Mow Your Lawn Like a Professional Landscaper

A beautifully mowed lawn is the cornerstone of a beautiful property. During the growing season, if you look around at the yards in your neighborhood, it is usually pretty easy to tell the lawns that look as though they were mowed by a professional landscape maintenance service from the ones that look as though they were hacked down by the kid who lives up the street. Whether you use a walk behind mower, or a ride on machine, this technique will work for you. Here are 8 steps that, with a little practice and patience, are sure to give your lawn a professionally mowed appearance.

Before you begin, though, make sure that your lawn mower has been properly maintained, in accordance with manufacturer's specifications. Make sure the mower blade is sharpened and balanced - replace if necessary, taking care to disconnect the sparkplug before reaching under the mower. Also, be sure to wear appropriate safety equipment like noise reducing ear-muffs, or earplugs, vibration absorbing gloves, and protective eyewear.

Set your mower to an appropriate mowing height of 2 ½" to 3 ½", for most cool season grasses. To avoid damaging your lawn, do not cut more than one inch, or one-third of the total current length of the lawn, at any one mowing. Mowing your lawn every 5 - 7 days, with no bag, ensures relatively short grass clippings that will quickly dry up becoming unnoticeable, and eventually compost, nourishing the lawn.

Now you're ready to mow the lawn, well, almost;

  1. Using either a manual or power trimmer, proceed around the perimeter of the area to be mowed, trimming grass that would be difficult to reach with the mower. Trim the grass to the height you plan to mow the lawn - from the property line in about 4" to 6" should suffice. When the perimeter is done, continue trimming around trees, fence and lamp posts, islands and flower beds, drives and walks, and also around things like sprinkler heads and decorative rocks, making mental note to watch out for these obstacles when mowing.
  2. Now, grab a trash bag and do a quick walk-about, picking up any debris and sticks, so they don't get run over by the lawn mower. In your mind, divide the lawn into major sections for mowing.
  3. Start your mower and make 3 complete passes around the perimeter of one of the major sections of lawn, allowing the grass clippings to discharge toward the center of the lawn. This gives you plenty of room to turn the lawn mower around without leaving patches of un-cut grass.
  4. About half-way down one side of the section, turn so that you are facing the opposite side; with approximately equal amounts of lawn on your right and left.
  5. Look across the section and pick a spot on the opposite side, directly across the lawn. Walk directly toward the spot you picked on the opposite side. Focusing on the spot, rather than the area directly in front of the mower, will help you make a straight line. Mowing in straight lines and proper trimming are the keys to a professional looking job! It is impossible to emphasize enough, though, the importance of bearing in mind the obstacles mentioned above. Pay attention and don't run something over just for the sake of keeping a straight line.
  6. Once you get across the lawn, carefully turn your mower around and look back at the line you just made. You can now see any places where the line varies from straight and, usually within the next pass or two, true it right up. Finish one side of the section, then the next, and then proceed to each section and repeat the process until the whole lawn is mowed.
  7. When you are done mowing, take one more look at the important spots like entrance ways, walks and drives, and other places that draw your attention. If you missed any patches with the trimmer, or on lawn mower turn-around spots, now is the time to go back and fix them. Paying close attention to details sets the professional lawn care provider apart from the kid who lives up the street.
  8. Finally, use a broom or leaf blower to push stray grass clippings back on to the lawn. Beginning with the area around the primary entrance to your home, clean off the landing and steps, continue along the walkway and out the driveway to the road. Clean off any decks or patios you may have, or anywhere else that has collected unsightly grass clippings.

Here are three more things to keep in mind while mowing:

First, when using a power trimmer, like a line feed trimmer, the grass is ripped, not cleanly-cut, where it makes contact with the string. It is really easy to damage the grass, so be careful not to over-do - better it look a little less than perfect than you wind up whacking a hole in the lawn. The next one applies when using a self-propelled mower, on turn-a-rounds. If the pivot wheel stops turning completely (or the power wheel loses traction), it will almost certainly tear up the grass, below. Always turn around slowly, but make sure that all the wheels of the mower keep turning, at least a little bit. This way you will minimize the damage done by the mower, on turn-arounds. Finally, while you may have a favorite direction in which to mow your lawn, front-back, side-side, diagonal, or even something more unique, it is probably best to mow it a different direction, at least every other time. This, too, will help minimize damage to your lawn by reducing the frequency with which you turn around on the same spots.

As you can see, mowing to achieve that 'professional look' takes a bit more attention to detail, strategic planning and time than you may be used to spending on your lawn. With some patience and practice, though, your efforts will pay off, and your lawn will look as though it has been mowed by a professional landscaper!

About the author:

Jay Purner is President of Synergistic Environments, Ltd., dba Creative Greenery, 1552 Helderberg Ave., Schenectady, NY 12306. In addition to regular lawn care, robust selections of professional landscape maintenance services are available to commercial and residential clients.