Mowing the Lawn: A Guide To Taming the Jungle Outside Your Door

You've done it! You've reached out and grabbed your own little piece of the American dream. You are a home owner! Well, while you have been unpacking boxes and arranging furniture, something has been happening outside. That's right. The lawn is growing. One day you look out your window and you can't see your new mailbox. Its time to mow the lawn. Never having done so you may feel a little overwhelmed, but be calm. After all, mowing the lawn is not rocket science, its... well... lawn mowing, so lets get going...

Equipment: Todays modern lawn-mowing machines come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, all with corresponding price tags. From small push mowers costing a hundred dollars or so to technologically advanced, zero-turn-radius wonders costing thousands. Which do you choose? A typical residential lot of between a quarter and a third of an acre can be easily handled by a walk-behind mower. These are available as push mowers or self-propelled models, as well as mulching or side and/or rear discharge mowers. A mulching mower is better for your lawn and less work for you. Plus, most mulching mowers have bagging as an option so you can easily convert your mulching mower to a bagging mower if you need to. A good push-mower will cost around $150 dollars while self- propelled models start around $300. No matter which lawnmower you choose, it will last for years with proper care, so make your choice wisely.

Getting Started: Your new mower came with a sharp blade so you don't have to worry about it this year. Next Spring, however, you will need to get it sharpened. A sharp blade will cut the grass while a dull one tears the grass and causes more stress to the plants. Grass is a plant and each blade has a stem and a leaf. The idea when cutting your lawn is to remove no more than a third of the plant at each cutting. So if your lawn is four inches high you want to remove no more than one inch. Do I need to measure each blade of grass, you ask? Of course not. Your mower comes with deck height adjustments They are located on each wheel for walk-behind mowers and usually as a lever adjustment on rider mowers. Set all four wheels to the same height. A word on this: Longer grass is more drought-resistant, as the longer blades shade the ground and allow the water to evaporate from the soil more slowly. Leave your lawn longer in the heat of the summer by adjusting your deck up (wheels down) for a healthier lawn.

Smart Mowing: Now that you're set up and ready to mow, here are a few tips to help you achieve the best results. Select the direction that makes sense for the shape of your lawn, keeping in mind that long, straight lines will result in a quicker job and a neater cut. When you have completed your first pass, pivot your mower toward your next line and align your front wheel just outside the wheel mark from your last pass. Pay close attention to this alignment as you continue each pass for a nice, even cut. One note here: The next time you mow your lawn you should mow at 90 degree angles to the lines you chose this time. in this way you can keep the grass clippings from piling up in parallel lines on your lawn and create a more uniform appearance over time.

There are few things you can do to the outside of your residence that have a greater impact on its appearance for less cost and effort than mowing the lawn. These tips should take you a long way toward establishing and maintaining a healthy lawn you can be proud of for many years to come.
Photo Credit: Alamy

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