Soon neighborhoods will be abuzz with the ubiquitous sound that breaks the sleepy silence of weekend mornings. Lawnmowers. Will you be one of those? Or will yours be the one that’s coughing and sputtering? It all depends on how you prepare for the mowing season.
I admit that I’m not a mechanic. That’s why we have one on staff to keep all of our machinery and vehicles operating. However, I do know the basics of lawnmower maintenance, which is what I am sharing with you today. If your problem gets more complicated, it’s time to take it to a shop and have a mechanic look at it.
Now, before the grass greens up and starts growing again, it would be a good time to perform annual maintenance on your lawnmower. Begin by changing the oil and spark plug and check the air filter. If the air filter is washable, wash it. If it’s a paper element, change it if it’s dirty. Also, either sharpen or have the blade sharpened. A sharp blade makes a nice, clean cut; a dull blade rips the grass blades.
Finally, set the deck height to three inches. If it’s any lower, you’ll cut the grass too low and actually skive the high spots. Grass that’s mowed higher grows thicker, which discourages weeds. Some people believe that they have to mow less often if they mow shorter. That’s not true. All grass doesn’t grow at the same rate, so you will begin to see unsightly, uneven growth, and you’ll be sacrificing the plant health as well. Compare the grass to a human head. Men with short hair have to visit the barber more often than those with longer hair.
When scheduling your mowing, don’t let the grass grow too high. Besides looking unkempt, you’ll have to remove too much grass when you finally do mow. It’s unhealthy for the lawn to remove more than 1/3 of the leaf length. The lawn also looks more interesting and is healthier if you vary your cutting pattern.
For safety reasons, proper mowing attire includes long pants and good, heavy shoes. No flip flops. Ideally, a long sleeve shirt should be worn, but you’re less likely to hurt your arms than your legs. Although you’ll likely be wearing sunglasses most of the time, you should wear some sort of eye protection even on cloudy days. Murphy’s law says that, if there’s a rock or other piece of debris in the lawn, your mower will find it and there’s a good chance that it will kick it back toward you.
Although most lawnmowers come with grass catchers, these should be used only for very long grass that clumps or leaves rows of clippings out of a side discharge. It’s better to let your clippings just drop to the ground and decompose. Since they’re more than 80 percent water, it won’t take them long for them to disappear, and they will return nutrients to the soil. This practice is called “grasscycling” and proponents say that grasscycling every time you mow can reduce the amount of fertilizer you have to use. At home, I believe in the practice so much that I never catch and bag clippings. If the lawn is so long that it drops in clumps or if I use the side chute and it leaves rows of clippings, I go through with a blower and scatter the clippings so we reap the benefits of the nutrients and passersby don’t see the clumps of grass.