Mow, Blow, and Go

April 5th, 2010 by
Most of us have an established yardwork routine. This is especially true for mowing. We start in the same spot every week, take the same paths, cut the same rows in the same order, and end in the same spot every time. Then maybe if you're up for it, you break out the trimmer and take down those scraggly weeds around the fenceposts or trees. Then you blow it clean and call it a day. A nicely-manicured lawn looks amazing and gets noticed. But like so many other things in life, it's all in the details. Little tweaks can make a gigantic difference. Whether you're touching up for company or just tackling the weekly mow job, maybe it's time to rethink your routine. Have you ever taken the time to watch one of those professional yard crews do their job? These guys hit a whole neighborhood's worth of yards every single day, so you can bet your Lawn-Boy that they employ a few pretty clever tricks of the trade. Everything they do is about getting that lawn done faster, easier, and cleaner so they can be done that much sooner. Sound good to you, too?
  • Feeling a little edgy: Don't underestimate the power of the edger. Maybe you have one buried in the garage somewhere, or maybe there's a neighbor who would loan you one if you don't. But a nice crisp edge along the patio or driveway makes all the difference in the finished look. It can also gain you a few valuable inches of hardscape back. Here's my patio before. Wait 'til you see the after shots.

A lawn in need of some care

And here's the trick: edge first. Yeah, it's real tempting to start with the mower. Knock out the lawn itself and you're practically done, right? Well, hold on there, Speedy. Yard crews tend to start with an edger and floow up with the string trimmer before the mower even comes off the truck. Here's why.

Always edge your lawn first If you save it for last, you're sending all these stray trimmings flying right back into your newly-mown lawn. Do it first, and the mower cleans up the debris for you as you go.

Let the mower clean this up

  • Lay down a perimeter: If you don't already, try starting with a lap around the outside of the lawn. I actually start with two laps. This creates a double-wide perimeter. Now when I start mowing my rows inside that perimeter, I'm not trampling through the planting beds when I reach the end. I've got a roomy buffer in which to turn the mower around.
  • Row, row, row: Think about the direction you go when you mow each row. (Whoa.) The mower wheels force those blades of grass to bend to one side as they roll over. Sunlight will play off those blades differently, depending on which way they're leaning. That little rubber flap on the back of a push mower can also do this to a lesser extent. But making the grass lean a certain way and going in a set pattern is how they do those totally cool outfield designs in major-league ballparks. I've even seen guys rig up rollers behind their mowers with pieces of PVC pipe to enhance the effect.

Pay attention to the direction of the mow cut

I mow my rows on a diagonal to how I normally view the yard. So instead of making rows parallel to the house or coming straight at the house, I start in one corner and cut across the yard to the opposite corner. Try it sometime. It just looks cool when you're done. If you do it in a front yard, your neighbors will definitely notice as they drive past.
  • Shake it up, baby: Variety is the spice of life. It's also good for your grass. If I mow in a northwest-to-southeast orientation one week, I'll mix it up the following week and go northeast-to-southwest. Like an X. Mow the same rows every time out and you start really laying those blades of grass down. Change it up, and it gives the blades a better chance of bouncing back straight and tall.

Change your mowing pattern each time

  • Let's blow this scene: In the sweltering heat of summer, you may be absolutely spent by this point, but you should always finish off with the blower. The mower probably kicked a lot of clippings and debris onto places you don't want it. Blowing off the driveway, the patio, or the deck really puts that finishing touch on the yard. It makes the yard itself look better if there's a clean slate next to it. Leave that mess all over, and that's what gets noticed instead. Plus, the longer you leave fresh grass clippings on a concrete surface, the greater the chance that you end up with those nasty green tire-tread stains all over. And that's just not cool. Take the extra ten minutes to blow everything clean. You'll be glad you did.

Blow your clippings for a better finished look

That's it. Granted, it's not exactly re-inventing the wheel. And it shouldn't really even take any more time than your usual mow-blow-and-go. Just a few small tips that I find work well. Everybody has to mow their lawn. You might as well make yours stand out.