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Tips & Tricks of the Trade

Correct Mowing Methods

You might think that there’s not much to lawn mowing other than being able to turn on and push a mower around until, eventually, by this miracle of modern technology, the grass is cut short! However, if you’re after a healthy lawn and not just a cut one, then following a few simple tips and applying some professional techniques can make a huge difference in the appearance of your lawn, as well as making the ongoing maintenance of your lawn a lot easier.

A well-cared-for lawn that is cut properly and is well maintained will be healthy enough to withstand the Aussie heat and dryness better than poorly kept lawns. When you look after grass properly, it will be far less susceptible to weeds and bug problems too.

Correct mowing techniques are essential to encouraging the growth of great looking grass.

Mower Blades

To start off with, your mower’s cutting blades need to be sharp. Sharp blades are a must for any tool that you use for any cutting that you do in your garden – whether it’s hedging, pruning or sawing – and mowing is no exception.

It’s important to have sharp mowing blades so that as they pass over the grass blades, the grass is sliced. Dull blades tear the grass. Torn grass not only looks frayed and messy, but the tearing also results in bruised and browned edges. The ragged edges of torn grass tips encourage increased water loss and increased susceptibility to disease to the whole lawn.

Your mower might not get as much of a workout in the cooler months, but as soon as spring comes around and the grass starts to grow, it’s important that your mower is up to the job. Around mid-August is a good time to do a routine check of your lawn mower and sharpen the blades if they are looking and feeling blunt. With sharpened blades, your lawn mower will work a lot better and you’ll have a better looking, healthier lawn.

Of course, sharpening your lawn mower blades is an art and skill in itself.

Mowing Height

Grass isn’t just grass. There are over 11,000 species and over 60,000 varieties world-wide.
Australia plays home to over 1,300 native and naturalised species of grass, with thousands of sub-types.

Every type of grass is different and has different mowing requirements, so check what type of turf you have to determine the recommended height to cut the grass to encourage optimal growth, health and performance. Remember also that you might have more than one type of grass on your property and that means that you’ll have to adjust the mowing height accordingly for each type.

Sound complicated? Well, let’s make things a little easier.

The general rule of thumb is to remove no more than one third of the leaf blade per cutting. Even if your lawn is long and overgrown, this rule still applies. With overgrown grass, the aim is to gradually reduce the height of the lawn over a number of mows until it reaches the desired length. This is to avoid ‘shocking’ or ‘stressing’ the grass. Cutting too much at once has a tendency to damage the turf because it needs time to adjust to a new level. After all, grass is a living thing and it needs time to adapt.

For protection against the weather, it is always recommended to leave the grass a bit longer in cooler months, in shaded areas, and particularly in the peak of summer. Keeping the grass relatively long increases its tolerance to heat and drought. It reduces evaporation and cools and shades the soil so weed seedlings don’t germinate.

People often think that they should cut the grass as short as possible so that they can wait longer for the next mow. At first appearance this might seem like a good idea and it is understandable to feel this way if you find lawn mowing an unpleasant chore that you would like to avoid for as long as possible.

Cutting too much grass off all at once is called ‘scalping’ and, as the word implies, it involves mowing too low and exposing the scalp (in the case of grass, that is the lower section of the length of blade that is closest to the root system). Scalping can wreak havoc on your lawn. Remember that the grass blade is the food production unit and the insulation for the grass all at the same time. Over-cutting increases water loss through the cut leaf and reduces carbohydrate food production and storage. Essentially, over-cut grass is starving grass. It’s also exposed grass, leaving the grass plant as a whole susceptible to heat, cold and drought. Over-cutting also promotes poor heath, bare patches and browning, and is an open invitation for weeds and disease to infiltrate your lawn. Over-cutting puts your lawn under extreme stress and causes ongoing problems, which you then have to spend time and money to fix. Therefore, unfortunately, over-cutting the grass is actually the harder option, requiring more effort from you than what you ‘saved’ by mowing less frequently.

Save yourself the pain! Avoid scalping or cutting grass too short. Always check your blades. And remember to adjust and raise the mower blade height to compensate for uneven or low areas on your lawn.

Mowing Frequency

This tip is pretty simple. If you are after thick and lush grass, then you have to mow regularly. That’s just the way it is when working with nature and the reality of how grass responds to proper treatment.

All grasses have a recommended height for optimal performance. So, naturally, you can determine when your grass needs to be cut if the grass blades are longer than the recommended height for your lawn type. The lawn will need less frequent mowing in cooler months when the grass is relatively dormant, and more regular mowing in the warmer months when it is actively growing. This is another response from nature.

Mowing regularly also has the added benefit of reducing weeds by cutting them down before they are able to grow more seed heads or reproduce.

If it has been raining and your lawn needs cutting, it is fine to mow, provided you ensure that your mower blades are sharp so that no damage to the grass will occur. Be aware that with wet grass you will not get as good a cut or do as neat a job as when you mow in drier conditions. Wet grass clippings are also bulkier and messier, so be prepared to deal with a much bigger clean up of both you and your mower!

If you can, wait for drier conditions to mow (but not too dry). The best time is a couple of days after rain.

Mowing Pattern

At first, ‘untrained’ grass blades tend to grow in different directions, so don’t stick to mowing in the same direction every single time. You need to break up your cutting pattern. Mow from left to right, up to down, anti-clockwise and clockwise, depending on the lay of the land.

Breaking up your mowing patter will also prevent the soil being compacted in the same areas. Compacted soil causes ruts and uneven ground, and will stop the grass leaning and growing in one particular direction, which is a preferable growth pattern for both you and the grass.

Always ensure that no matter which direction you are mowing, you overlap each pass by at least a couple of inches. This will ensure that the mowing coverage is even and that there are no areas with missed strips.

Mulching

People often use grass catchers because they want the lawn to look neat after mowing. But you need to consider other factors.

If you have an unhealthy lawn, then leaving the grass clippings on the lawn to decompose naturally can be a great source of organic matter and recycled nutrients and can aid grass growth by improving the soil structure.

But if your lawn is already healthy, then constantly mulching the lawn should be considered carefully. In humid conditions, mulch can get mouldy, encouraging disease by depriving the lawn of nitrogen. The classic sign of low nitrogen is yellowing of the leaf blades. If this occurs, you might have to add a nitrogen fertiliser to get your grass looking green again.

So, there you have it! Consider using these basic techniques and tips so you too can cut your grass and get results like a lawn mowing professional!

And, of course, if you don’t like mowing, or you don’t have the time, or you don’t know what might be wrong with your lawn or what you need to do – then the simplest solution is to let Fox Mowing look after your lawn for you. And while we’re there in your garden, we can do a lot of other stuff too to get your garden looking and feeling its best.

We’re famous when it comes to lawn care and mowing, and we’re renowned for our top quality approach, no matter how big or small your lawn is. Contact Fox Lawn Care Services today to get professional lawn care without getting hot, working hard or wasting your precious time.

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