If you live in the South and grow warm-season grass, your grass is in its prime growing season right now. That means that your grass needs regular mowing to keep its manicured look and avoid cutting too much at once. But most homeowners would agree that mowing the lawn is not the number one thing they want to do with their spare time. So if you’re going to keep your grass healthy and looking clean and maintained, you’ll need to find the right balance between how much time you spend mowing and how you want your lawn to look. More mowing can produce a cleaner look, but if you follow some of these tips, you’ll find the most efficient way to mow your lawn without sacrificing too much time or your lawn’s manicured appearance.
What is the Best Mowing Pattern
One of the most significant factors in how long it takes you to mow your lawn is the pattern you follow. Some methods are more efficient than others, and your mowing pattern can also affect how your lawn looks. While mowing a simple rectangle or circle is relatively simple, many residential lawns have odd shapes and obstacles that require a more nuanced mowing plan.
Mowing in Stripes
The most straightforward and most efficient mowing pattern is what most homeowners are already doing. Mowing in stripes works well for rectangular lawns. However, even when using this tried-and-true pattern, there are tips that can make you more efficient and yield a better-looking lawn. First, like Olympic swimmers or baseball players rounding the bases, much of your efficiency comes down to the technique in your turns. The perfect mower turnaround is tight and doesn’t waste a lot of energy looping around. Your turns should almost resemble a pivot. But make sure as you turn that you lift the mower deck to avoid mowing twice damaging your grass.
Mowing stripes can be highly efficient, but only if you keep your lines straight. A surefire way to lose efficiency is with wiggly lines, which can also leave unmowed patches between imperfect stripes. A wiggly line from one side of your lawn to the other is significantly longer than a straight line, so with every swerve, you add distance to your mowing regimen. To get a straight line, start your pattern parallel to a straight line in your landscape, like the edge of a sidewalk or driveway. As you continue mowing each line parallel to the last, experts recommend keeping a straight line by looking about ten feet ahead of you instead of right in front of the mower.
Some landscapers prefer to mow in the direction that allows for the longest stripes to cut down on turns. However, experts recommend against mowing in the same pattern every time you mow. Instead, switch off mowing in vertical and horizontal stripes. Changing up how you mow will prevent your grass from bending or growing in one direction.
Many homeowners are interested in the clearly discernible stripe patterns you see in many professional sports fields. The effect is actually not entirely up to how you mow. Instead, the appearance of darker and lighter stripes is a result of bending the grass in alternate directions. Grass that bends towards you appears darker, while grass that bends away from you appears lighter. Professional groundskeepers achieve the look using special striping rollers that bend the grass as they pass over it. The rollers are typically attached to the mower or pulled behind it. You can find striping kits for home movers, but they typically cost over $100, and sometimes much more.
Circular Mowing Pattern
After mowing in stripes or rows, the next most efficient way to mow your lawn is in concentric circles. Depending on the shape of your lawn, this may actually be more efficient. Concentric circles use the same time-saving technique as mowing in stripes: it’s all about the turns. Mowing in concentric circles reduces turns and makes the turns wider, so you spend less time maneuvering the mower.
Concentric circles are good for lawns with an irregular shape or lots of obstacles, such as trees or structures. Mowing in circles gives you more freedom to maneuver around obstacles without significantly altering your mowing pattern.
The Double Spiral
While the double spiral may sound like some sort of exciting figure skating trick, it is actually a very simple and functional mowing pattern. (Disclaimer: It may also be a figure skating technique. We’re turf experts, not figure skaters.) The double spiral is very similar to concentric circles, with one distinct advantage: you don’t end up stuck in the center of a freshly-mowed lawn. While many homeowners may not mind it, for the lawn care connoisseur, walking across a freshly-mowed lawn is a big no-no. To avoid that, try the double spiral.
Start in one corner of your yard, and follow concentric circles toward the center of your lawn. As you go, leave a full mower-width between your circles. When you reach the center, make an S-shaped turn to send you back in the opposite direction. Mow the unmowed circles in a spiral back out toward the edge of your lawn. When you’re down, you should end up at the opposite corner of your lawn from where you started, and no need to step on that freshly-manicured emerald carpet.
Features and Edges
The bane of every lawn-mowing hero is those little spots around features and edges. For a finely manicured look, there is no replacement for a lawn edger. They aren’t cheap, often running $100 or more, but a good edger is an investment in your lawn just like a good mower. However, features and edges don’t just pose a challenge for your edger. Mowing around these tight spots can be a pain and significantly increase the amount of time it takes you to mow your entire lawn. So when you prepare to mow your lawn, start with these tight spots.
If you have a fence, flower bed, trees, or unusually-shaped edge of your lawn, mow along the border before you mow the rest of your lawn. When you go back to your regular pattern, you only have to mow up to the area you already took care of. This puts the difficult work at the front end of your mowing regimen and allows you to follow your general mowing pattern for the most efficient way to mow your lawn.
Why You Shouldn’t Bag Your Clippings
If you are looking for time-saving tips and tricks, experts recommend skipping the time it takes to bag and dispose of your lawn clippings. For the absolute most manicured look, there is no way to avoid bagging your clippings. Sports fields and golf courses always remove clippings so that they won’t interfere with gameplay. But when you’re maintaining your home turf, there are good reasons not to bag your clippings.
- Skipping the bagging saves you time. Taking extra time to bag your clippings is simply not the most efficient way to mow your lawn.
- It’s really not that much of an eyesore. As long as you are mowing regularly—once a week should be enough—the clippings won’t be thick enough to smother your grass or make unsightly piles. You should never cut off more than the top third of your grass, so if your clippings are piling up, you should probably be mowing more often.
- It’s good for your lawn! All that grass you cut is full of precious nutrients that it absorbed from the soil as it grew. When you let the clipping naturally decay on your lawn, many of those nutrients are returned to the soil. Also, a thin layer of clippings can insulate and shade your soil, keeping in moisture and maintaining a steady temperature for your roots.
We just listed three very good reasons not to bag your clippings. Of course, if you insist on cleaning up your lawn after mowing, there are better and worse ways to dispose of the clippings. Check out this article we wrote about grass clippings to get all the details. In short, don’t send clippings to the landfill. Recycle them as compost, mulch, or even animal feed if you can.
We hope this post helps you find the most efficient way to mow your lawn and shaves some time off your mowing chores. Remember, even the best mowing plans can’t rescue a low-quality lawn. For the best-looking, healthiest lawn, always start with high-quality sod from The Turfgrass Group. You can find a local grower here!