
- Irrespective of how many years of experience you have mowing, always remember to take the necessary precautions. Wear protective shoes and clear the yard of debris before starting.
- Carry enough fluid to stay properly hydrated. If you have an extensive lawn and are part of a household, consider splitting it up into sections that can be managed by each capable family member in order to make the work easier.
- Ensure to service the mower and sharpen its blades before you begin.
- Beware of extremes. Don't overdo the mowing. Cutting lower than a third of the height of the grass in one session will cause poor rooting to take place. Leaving the grass too low makes it susceptible to weeds. Going below half an inch in height can have the effect of permanently wiping out your grass. Granted, some people lawn their mown as a form of therapy, but even then, one needs to be careful not to cross the line.
- Maintaining the recommended height will ensure the soil is properly protected, shaded and kept in a cool condition. The result of this is that you will not need to irrigate it too often.
- If you have an overgrown lawn, try to space out the mowing sessions to two days instead of on one.
- Avoid mowing a wet lawn. This increases the risk of spreading fungus and other undesirable microorganisms. It also tends to be more tedious than mowing a dry lawn.
- Aim at mowing in the late afternoon or evening after the lawn has had sufficient time to dry after the morning dew and the watering process.\
- Blunt blades will not cut through grass, but instead will lash against it, causing your lawn to have an uneven and ragged appearance. This can also increase the spread of disease in the lawn. Once you begin to observe grass lades that are torn or frayed, it is time to replace the mower blades.
- Avoid scheduling a regular day for your mowing. Each grass type has a particular peak growth season and a slow growth season. It is therefore preferable to mow once every 3-4 days in a peak season and once a week in a slow-growth season.
- Depending on how often you water the lawn and the condition of the soil, it would be best not to mow your lawn more than once a fortnight.
So which is the most suitable lawn mower to use? Is it the electric, robotic, gas or manual mower? Well, the answer depends on the size and contour of the area you want to mow and how much you are willing to spend. We'll examine these in turn.
Riding Lawn Mowers
For a lot of people, a riding lawn mower is a rather cool thing to have because of the technology and convenience. But truth be told, these tend to lie beyond the budget of many gardeners.
Still, a riding mower is a real time-saver for homeowners at whatever level of landscaping expertise. If you happen to own an extensive piece of property, a riding lawnmower would be a profitable investment for you.
Riding lawnmowers can be classified into three:
1. Basic riding lawn mowers: These can be identified by design - they typically have rear engines. Some time ago, these mowers were manufactured with a horsepower engine directly below the seat of the user. Basic riding mowers have sharp blades that are quite effective and suitable for lawns less than one acre in size.
2. Medium riding lawn mowers: In contrast to basic riding mowers, these used to be manufactured with their engines in the front since there was enough room there. They have a more advanced and effective cutting ability and cut grass in much less time. They are also suitable for gardens that have raised grounds. Medium riding lawn mowers are best for compound spaces that are between 1 and 2 acres.
3. Commercial riding lawn mowers: These are built for considerably extensive grounds like sporting fields, golf courses and other significantly larger yards. They would be quite expensive for the average homeowner and are not really designed for compounds less than 3 yards in size.
Below are some of the factors that determine the model best suited for your lawn.
(a). The size of your area and the kind of terrain you have: Some lawns have slopes and inclines while others are fairly flat. Some have narrow sections while others are fairly extensive and consistent in their dimensions. These factors determine the machine to use and whether or not you will be able to attain optimal results with it.
(b). The objective of mowing: You need to ask yourself the question, what is my aim in mowing this lawn? Do I want to permanently remove the mowed clippings or do I want to recycle the clippings by returning them back to the lawn as a way of increasing the nutritional value? If you want to permanently remove all the clippings from the lawn, then you would need to go for a mower that can be fitted with a rear bag into which clippings can collect while mowing.
(c). The type of seat the mower has: The process of mowing the lawn will require that you be seated for a considerable period of time. Knowing beforehand the comfort and sturdiness of the seat can help you avoid injuring your back. The seat of the mower needs to be sufficiently comfortable for your weight and size.
(d). The relief in your area: If the area you intend to mow contains rocks, trees, stumps that need to be circumvented constantly, this will also be a factor to consider when selecting the mower with the right tyre type and steering wheel.
(e). Additional needs: You may opt to take advantage of the technology to cater to other needs in your lawn, garden or compound apart from mowing the grass. You may want to use the machine, for example, to clear snow during winter. If this is the case, it would be best to consider a mower that can be fitted with attachments which convert it into a multipurpose machine.
If you are a homeowner interested in identifying eco-friendly ways of maintaining your lawn you could consider using a reel lawnmower.
These were originally manufactured back in 1830 by Edwin Budding. Their simple manual design allowed even those in the middle class to be able to comfortably keep their lawns in good condition.
They do not come with an engine but are propelled manually. A circular frame holds the rotating blades which spin over the ground when the equipment is in motion.
The original models were manufactured using steel and this made them heavy and hard to operate. Today's models come with much lighter materials and are therefore much easier to use.
One of the advantages that a reel mower has is that it does not consume oil or gasoline and therefore does not emit noxious gases. There is also minimal chances of accidents because the blades cease to spin as soon as the operator stops pushing the mower.
Unlike engine-powered mowers which lead to hundreds of thousands of injuries each year, reel mowers cause far fewer accidents and victims are not as hurt as they are with the other mowers.
For homeowners who are budget sensitive, the reel mower is the best alternative since they are not as costly to obtain or maintain as engine-powered mowers.
You just need to apply a bit of lubricant plus the routine sharpening of the blades and you are good to go. In the market of agricultural tools and equipment, these go for a fraction of the cost you would have to pay for other types of mowers.
For the health-conscious, this is an ideal solution because using a reel mower will not only help you get to your daily count of steps, your body will also be engaged in other physical activities as well. Some users go as far as substituting their jogging or walking for mowing.
There is also zero noise pollution associated with reel mowers, unlike the engine-powered mowers. They are completely silent and so one can use them late at night or very early in the morning without being a nuisance to the neighbours or one's own household.
One drawback associated with reel mowers is the physical effort required to operate compared to the electric or automatic mowers as they are also not easy to manoeuvre.
Also, they will not gather the grass cuttings together or slice through sticks or twigs. The latter will tend to get stuck inside the moving parts of the mower causing it to stop cutting the grass.
They also cannot process tall grass or cut through leaves as powered mowers do. Therefore the user will typically need to spend more time raking the grass and performing other manual lawn maintenance tasks after the session is over.
If you own a large piece of land, for example, five acres, then a reel mower would not be ideal for you. However, if you are health-conscious or live in a semi-urban or suburban area where you have a relatively small plot or backyard, you could consider this as an option.
The appeal of robotic lawnmowers lies in their convenience. All other methods of mowing require the presence, time and physical effort of the operator.
Robotic lawnmowers have the advantage of being able to automatically mow the lawn, stop and return to recharge themselves and then continue the task without human agency or intervention. They are also battery-operated and require neither oil nor gas to run.
Apart from the regular replacement of the blades, they do not need much maintenance at all. Also, robotic mowers tend to be waterproof by design and are resistant to rust and corrosion.
One requirement for operation is to have a perimeter wire around the mowing area, ideally buried up to 2 inches in depth. The wire could also be used to protect your flowerbed, your garden, seedlings, trees and other sections of your compound that you would not like to be encroached upon.
This wire must be set up in such a way that the mower can sense its presence. The mower is designed to shut down completely if it ventures beyond this boundary. This prevents it from running erratically into other areas like the driveway or open street.
The sensors in the mower cause it to turn and move in another direction each time it comes across an obstacle or comes into contact with the stated wire.
These mowers differ in their mowing patterns - some are systematic and move back and forth, while others mow in random directions. When the battery level falls considerably, the mower locates the perimeter wire and then begin to follow it back to the charger.
Robotic mowers tend to mow precisely without leaving patches of uncut grass in their wake. They are also designed to shut down when it starts to rain.
When purchasing a robotic mower, it is essential to first ensure that it can perform all these functions independently and also return to and from the charger unaided. You also need to ensure that it is fitted with a sensor for rain and moisture since robotic mowers, especially the heavy ones are easily stuck if the ground is sodden.
How to Maintain Your Lawnmower
To ensure your lawnmower is kept at its optimal performance, certain key steps need to be adhered to. With poor or improper maintenance, using the machine can turn into a frustrating and expensive experience for the operator.
The mower should not simply be stored away after working on the lawn. The required routine maintenance needs to be done, otherwise it will lead to issues when you retrieve it after a long winter for use during spring.
The first thing to remember after the mowing season has ended is to always ensure the mower is properly washed and dried. You can use a power blower to force grass, debris and other undesirable elements from the underside of the equipment and other tricky spots.
During the mowing season itself, the mower needs to be washed after each session and debris removed after it has cooled. Since you will be mowing on a yearly basis, the more often you clean the mower and keep it unclogged, the longer its life is prolonged and the less costly its maintenance will be.
Incase your mower is the type that uses an air-cooled engine, you could use a stick or other elongated implement to extract any residue lodged between the parts. If the engine is water-cooled, then examine the mower to ensure that there is still enough coolant in the machine and if not, top it up accordingly.
Use pressurized water from a hose to clean the cooling fins. Also, ensure that the fuel tank has been drained properly and the fuel filter replaced. The air filter should also be replaced and its housing cleaned.
Examine the spark plug to confirm that there is neither wear nor corrosion. If you find that it does indeed have some corrosion, don't attempt to clean or repair it. Instead, discard the spark plug and procure a new one. They are not expensive.
When removing the spark plug, check to make sure there is no debris present. There are compounds available which you can apply to make sure that spark plugs do not get too attached. This will help you when extracting it after the next mowing season.
Remember to wipe and lubricate the choke and the linkages to the throttle. The mower deck and the fittings need to be serviced with grease in order to allow for flexibility. It will then be easier to take off the mower deck and to sharpen the blades. Ensuring that the blades are properly sharpened at the end of the mowing season will save you much time when the next season comes along.
When cleaning the battery terminals, check whether the battery you are presently using needs to be replaced or not. Oiling the posts when the mowing ends will help prevent rust and corrosion. The oil also needs to be changed and the oil filter replaced.
Before storing the mower for the winter, ensure that there is no diesel left within it. It needs to be completely drained from the machine.
Apart from all these recommendations, it is necessary to perform an annual checkup on your mower in order to ensure that it is always in top working condition.
Lawnmowers and Safety
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 250,000 people are hurt by lawnmowers each year in the US alone. Unfortunately, children account for most injuries with about 800 children run over by riding lawn mowers or small tractors.
More than 600 of these incidents result in amputation. You may not be aware of this but lawnmower accidents are the most common cause of major limb loss for children under the age of 10.
These are unsettling statistics, but what is the best solution? And how safe are bots with blades anyway? The idea of an unmanned machine rushing with razor-sharp blades spinning at almost 6,000 rpm all over an open yard is unappealing for some and even terrifying for others.
However, the fears are unfounded. Robotic mowers are built so efficiently that they will sense and move away from objects including humans and pets.
Consider the statistics. In 2017, there were more than 80,000 emergency room visits involving mowers in the US and zero visits involving robot lawnmowers. That says a lot.
Robotic lawn mowers come with a lot of safety features and power-off triggers. For example, the Robotics Robomower switches itself off at 16 degrees which is quite low even for a hand to pass through.
Even if part of a limb was able to pass through, the rotating blades are recessed in a section of the body that is too far back to be of any danger. One would need to put some effort to actually get through to where the blades are when the machine is operational.
Unlike other lawn mowers in the market like the push and riding mowers, the features of the robotic mower cannot be deactivated easily. The enabling devices are soldered to the main boards and the software is test-programmed to react in thousandths of a second.
At the same time, they have been built for mulching, which means they do not have open spaces to hurl grass, stones, sticks or debris over wide distances.
Robotic mowers have sonar or lidar detection systems such that they will not only slow down or stop when they come into close proximity to an object, but the rotating blades will also stop before the machine is touched.
As such, they do not present much of a danger to humans or pets. They are also quite steady and methodical in their progress and therefore both humans and animals have sufficient time to get out of the way.
The downside is that robotic mowers take more time to mow a lawn than other machines, but they provide the highest safety standard in lawn mowing on the market. This is also because much research and engineering has been invested in developing robotic mowers to make them efficient and safe for general and commercial use.
Whichever lawnmower you choose to use, it is essential that you study the safety guidelines that come with the user manual carefully and always seek to abide by these standards irrespective of personal experience.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Michael Duncan (author) from Germany on July 28, 2020:
Thanks for your comment, Denise, and for sharing your own personal experience. You are not alone. I too struggled a lot with mowing a large piece of property when I was 12 years old because back then I wasn't aware of how the equipment should be taken care of. The mower became rusty and so blunt, it kept getting stuck in the grass and going off :) Now I know better.
Michael Duncan (author) from Germany on July 28, 2020:
Thank you Arthur. It is indeed convenient that technology has made it possible for us to take advantage of the time-saving advantages that robotic mowers bring, enabling us to focus on other important matters.
Michael Duncan (author) from Germany on July 28, 2020:
Liz, thanks for your comment. hope it works out well for you!
Denise McGill from Fresno CA on July 26, 2020:
I used to have a manual mower when I was a single mom in a little house with a little lawn. When I remarried, we moved to a large house with 10 acres of land and one of lawn. It was a big job with only a push mower so my husband got a riding lawnmower but it still had to be broken up into two days' work. These are all good tips. I don't think I ever sharpened my blades on my manual mower which explains why it was so hard for me to use at the end of 7 years. This could have been helpful information for me back in the day.
Arthur Russ from England on June 29, 2020:
A very comprehensive and informative article. We switched to a Robotic Lawnmower a couple of years ago; which has proven to be a great labour saving device, which allows me more time to focus on growing our own organic vegetables.
Liz Westwood from UK on February 13, 2020:
This is a very timely article. Only today I was looking at the lawn and thinking that it will soon need mowing.