The most mundane of all lawn care jobs, mowing is the most important one too. How you mow your lawn can develop it or destroy it.
Why do we mow our lawns?
You may think it’s just about keeping the grass short and neat, but mowing is actually all about controlling the way that grasses grow.
Compare the grass plants in your lawn with the weed grasses that pop up in your flower beds. Granted, lawn grasses have been specially bred, so there are bound to be some differences but essentially they’re the same plant family.
Weed grasses tend to grow with more space between plants and each plant has fewer shoots. If you were to mow it an area that’s been invaded by grass, you’d see plenty of bare soil between the plants. Not really a lawn.
Your lawn is made up of hundreds and thousands of grass plants growing very close together. Each plant has dozens of leaves. When a leaf is lost (or chopped off by the mower), the plant will replace it by growing more shoots or tillers. This is what makes your lawn thick and velvety. When you mow your lawn, you shouldn’t be able to see soil.
So mowing your lawn encourages the grass to grow quicker and thicker. It’s what keeps it looking lovely.
The wrong way to mow your lawn
Letting your lawn grow long and then scalping it might fit in better with your lifestyle, but it doesn’t do the plants any good. Grass plants store a lot of food in their leaves. Allowing them to build up food stores and then suddenly taking the whole lot away is incredibly stressful. It weakens the plant making it more susceptible to disease.
Here’s an analogy for you. I have a grown up son who doesn’t live with me but he does visit most days. The first thing he does is to open the cupboard and help himself to a couple of biscuits. Not a problem. If on the other hand he were to come round once a fortnight and walk away with all the food in my cupboard – leaving me with a bit of dried pasta and half a soggy tomato – I would get very stressed indeed.
Lawns need to be mown little and often.
The biggest mistake most gardeners make with mowing
It’s an easy mistake to make. An oversight. And you might think it’s not that important. But forgetting to sharpen your mower blades makes life much more difficult for yourself and your lawn.
A sharp blade will slice through grass like a hot knife through butter. It will leave a clean wound which heals quickly and easily.
A blunt blade rips and tears. It leaves jagged edges that turn brown and fail to seal themselves properly. That means that on hot days, the plants lose more precious water than they need to. It also means that the spores of disease-causing fungi can find their way inside the plant. Nasty.
When to mow your lawn
Start mowing as soon as your lawn starts growing. In the UK that’s often in late February or early march.
At first you may be able to mow every other week but you will soon need to increase the frequency to once a week. In May, you may even need to mow twice a week.
How long should your grass be?
For a family lawn, the ideal length is 5cm or 2 inches. If that sounds a bit long to you, remember that a lawn doesn’t need to be really short to look neat. So long as all of the plants are the same height it’ll look fab. (Think how nice a field of wheat looks – and that’s probably thigh-high)
If you like your lawn really short, be prepared to mow daily, feed monthly and water during dry spells.
What sort of mower should I buy?
There’s a wide choice out there. Choose something that’s big enough to make lawn mowing easy, but small enough for you to handle (and store) comfortably.
Cylinder mowers give a really good finish – but don’t work all that well on longer grass or on wet grass.
Rotary mowers tend to be less expensive to buy and can cope with almost any conditions.
Fuel – that’s up to you. If you’re opting for an electric mower, make sure the cord is long enough to reach as far as it needs to.
There are even mowers that don’t need an operator. They’re called mow-bots.
Your choice of mower is less important than its maintenance. Make sure the blades are kept clean and sharp at all times.
- Buy the mower you like the most
- Keep the blades sharp
- Don’t cut the grass too short
- Mow little and often