How to: Pattern mow a lawn

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Updated Jul 16, 2018
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WHY: The striped patterns seen on athletic fields are showing up on residential and commercial properties.

“Customers who pay to have their yards maintained want a professional look,” says Chris Russell, a John Deere product manager for the commercial mowing market. “They see grass at a ballpark and enjoy that manicured look in their yard. It sets their lawn apart from the neighbors.

“For business owners, it shows their company has a strong desire to maintain a good image for their property.”

Striped patterns come from bending the grass blades in opposing directions. Grass bent away from your point of view appears lighter because sunlight is reflected off of the length of the grass, while grass bent toward you appears darker because you see the tips of the grass and less reflective surfaces.

“It’s all about bending the grass so the blades can reflect light,” says Chris Frame, director of marketing and technical services, Scag Power Equipment. “The intensity of the pattern is really dependent upon the height of cut and type of grass.”

1. Assess the grass.

Patterns are more visible if the grass is cut high, from 2 1/2 to 4 inches depending on the type of grass. Warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda and zoysia, typically grow short and are rigid and hard to bend. Cool-season, naturally taller grasses, such as fescue and bluegrass, bend more easily and show patterns more effectively.

2. Choose an attachment.

Unless you’re using a reel mower, a striping attachment assures a better look by bending the grass effectively. Attachments vary from rollers and flexible rubber skirts to brushes. Consult your local dealer for the best choice for your mower and turf types.

3. Mow the perimeter.

Establish an area two widths of the mower across from which to turn along the edge of the property.

4. Mow in opposing directions.

Keep your line straight by sighting a point in the distance and mow straight to it. “If you’re looking down at the mowing deck, you’ll create waves in the striping,” says Michael Stewart Jr., president of Stewcare, which has a fleet of Grasshopper mowers and more than 100 mowing clients in central Ohio, including 35 athletic fields. “Keep your eyes ahead and use peripheral vision to check where the deck is at.”

5. Make “Y” turns.

Slowly make this turn maneuver at the end of each row in the perimeter area to avoid turf damage and set up for the next pass.

6. Overlap stripes.

On each returning pass, overlap the cutting width by a few inches so there are no skips.

7. Mow the perimeter again.

With all up and back passes complete, mow the outside once more to create a finished border and clean up uneven areas where you’ve turned.

TIP: Mow around objects such as trees into the uncut path. The next pass back, you will mow over the turn path and reestablish the stripe pattern.

PAYOFF: “Our ability to create visually attractive striping and beautiful turf has become our company’s calling card that distinguishes us from the competition,” Stewart says. Consider it an advantageous path for your business, as well.

TIP: “Try not to mow the same pattern more than two weeks in a row,” Stewart says. “Grass develops a memory, and if you do the same stripe week after week, the grass lays down and the cut suffers.”

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