4 Amazing Tips for a Green Summer Lawn!

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Have you ever noticed a blue/gray tinge on the top of your lawn a couple of hours after mowing it?  Or, how about lines of grass that don’t seem to make it into the bag?  Is anyone still mulching their lawn?  Today we take a look at what we can do to increase the health benefits of our lawn.

Summer has a way of finding all kinds of blemishes.  Oh, I’m not talking about from wearing a bikini or that speedo you shouldn’t have on.  We’re talking about lawn blemishes.  They happen when your equipment isn’t being maintained or isn’t used correctly.  Today we’ll take a look at what we can do to lessen those lawn blemishes so you can get working on that tan line.


Show Me ‘da Green:  Within a couple of hours after mowing a dull blue/gray color manifests itself over your whole lawn.  This is because the lawnmower blade isn’t cutting, but instead, is tearing the end of each grass blade.  You don’t need a microscope to see that each blade is ragged, jagged, and torn.  Within a couple of days, the tinge turns from a light tan to a brown.  After that – new growth will push its way through and by that time it’s time to mow again!

If you’re handy with tools it’s simple enough to replace a lawnmower blade.  Make certain the spark plug has been removed before working on it and remember the bolt holding it on normally has backward threads so the lefty-loosy, righty-tighty rule doesn’t work here.  This design is intentional because as the blade spins it’s always tightening due to centrifugal force.  The last thing you want is a lawnmower blade that’s spinning 200 miles per hour shakes loose while mowing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lawnmower blade is designed for the power of the engine.  A 3.5 horsepower engine rotates at a different speed and has a different blade weight capacity of a 5 horsepower engine.  Blades are made designed on length, uplift design, and weight based on the type of engine and even deck design. Get the right blade for the machine.

If you’re really brave you can sharpen the blade yourself.  WARNING: NEVER SHARPEN A BLADE WHILE IT’S STILL ATTACHED TO THE LAWNMOWER. Take precautions as mentioned early and also wear a pair of gloves and safety glasses.  If the blade isn’t nicked up and you can see the angle of the edge to sharpen proceed with caution to sharpen it.  Here’s a pro-tip:  a lawnmower blade is perfectly balanced.  After grinding a bit, place on a lawnmower blade balancer, then grind the other side and repeat until both sides balance perfectly and it’s sharp.  If it’s not balanced you’re sure to break your mower engine.  The first indication is a hard shaking, rattling and rolling…then the engine will stop working or actually break.

If this all sounds daunting you’re not alone.  It’s no shame to take your machine to a lawnmower shop to have them either replace or sharpen a blade for you.  Sometimes they can do it so quickly you can wait for it.  For best service call them first and ask what day and time is better for them to kick it out quickly.

I’ve Fallen and Can’t Get Up.  Another reason a lawnmower blade needs to be in tip-top shape is to create the proper suction under the deck.  Leaf-blades can lay down or fall over when people, pets and lawn activity prevails.  As the lawnmower blade spins it creates an upward draft pulling each leaf blade so it can cut it as clean as it can.  This clean-cut won’t give you that ugly blue/gray tinge but instead, heal green always looking sharp actually and figuratively.

Leave the Winrows for Farming. Ever look behind you to see lines of grass being left behind?  Those are called winrows which can rot on the spot killing off grass.  Winrows can be minimized by doing the following:

  1. Overlap the wheels by several inches. The blade is upwards of an inch within the deck, not over the wheels.  Following the wheel lines create a winrow of grass that doesn’t get cut.
  2. Dump the collection bag and clean out the shoot often. When a bag gets full-cut grass has no place to go clogging up the underside of the deck.  The clippings will take the path of less resistance – another reason why winrows get started.
  3. Mow weekly and mow dry. The grass wants to get mowed.  If you’re up to it, mow it twice a week, especially in summer, for a pristine manicured lawn.  Turf already has a lot of moisture so be certain it’s dry before tackling. Wet grass is sure to create winrows.

Mulching.  An old-school thought is to mow your lawn and not pick up the clippings.  The idea is a mulching mower has a specialized blade and power to cut the grass several times over then blast it into the ground. In theory that works, however, in real-time you get a layer of grass that lays on the top and as it’s composting it will steal nutrients from the live grass and the whole yard turns color…and it’s not green.  This technology is still being sold on the marketplace and can work if you cut your lawn a couple of times a week.

There is an exception to this mulching concept when you use a robotic lawnmower.  Robomowers have three small blades that twirl hundreds of times faster than the law requires a traditional rotary mower.  The shearing power from these blades nearly pulverizes the grass and forces it down to the soil level.  Due to the turf particle size, it doesn’t use the same energy to break down like larger pieces and I’ve never seen a film of grass on top of the turf browning out.

Rotary lawnmowers are the most used machinery for cutting lawns.  Their cousins, reel mowers, have their cutting challenges as well when dull: browning leaf tips, pulling instead of cutting, blade sharpening, and adjustments.  The sharpening technique is much different on these heavy, clunky bad boys and should be left for a lawnmower shop to take care of.

Nick Federoff
PBS|TV and Syndicated Radio Garden Host

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