Grass Mowing Tips for the Best Garden Lawns
Garden lawns must be mown in order to maintain their attractive appearance, but a balance between visual charm and plant health must also be maintained. In general, the grass should be kept tall enough to prevent it from being starved of energy, but short enough to look neat and tidy.
The frequency of grass mowing required, depends on the amount of growth. This can be two or three times a week in the height of the growing season — late spring and early summer — but once a week should be adequate at other times. If the lawn is mown frequently, the job is neither very strenuous nor time consuming. The mowing season is from early spring to mid autumn, but an occasional light topping may be needed during mild winters when there can be late or early growth.
Grass mowing is not advisable when the grass is very wet, since you will damage the surface both with the mower and with your feet. You will also clog the mower with mud and clippings. Wheeled mowers should be used only when theimmediately below the surface is fairly dry, otherwise the wheels will sink in leaving irreparable tracks.
Before grass mowing, remove wormcasts and other debris with a stiff brush or besom from the lawn. If casts are not removed they will form uneven humps, rot the grass and cake the mower blades.
Cutting the grass to a height of 1.2cm (tin) gives the best results for a luxury lawn — very close mowing weakens the growth. On garden lawns for rougher use, 2-2.5cm (¾-1in) is adequate. Leave the, grass slightly longer in dry weather and in early spring and autumn when growth is slow.
Grass mowing in parallel strips gives the best appearance, but change direction at successive mowings so that the new mowing is made at right angles to the previous one. This prevents ridging. Push the mower at a constant speed in a forward direction, completing each strip in one non-stop pass — back and forth manoeuvres with a cylinder mower produce an uneven surface.
Grass Mowing – Dealing with Lawn Edges
No lawnmower can cope with the edges of a lawn — these must be treated separately, usually after the lawn has been mown. There are a number of tools available which will help you, though for the average sized lawn the expense of some of the more elaborate models may outweigh their usefulness.
A neat edge contributes as much to the overall attractiveness of a lawn as does the quality of the surface. Attend to the edges of your garden lawns after the first mowing in spring and repeat at frequent intervals throughout the growing season — preferably after each mowing.
The first edging treatment invariably involves some cutting back of the turf to get a straight or regular line. For a straight line, use a plank as a guide, or mark the edge with a taut string line. Standing on the plank, make clean cuts with a half-moon edging iron, sloping slightly away from the lawn so that the edge does not crumble away. Alternatively, use a spade, but the slightly curving blade will not produce such a straight cut and it is harder to cut to a consistent depth.
During the rest of the year use long-handled edging shears or a mechanical edger to maintain the neat edge — never use a half-moon edging iron to trim an edge which is already straight, since this tool is designed for cutting turf, not blades of grass. Long-handled edging shears, if sharpened regularly, do a very good job. They are available with handles of various lengths — buy the right size for your height.
Mechanical edgers consist of a roller with a disc of sharp-edged spikes which rotate as you push the device along the edge of the lawn, cutting the grass against a fixed blade. Though slightly less tiring to use than long-handled shears, these edgers generally do not make such a clean cut. Motor-powered edgers are also available and these the produce a good finish. They do take much of the back-ache out of edging a large expanse of lawn, but, whether battery powered or run from mains electricity, they are expensive and sometimes difficult to manoeuvre.
If your soil is crumbly or the garden lawns receive a lot of wear and tear, natural lawn edges may break away. To avoid this problem, lay an edging strip of aluminium, timber or plastic. Proprietary edging strip is available which gives a very clean finish, or you can make your own. Ensure that the edging strip lies slightly below the lawn surface so you can mow right to the edge.
Grass Mowing – Trimming Around Obstacles
Not all garden lawns are a perfect rectangle — many meander around trees, have island beds with overhanging plants or are edged with walls or steep banks, for instance. Lawnmowers can only deal with flat surfaces and cannot cut close to a vertical barrier.
Various tools are available for horizontal trimming of grass — the choice depends on how much you are prepared to spend and on whether you prefer to stand up or bend down to do the cutting. Simple garden shears do an adequate job — provided they are sharpened regularly — but are suitable only for small areas since you must crouch to use them.
Applying the same cutting action as hedge trimmers, battery-operated grass mowing trimmers provide a less energetic means of cutting grass around obstacles. With a single charge, the battery generally lasts long enough to cut up to 20 sq m/yd.
For use in a standing position, long-handled lawn shears give the neatest cut. As with ordinary shears, the blades must be sharpened regularly. Ensure that the handle length and cutting angle suits you when buying — various models are available.
The easiest of all to use, nylon cord electric or motorized trimmers have become very popular in recent years. These cut grass, weeds and even quite coarse undergrowth by the whipping action of a nylon cord which rotates at high speed within a safety shield. The cut surface is not very neat, however, and this type of machine is suitable only for informal lawns. Drawbacks include relatively high cost, a hazard from flying debris thrown up by the cord — wear goggles —and the rather piercing noise generated by the motor and cord.
Brushing and Raking
In spring, lightly brush or rake the lawn with a wire-tined lawn rake to remove winter debris, particularly before mowing for the first time. Avoid dispersing any moss.
In late spring and summer, brush the lawn occasionally with a besom before grass mowing. This helps to clear wormcasts, remove dew or rainwater from the leaves and lift flattened grass and weed stems.
In early to mid autumn, scarify, then:
- rake thoroughly and vigorously
- with the lawn rake to clear away all debris. Remove the rakings with a stiff brush or besom. Sweep all fallen leaves from the lawn once a week in autumn.