Cutting grass is an art, as any well-groomed ballpark shows. We tell you how to turn your lawn into a field of dreams.
1. Plan Your Attack
Your dad says the only way to mow a lawn is to trim the edges first, which puts the clippings back into the grass to be mulched by the mower. He's not wrong, but you can also mow first and then trim, which takes advantage of the mower's large cutting area to reduce time spent trimming. Pick one approach to avoid constantly swapping tools.
2. Cut a Wide Collar
We're not talking dress shirts here. The collar is the border that you mow first around the lawn's perimeter. Cut it wide enough to turn the mower around without driving into a flower bed.
3. No Buzz Cut, Please
Scalping is the gruesome term for cutting too short. It can leave ugly brown patches in areas of uneven ground and strain root systems. "This leads to weeds breaking through the turf," says Pat Callahan, director of grounds, landscaping, and turf at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Cool-season grasses are cut to 2½ to 3½ inches; warm-season grass is cut to 1 to 3 inches.
4. Watch Your Speed
Haste can make a waste of your lawn. This is particularly true with tall or wet grass, which resists a swift cut. But even in dry conditions, a rushed job leads to uneven shearing and leaves behind clumps of poorly mulched clippings.
5. Don't Look Down
Fact: You'll mow straighter if you focus about 10 feet ahead of the mower rather than directly at the wheels.
6. Bag the Bagging
Picking up clippings prevents them from getting tracked into the house, but mulching as you mow puts the grass particles back into the turf, providing nutrients such as nitrogen to the soil. You'll end up with healthier turf.
7. Alternate the Pattern
Grass leans in the direction in which you mow it. Switching up your pattern from week to week encourages grass to grow straighter and healthier.
8. Trim Ambidextrously
A typical straight-shaft string-trimmer head spins counterclockwise and is operated right to left. This means that, if you're in the right-handed majority, you'll waste time walking sideways or backward. Grasp the trimmer handle with your left hand so you can simply walk forward and make a cleaner job of it. You'll find it's faster, safer, and less tiring to trim this way.
9. Edge and Trim at Once
Hold the string-trimmer head vertically to cut a clean edge (along a curb, for instance), and turn it horizontal to trim around bushes or landscape features. Don't trim and edge in separate trips. "Look at your property and find a continuous path you can follow to trim and edge in one pass," says Steve Byrne, president of Edgit, which makes trimmer accessories. "This gets the job done quickly without having to backtrack."