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Mowing Your Lawn Benefits Your Grass and You

May 31, 2008
Now that we are well into the 2008 lawn growing season, I'm sure you've got your turfgrass properly fertilized properly and looking super thick and pretty. You've toiled to foil the onslaught of invading dandelions, clover and other weeds; and you are on a regular watering and irrigation schedule to keep your investment alive and growing.
The final basic element involved is the cutting. This is my favorite part of the maintenance process.
The positives are not only for the turf grass, but for the homeowner as well.
Mowing benefits to the homeowner include:
First off, cutting the lawn involves a power tool, namely, your mower.
Secondly, it involves some form of exercise (for which my wife is appreciative).
Finally, it affords the operator a chance to get some real thinking done.

Let's explore each of these benefits.
(1) The power mower: I use a variable speed, self-propelled 21" Lawn Boy 'sense-a-speed' mower, rear wheel drive. (Oh that sounds hot just to say out-loud!)
My lawn is only 8,000 square feet, so I am not in need of anything larger; besides, I run that puppy wide open!
(2) The exercise: It takes about an hour to mow my lawn including edging, weed-whacking and cleanup. That's not bad really. I suppose if I wanted to increase the aerobic benefits in this process, I could lose the "self-propelled" mower option and push the thing, but I'm not really that fat! Ha!
However, one thing I am in favor of to increase the benefit in exercise is mow the lawn 2 or 3 times per week! This helps #3 come more into focus as well as benefits the turf itself: it's a venerable cornucopia of benefaction!
(3) The thinking time: (this is a great one!) Ponder this: you are out for 1-hour doing a job that only requires one person to do, that no one else in your household really wants to do anyway (especially if you have teenagers like I do). This means it's all yours; you own it ... completely!
On top of that, your wife can't bark or nag at you during this time because the mower engine noise drowns her out completely and she knows it! It's just plain quiet time for you inside your head! That's better than a hammock under a tree and a cold lemonade as far as I'm concerned.

Now let's get down to the tips that benefit the lawn itself.
(1) Mowing height
(2) Mowing frequency
(3) Mowing direction
(4) Mulch or Catch

Mowing benefits for the lawn, by the numbers:
(1) The height: This one varies according to the type of grass you have. But who *really* knows their grass type? Chances are you have a mix of Kentucky BlueGrass and some sort of fescue or rye. With that in mind, I tell folks to set their mower on the highest or second-highest setting. You just don't want to remove much more than 25% of the grass blade in any single cutting.
It's like this: If I lose a finger-nail, I'm going to be just fine, but if I lose my entire arm, I'm in a world of hurt, ...got it?
And on a side note, ya gotta have a sharp blade. A dull blade rips the grass blades instead of cutting them. Rips turn brown and rob the lawn of it's color.

(2) Assuming proper irrigation year-round, the lawn needs cutting weekly. I've had people call me to complain that after cutting their lawns, they turned yellow. Upon further investigation, I found that they had not cut the lawn prior for a month! Now we're back to the finger-nail vs the arm analogy. Please folks, be responsible and keep your turf trimmed regularly.
As mentioned above, I actually try and get people to mow twice per week, but that's over-the-top for most.

(3) The mowing direction isn't the biggest deal here, but you certainly don't want to mow the exact same way all the time or you take a chance on developing ruts in the lawn. You also will literally push lines of turf down, and "train" them to lay down all the time ... like people "train" their hair to lay a certain direction...this is not a good situation for turf-grass.

(4) Mulch or catch? Ford or Chevy?
Yeah, it's like that. I do both depending on my mood. Catching has benefits in the end because you don't have as many clippings to blow off the driveway. If you do mulch, make sure you have a quality mulching blade installed to grind up the cuttings into super-fine bits!

So next time you head outside to cut that lawn, be sure to review the benefits to you, as well as your nice patch of green grass.
About the Author
Al Haneson blogs about Illinois issues and life at Ambit Illinois Natural Gas and DIY Lawn Tips
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