Creating Lawn Mowing Patterns— 10 Tips

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Did you know that your lawn can potentially increase the value of your home by 15%?  15%!  With the average price of a home in this country resting just above $225,000…that’s about $33,750!

Regardless of whether you’re selling your house or not, your lawn makes a big impression on your neighbors and friends. Whether it be birthday parties, cookouts, or any number of other functions, it’s always a good idea to boost the curb appeal of your home. You’re providing your friends and your family with an inviting, aesthetic backdrop on which to gather and make merry.

So how can you get your yard to looking spectacular form a lasting impression?

It doesn’t take an extravagant landscape.  You don’t need massive manicured hedges or bountiful bouquets of flowers. 

They help.  But they’re not necessary.

The simple solution is to put your lawn’s vibrant, healthy grass out front and center.  Show it off.  Let it shine.

You’re not doing your grass any justice by letting it just lay there uninspired.  The easiest way to “inspire” those blades of grass is to lay down mowing patterns or stripes.

You’re cutting the grass anyway.  Why not go the extra mile and let those blades of grass work for you?  Besides, you might turn a chore into something you enjoy.

I can see that you’re chomping at the bit to get started.  But before you rush out to the shed and fire up your mowing machine, you should read the rest of this article.  You will learn some things you need to know and some interesting tidbits about mowing patterns and stripes.

Keep reading to the end to find 10 tips and techniques for bending those blades in pursuit of the perfect lawn. 

The Not-So-Obvious Benefits

Obviously, the precise and well-manicured look of patterns on your lawn is the primary benefit.  Everyone loves to feel as if they’re walking across the unmistakable checkerboard pattern of a Major League Baseball outfield whenever they walk out of their front door.

Even as an adult, I have allowed my imagination to transport me to that place.  Funny the profound effect something so simple can have on a person.

Here’s a little beneficial information about these designs in your grass that is not so obvious.

Minimize Damage to Your Lawn

You’re not alone if you have fallen into the bad lawn care practice of always cutting your grass the same exact way.  It’s familiar.  It’s comfortable.  It’s also hurting your lawn.

Repetitive use of the same mowing pattern or stripe will cause different types of problems. 

It will compact the soil, which affects the overall health of the grass.  Compacted soil doesn’t allow the free-flow of nutrients, air, and water.  These are essential to healthy turf, which is why some lawns eventually need to be aerated.

It can also encourage the influx of disease on your lawn.

The repetitive use of the same paths can wear your grass thin.  What began as simple tire tracks can wind up being defined ruts in the surface of your yard. 

Improve the Overall Health of Your Lawn

To create effective patterns or stripes on your lawn, you have to raise your lawn mower blades and cut the grass at a higher level (the reason for this will be explained a little bit later).

When your mower cuts the grass at a lower level, there is less of the physical grass blade.  Less surface area results in the grass absorbing less of the sunlight needed for photosynthesis.  Photosynthesis produces food for the plant.

Less Photosynthesis = Less Food

Less food results in weaker grass that is more susceptible to the infiltration of disease. 

Hide Flaws in Your Yard

“But my yard doesn’t have any flaws,” some of you might be saying to yourselves.

Do you want to bet?

Somewhere out there in the green expanse of your yard lies a blemish.  Whether it be uneven ground, a localized dead spot, or a patch of weeds, every lawn has an imperfection somewhere.

This is one reason that seemingly flawless golf courses have been using lawn striping patterns for decades.  Even they aren’t perfect. They only seem that way.

Lawn patterns provide the illusion that the turf is perfect.  That illusion is all that you need to be the envy of the neighborhood.

Remember, perception is reality.  And if you won’t tell anyone, then I won’t either.

Proper Preparations

Before you head outside to lay down a pattern or stripe, make sure your lawn care equipment is up to the job.  It’s the little things that make a difference in a big way.

Before You Start Your Engines

The maintenance of your lawn mower’s engine is foundational.  If this isn’t up to par, then everything else that follows it will suffer.

You need the engine to be running like it just came off the showroom floor.  So do some upkeep.

  • Make sure the oil doesn’t need to be changed and is filled to the proper level. 
  • Pop the engine cover off and take a look.  Clean up any debris or gunk that has collected around the engine and the fan over time. 
  • Top the fuel tank off with fresh gasoline.  If this is the first mowing session of the year, take the time to use a fuel additive.  This will mitigate any problems you might run into throughout the season.
  • Crank the engine up and ensure it sounds as it should.

Sharpen Each Blade to a Fine Edge

It doesn’t matter if you’re engine is purring like a kitten if you have dull blades.  Not only will they damage your lawn, but they’ll also cause your engine to work harder than it should.

This will cause unnecessary wear and tear on the grass and the machine that could have been avoided entirely.  Remember that you’re about to put intricate designs into your yard.  So you need your machine to be performing at an optimal level.  Because in the end, you are only as good as your equipment.

Kick the Tires Before You Light the Fires

Always check the tire pressure before you start.  If one tire is less inflated, even by a small amount, it can cause the machine to cut your grass unevenly.

While this may seem trivial, it can make a big difference in how your grass cutting patterns come out.

10 Tips and Techniques

Now it’s time to learn the tips and techniques for creating patterns that will leave even the professionals jealous.

1.  Using Reflection

It’s a common misconception that lawn striping is created by cutting the grass at different heights.  Each stripe does give the illusion of different heights, but this is not the case.

Effective stripes rely on light reflecting off the blades of the grass.  The effect is produced by bending the grass in different directions.  When mowing stripes, you bend the grass blades of each stripe in the opposite direction.

Dark stripes have the blades bent towards you, and white stripes are bent away from you.  It appears light and dark because of the turf grass’ shadow or lack thereof.

2.  It Works Better With Cool-Season Grass

Cool-season grasses tend to be more rich, green, and bendable than their warm-season counterparts.  This is because warm-season grasses are a bit rougher and more rigid because of their lower water content.

So a good cool-season grass like Kentucky bluegrass will work better than a good warm-season grass like bahiagrass.  They both will work, but you’ll receive greater pattern definition from the cool-season bluegrass.

3.  What Kind of Equipment Do You Have?

The kind of mower you have will help you determine which sort of pattern you will want to use.

Because push mowers and zero-turn mowers do not have to account for turning space, you can pick any pattern you want.

However, you will have to consider turning space on a regular riding tractor.  Depending on your riding tractor’s turning radius, you could wind up with patches of missed grass that you will have to go back over.  This is a cardinal sin when trying to create the perfect pattern.

4.  Let the Concrete Be Your Guide

It doesn’t always have to be concrete.  It just sounded good.

You can use the driveway, the sidewalk, or other hardscape features to guide you.  Running parallel or perpendicular to these will ensure that you have straight lines.  Since most patterns require straight lines, find a straight feature on or around your property to act as a navigation reference.

5.  Keep Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

If you want to intensify the visual effect of the stripes, you must bend the grass further towards the ground.

The easiest way to do this is with a lawn roller.  Another option is a striping kit for your mower.  Rollers and striping kits work by bending the grass further down towards the earth.  Depending on where you’re standing, the light levels will increase or decrease on the blades.

You can buy these kits online or even build one yourself if you’re feeling inventive. 

6.  Let the Green Grass Grow

For your stripes to pop, you need to set the mower deck a little higher than you’re used to.  Taller grass will have more flexibility and bend to it. In contrast, shorter grass will pop right back into place.

So not only will it intensify your pattern, but it will also cut down on your mowing efforts.

7.  Establish a Perimeter

Regardless of what pattern you choose, you should always cut around the perimeter of your lawn should always be the first step.  This will allow you to account for any bends and swells in the landscape that would affect the straight lines that you’re shooting for.

You should finish the job by mowing around the perimeter once again.  This pass will remove any irregularities in your path.

8.  Go Against the Grain

Remember that it doesn’t matter whether you are creating simple lines, a checkerboard, crisscross, diagonal, zig-zag, or wavy patterns; you have to mow in opposite directions to achieve the look you want and make it contrast. 

9.  Don’t Fall Into a Rut

Switch up your stripes.  After 2 or 3 times cutting the turf in the same way, you should change it to avoid damaging your lawn. 

This will give areas where your wheels have ran over frequently a break from the action and time to heal before it becomes problematic.

10.  Don’t Use Your Mower Incorrectly

I know there is a tendency to take your walk-behind mower and pull it backward alongside the line you just mowed.

I must warn you against this because you are now pulling a gas-powered machine designed to cut things towards yourself.  Mowers are not choosy about what they’re cutting.  They do so indiscriminately.

So please don’t put your toes or anything else that belongs to you, for that matter, in its path.  It may not seem like it could turn out bad until it actually does.  And then it’s too late.

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Happy Planting!

About the author: Jeffrey Douglas is a horticultural hobbyist that loves everything related to plants and gardening. He specializes in gardens and houseplants.

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