Secrets to a Great Lawn

Professional lawn care manager offers tips on how to make your fresh-cut lawn look its best.

A bird's-eye view of the mowing process.

A bird's-eye view of the mowing process.

iStockphoto.com/diane39

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Mowing your own lawn can either be a source of pride or a real disappointment. Either way, it’s a workout. And if you are like most people who choose to do it yourself, you might as well do it right.

“There are a few simple things anyone can o to make their lawn look great,” says professional landscape manager Kris Birch. “Choosing the right equipment to maintain your lawn is really the first step.”

Birch and his team of more than 25 professionals count on Toro mowers to get the job done. Other factors to consider are proper watering, feeding and weed control.

“But in my mind,” Birch says, “the most important consideration is how you go about cutting your grass.”

When asked the secrets to a great cut, Birch says that keeping your blade sharp throughout the season is key, not only to a nice even cut, but also for the overall health of the lawn.

“We sharpen our blades after every 10 hours of use,” Birch says. “If you don’t keep your blade sharp you’ll end up tearing the grass instead of cutting it. This can put a lot of stress on your lawn, making it dry and prone to weeds and disease.”

While blade sharpening is a ritual before the first cut of the season, people tend to put it off over the summer. According to Birch, you should sharpen your blade more often in the summer because dry grass can dull blades faster than succulent spring grass.

Birch also recommends alternating the direction you mow each week as a good way to make your lawn stand up and look fuller. If you mow in the same direction every time, the grass becomes trained to lay in one direction. Alternating directions and changing the way the lawn lays will expose all sides of the grass to sunlight, creating a better growing environment.

While many of us reserve a day of the week for mowing, the best approach is to mow at intervals that keep the turf at its optimal length.

“Every type of grass has a height at which it thrives,” Birch says. “Short grass requires more water, can be prone to showing weak areas and generally is lighter in color.”

A good rule of thumb is to keep the grass as long as possible during the season when it is actively growing (spring and summer) and shorter when the weather cools and growing slows (fall and winter). Birch also recommends not cutting more than one-third the plant height at any one mowing.

“Sometimes you might have to mow more than once a week, but the great results are worth it.”

While Birch and his crew rely heavily on their Toro Zero Turning Radius mowers to get their larger jobs done quickly, there are times when he recommends keeping the mower in the garage.

“I don’t like to cut when it is extremely dry,” Birch says. “Rolling over dry, dormant grass can kill it. Waiting to mow until it comes out of dormancy is probably the better option.”

When using a riding mower, Birch recommends checking tire inflation often. Tires that are improperly inflated can lead to an uneven cut or can cause scalping.

Another maintenance area that is often overlooked is the build up of grass that can accumulate under the deck. Keeping the underside of the mower deck clean helps improve cutting performance. Lifting the deck and scraping the grass of is a dirty job, but it can really improve your cut. Manufacturers such as Toro have added a washout port (a standard on most professional mowers) to many of their consumer model mowers that makes this job easier. By simply attaching a garden hose to the deck, you can wash out the underside after each mowing.

By applying these tips to help improve your quality of cut, you can be on your way to a better-looking lawn in just a couple of weeks.