Mowing the Lawn - Tricks of the Trade
A Blessing in Disguise
It is a blessing to have a lawn to mow. Of course, nobody wants to spend more time mowing the lawn than they need to. This page offers some helpful "tricks of the trade" for how to mow proficiently and efficiently so you can get back to doing the things you enjoy doing the most. Whether you are mowing your own lawn or getting paid to take care of someone else's, you'll want to take a look at these suggestions to make sure you're covering all your bases. Weed eating and edging will not be discussed in depth, but may be referred to because they are important components to managing a healthy, good-looking lawn.
#1 - Develop a Strategy
If you want to maximize efficiency when mowing the lawn, never begin without taking the time to formulate a strategy. First, familiarize yourself with the lay of the land and any "obstacles" that might present themselves (e.g., trees, gardens, and yard décor). Take note of how this will affect the paths you want to take. Consider this simple, but important principle: The more time you spend actually cutting grass, the quicker the task will be. That is, the best strategy you can use is one that maximizes the amount of time your lawn mower spends doing its job: cutting grass. Lawns are so different and come in so many sizes, but if you can keep that primary principle in mind, you are sure to come up with a good strategy for mowing the lawn. Other things to keep in mind include:
1) Do you plan to weed eat? If so, leave the grass surrounding the edges of the lawn and the various obstacles for the tool that is specially designed to take care of that. If not, be more aggressive around the tough-to-reach areas so you can make it look as nice as possible, but be sure not to terrorize anyone's precious flower beds in the process...
2) Does the mower have a bag? If so, know where to dispose of the grass when the bag gets full. Also, pay attention to when the bag gets full. You may notice the mower becoming harder to push, the bag becoming looser, or grass may even start to overflow from the bag.
3) Are there any objects lying hidden in the grass? Taking a few seconds to quickly survey the area for golf balls, toys, or other small object that may be hidden will save you time, save your mower blades, and keep you from damaging something that could be special to someone.
#2 - Get a Good Machine
Without a good lawn mower, you will not have success mowing the lawn. There are lots of options available to you, both of type and brand. Instead of getting into brand differences, let's take a brief look at the basic types so you can determine what is best for you. There are push mowers, which tend to be the most affordable option and are good for people who don't mind providing the full force required to propel the mower. Self-propelled mowers allow the user to relax a little more because they do not have to do as much work to push. Push mowers can be either gas- or electric-powered. They also come with or without bags to hold the cut grass. If you don't want grass bits scattered everywhere after the fact and you want to avoid raking them all up, then a mower with a bag may be the best option for you. Riding mowers require the least amount of physical exertion, but tend to be more expensive. However, it may be worth the investment to save all the time and energy required for those especially large lawns. Your lawn mower does not have to be an elite product, but it does have to be reliable. There is nothing worse than having your mower break down halfway through the job.
#3 - Set the Level of the Blade
This is a step that is often forgotten, but can make a huge difference. I'm talking about getting the blade of the mower to the right height, or level, before you begin mowing the lawn. Now, if you use your mower only for your own yard and you know what height of the grass you like best, you may not need to change the blade height very often. However, if you are moving from yard to yard, or even if you're cutting the same lawn and it's just been a while, you may need to consider changing the level of the blade. When mowing someone else's yard, ask them what height of grass they prefer, and adjust your blade appropriately. They may not care, but simply asking will show a level of professionalism and customer service that is greatly appreciated.
If the blade is set too low, it can be bad for the grass; especially in those hot and dry summers. It may also make mowing the lawn harder on you because cutting more grass takes more work! On the other hand, if the blade is set too high, you may not be cutting enough. Next thing you know, you're right back to cutting the same lawn within the week. Different grasses tolerate different heights better than others, so becoming familiar with grass types can also help ensure that you are providing optimal care for each lawn you mow.
#4 - Set the Pace
Landscapes can change in the blink of an eye. One minute you're mowing over St. Augustine grass 2 inches high, and the next you find yourself knee deep in what looks like a wheat field. You must be able to adjust on the fly. One of the adjustments you can make is to your pace. Depending on the quality of mower you are using, you may need to slow down while running over taller and/or thicker grass. Some motors will even just turn off if the challenge is too great. Going slowly over difficult grass will make the whole job of mowing the lawn faster by getting a better cut on the grass the first time, and by avoiding the waste of gas and time it is to restart the lawn mower repeatedly.
How Long Does it Normally Take You to Mow Your Own Lawn?
#5 - Don't Cut Corners
This is especially important when caring for a lawn that is not your own. Never sacrifice quality for quantity. Leaving even small sections of grass uncut is unacceptable. Everyone misses little "alfalfas" every now and then, so before finishing up, do a quick once-over of the yard to make sure there aren't any blades that stick out like sore thumbs. If there are, be willing to get your hands dirty to pluck them out if need be. Make sure every bit of the yard is accounted for. I guess what I'm really saying is that you DO want to cut corners... but cut them by actually mowing them!
Get the Right Supplemental Equipment
Without going into great detail about the many other pieces of equipment that are vital to quality lawn care, I have to quickly mention the importance of basic supplemental equipment when it comes to mowing the lawn. The essentials include includes gas cans, weed eaters, and edgers. You will also need access to the correct oil mixture for your mower. Different lawn mowers may require a specific blend/type of oil, so check the user manual or the company website to find out what is most appropriate for your machine. When it comes to high-quality, full-service lawn care, you need more equipment than just a good lawn mower.
Take care of your tools. Lawn mowers are not cheap, and they require proper storage. I understand that when you're finishing up after a hard day's work, the last thing you want to do is haul your lawn mower around any more. However, the extra time and energy you invest in properly storing your mower will be worth its weight in gold when it comes to longer-lasting, better-performing equipment. This goes for the other tools you used for mowing the lawn as well. Find (or build!) a shed or some sort of shelter that will protect your machines and tools from weather wear, and you will not be sorry.
Make it a Team Effort
There are actually many health benefits to working outside, but doing any kind of yard work, especially when it's approaching triple digit heat, can be exhausting. If possible, get some friends or family members to take care of the chore with you. This will make it a more enjoyable experience for you, and not to mention, less work! Especially if you are looking into pursuing a lawn care business, working with a team will maximize your overall efficiency and allow you to quickly build an extensive network of satisfied clientele. I hope these tricks of the trade prove to be helpful the next time you find yourself mowing the lawn.