The “stripes” that you see on a lawn or athletic field – the tell-tale signs of professional lawn care — are caused by light reflecting off the blades of grass. It has not been cut at a different height nor is it a different breed of grass. Lawn striping is actually made by bending the blades of grass in different directions.
It’s all about direction
The direction that the grass is bent determines the “light” or “dark” colored stripe. When the blades of grass are bent away from you, the grass appears lighter in color because the light is reflecting off of the wide, lengthy part of the blade. When the blades of grass are bent towards you, the grass appears darker as you are looking more at the tips of the blades (a smaller reflective surface) and the shadows under the grass.
So cutting a lawn in an opposing pattern — up/down, right/left, north/south, east/west, etc. — provides the most contrasting stripe effect. Interestingly, as the “color” of the stripe is dependent upon what direction you are looking at it from, a “light” colored stripe will appear “dark” if you view it from the opposing direction.
Lawn stripe intensity
The easiest way to intensify lawn striping is to bend the grass farther. Physically contacting it with a roller and pressing it to the ground is the best technique. Implements are on the market that do exactly that; in fact, some even use spring force to bend the grass over. Those can be much more effective than other systems that simply glide a roller across the tips of the grass. Stripe intensity also can be affected by the length of cut. Cutting the grass shorter will normally lessen the stripe, as the shorter grass blade will not bend over as far and therefore reflects less light. A longer cut will normally enhance the striping pattern. Even a small amount can make a noticeable difference — try going from 2 inches to 2 1⁄2 inches or from 3 inches to 3 1⁄2 inches to see the variation in lawn stripe pattern intensity.
Grass types also are a factor in striping. Certain breeds of grass will bend more easily and can provide a better stripe pattern. Warm-season grasses, found in the southern regions of the United States, are typically more difficult to stripe as they are more rigid and harder to bend.
The stripe also is affected by the position of the sun. Stripe patterns may seem more intense at various times of the day and in different light levels. When the sun is behind you, you will see a more intense stripe pattern.
Basic lawn stripe patterns
Begin by mowing the perimeter around the property. Next, mow in opposite directions through the remaining property. Take care when turning at the end of each row to prevent turf damage. A simple “Y” type turn at the end of each row will reduce the chance of turf damage while setting the mower up for the next row to be mowed. Going over the perimeter once again will remove any stripe pattern irregularities from turning at the end of each row and deliver a clean, finished look.
Checkerboard stripe patterns
Begin by mowing the perimeter around the property. Next, mow in opposing directions through the remaining portion. Remember to take care when turning at the end of each row to prevent turf damage. Again, use the “Y” type turn at the end of each row to reduce the chance of turf damage while setting the mower up for the next row to be mowed. Now, travel in the opposite direction of the original mowing pattern (for example: If you were mowing north and south, now mow east and west, etc). Finish the job by mowing the perimeter again. Going over the perimeter once again will remove any stripe pattern irregularities from turning at the end of each row and deliver a clean, finished look.
Diagonal or criss-cross stripe patterns
This pattern is achieved by using the same techniques as the checkerboard stripe pattern explained above. Simply apply the stripes in a diagonal direction.
Dodging trees and other obstacles
When mowing or striping around trees and other obstacles, mow around the object into the uncut path. While making your next pass, you will mow/stripe over the turn marks and retain your nice even stripe pattern. With a little practice, your stripes will appear to pass directly through the objects, producing an even stripe throughout your lawn.
Bling your lawn
Striping is sometimes used to accentuate certain parts of a property. By converging the stripe pattern at a particular location (a focal point like a fountain, flower bed, etc.), you can draw the viewer’s attention to that area. It also can help detract attention from imperfections in your lawn, such as weeds or bare spots. A stripe pattern also can make fertilizing and over-seeding easier by giving you definitive lines to follow.