Lawn Striping Mowing Patterns Like a Pro
Lawn striping is a simple mowing technique that leaves your yard looking professionally manicured. Stripes are a nice touch and enhance the aesthetic appearance of sports turf, golf courses and home lawns. Striping methods can be used to mow creative designs into lawns – simple checkerboard and diamond patterns can have dramatic effects and more complex patterns will create buzz around the neighborhood.
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Stripes are a visual effect caused by laying (or bending) grass leaf blades over as you mow in opposite directions. Reflecting sunlight gives the appearance of alternating light and dark green stripes. The grass blades that are bent in the direction you are mowing will appear as light green stripes and the blades bent toward you will appear to be a darker shade of green. Lawn stripes are not created by using special fertilizer techniques, cutting at different heights, painting different colors of green or using different grass species.
Any mower can create a stripe, the tires and deck will bend grass in the direction it travels – some machines stripe better than others. The best stripes are created with mowers that are equipped with rollers or a striping kit. Mower stripes created without a roller are less defined, won’t last as long and will not be uniform – the tire tracks usually stand out
Lawn Rollers and Striping Kits
Reel mowers – like the ones used on golf courses and baseball fields – cut short turf the cleanest and produce the best stripes. They are equipped with two sets of rollers – one in front of the cutting blades and one behind. The rollers are used to set the cutting height, groom the turf for cutting and then bend the grass in the direction the mower is traveling.
A few commercial and residential rotary mowers are outfitted with rollers, chains or rubber flaps for striping. Several mower manufacturers are offering lawn striping kits as an aftermarket add-on.
Baseball field – mowing patterns using a reel mower equipped with a roller.
Walk behind reel mowers have a large rear drive roller that make nice stripes. Keep your lines straight!
Diamond pattern mowed without a lawn striping kit. A roller would have better defined the stripes. Notice how the tire marks show.
If you are in the market for a good striping rotary mower – look for one equipped with a floating deck and a single roller that covers the length of the cutting deck.
Companies like Big League Lawns and Lawn Stryper specialize in striping kits for both commercial and residential units. Toro also has a neat lawn striping kit that will fit most 21″ walk-behind mowers. This video by Big League Lawns shows examples of patterns that can be made with their CheckMateTM lawn striping kit.
Tip: when ordering a roller – or designing a homemade striper – it should only be as long as the distance between the two rear drive wheels. The two rear wheels will bend the grass just like a roller, so it only has to cover the distance between the rear wheels with a little overlap. If the roller is wider than the rear wheels you will have trouble mowing around obstacles. For example, a 36″ cutting deck only needs a roller that is 30″ wide.
Ideas for Homemade Lawn Striping Kits
Anything that can be mounted behind the mower deck that bends the grass can be used to stripe lawns.
- Use a 3″ PVC pipe filled with sand or concrete and a threaded rod.
- Boat trailer rollers and a threaded rod (just like the Big League Lawn kit).
- Tractor trailer mud flaps attached to rear of cutting deck.
- Chain cut into short lengths that drag on the ground.
Keys to Mowing Patterns Like a Pro
Factors affecting how a stripe looks:
- The type of grass
- Condition of lawn
- Type of mower
- Mower operator skills
- Cutting frequency
- Lawn mower blades
- Angle of the sun
Grass-Types: Cool-season grasses – Kentucky bluegrass, fescues and perennial ryegrass – will stripe much better than warm-season grasses. Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass stripe the best. Most warm-season grasses will not stripe very well or not at all. It is possible to stripe some warm-season grasses with extra effort. Bermudagrass overseeded with perennial ryegrass will stripe nicely. Zoysia and bermuda should be mowed every couple of days to get and keep a good stripe – often you have to ‘burn’ the stripes in by mowing in the same direction several times and this is not so good for the lawn – it tends to make wheel ruts and create soil compaction.
Mow in straight lines. The real key to good stripes and making patterns is mowing in straight lines. The first pass is the most important – it serves as a guide for the following passes. Small curves will get bigger as you continue to mow so straighten crooked lines right away by re-mowing. Start by picking the longest distance for your first pass or splitting the lawn right down the middle.
Tip: When mowing long distances – pick a landmark straight ahead of you and FOCUS on it. You will tend to veer in the direction you are looking so keep your head up and look forward.
The dark stripe is the direction you just mowed and the light stripe is the direction you are mowing.
Stripes show best on a thick, green lawn!
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Practice good lawn maintenance and your stripe patterns will stand out. Healthy lush lawns with a dark green color will produce stripes that really show.
Cut high and follow good mowing practices – longer grass has more leaf area to lay down – reflecting more light – and will produce better stripes. I have seen pictures of St. Augustine grass – a warm-season species – cut at 4″ that is striped nicely. The stripes would not show on a St. Augustine lawn that is cut shorter.
The direction the sun hits the lawn can be a factor. At certain times of day your stripes will show up better – sometimes the angle of the sun makes them invisible. The place you are viewing the lawn from will also determine how well they show. Consider light direction and viewing points when making your patterns – this usually requires a little trial and error.
Avoid excessive wear and tire damage when making turns – try to make slow, wide turns – sharp, hard turns will damage your lawn. Tight 180 ° turns can rip and bruise the grass blades and cause compaction or excessive tire wear. Try to “draw a light bulb” – start your turn away from the next pass and then make a wide, sweeping turn that finishes in line with your next pass – or make a 3-point “Y” turn. Your cleanup laps will erase the turn around marks on the edges of the lawn. If possible, make your turns off of the lawn – on a sidewalk or driveway.
‘High-Lift’ mower blades for rotary mowers also help. They create suction (or a vacuum effect) that stands the grass blades up for a good cut and then the mower deck or rollers will lay the grass down creating a nice stripe. Remember to always mow with sharp blades!
Frequent cuttings and double cutting – or even going back and just rolling the lawn with your blades disengaged will intensify stripes.
Have fun with your lawn striping! Many professionals consider stripes to be a sign of quality. With practice and a little creativity your lawn will be the envy of the neighborhood.
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How To Cut Grass Like A Pro Using Lawn Mowing Patterns Techniques
Using lawn mowing patterns to cut your grass is beneficial, and makes the chore of cutting it more fun. In this post, I’ll tell you all about how to use different grass cutting techniques to create those nice straight lines in your yard, just like the pros.
Learning the basic lawn mowing patterns will make your yard look amazing, and it’s also better for the grass too.
You don’t need to spend tons of extra time learning how to cut grass like a pro, it’s all about being intentional with the way you mow.
When you are more intentional, it becomes much easier (and more fun!) to maintain a healthy lawn.
In this detailed guide, you’ll learn all about the different grass cutting techniques and patterns, and how to easily use them to make nice designs in your lawn.
Why Use Lawn Mowing Patterns?
You don’t need to be completely obsessed with having the perfect lawn to use mowing patterns. Some people totally geek out about it, and that’s cool.
I’m not one of those people, but I do like to maintain the grass and keep it looking nice (after all, it is often the backdrop for my gardens in photos).
Being intentional about how I mow, and using simple grass cutting patterns, makes it much easier to maintain a healthy lawn.
Even if you could care less about creating perfect stripes or patterns in your grass, it’s still important to pay attention to the way you mow.
Not only will your yard look nicer, your grass will be healthier, have less weeds, and be easier to maintain.
Mowing a criss cross pattern into my lawn
Benefits Of Grass Cutting Patterns
Here’s the deal, if you always use the exact same pattern every time you mow, the tire tracks will start to wear out areas of the grass. This can cause ugly dead spots, which invite weeds to grow.
How to Mow Lawn Correctly!
Using the exact same cutting pattern over and over will also compact the grass over time, making it harder for healthy new blades to grow.
Switching up your routine on a regular basis minimizes the wear and tear damage caused by the mower tires.
Alternating mowing techniques also keeps the grass from becoming compacted, allowing plenty of airflow, and keeping it looking its best.
Plus, you need to mow it a little taller in order to get the right effect, which is better for the grass too (but more on that later).
And, as an added bonus, mowing patterns into the grass also helps to hide the weeds, giving the illusion of the perfect lawn.
Lawn mower tire tracks damage to the grass
Professional Lawn Cutting Techniques
If you want to mow your lawn like a professional (or just maintain a healthier yard), then learning the basic patterns is key.
There are a few simple techniques you can play around with to see which ones you like.
The easiest one to start with is creating stripes in your lawn. Once you get the hang of that, it will be simple to create other designs.
Other common designs are the checkerboard pattern, straight diagonal lines, a criss-cross diagonal pattern, and diamonds.
It might sound like things just got complicated, but all of these fancy designs are just variations of the simple striping pattern.
What Pattern Should I Use To Mow My Lawn?
There is no perfect pattern to use on every lawn. I personally like to mix it up, and use a different one every time.
But I have a large yard that is pretty square, so I have plenty of room to experiment. If yours is oddly shaped or small, you might find that only one or two of the designs will work.
Once you figure out the ones that look the best in your yard, and are the easiest to create, mowing actually becomes kind of fun.
Basic checkerboard lawn pattern
How To Cut Grass Like A Pro
Making lawn striping patterns won’t add any work, it just takes a little extra thought and a bit of planning at first, so you can visualize what you want to do.
You don’t have to mow over and over again, spending extra hours to create the stripes and patterns. It’s all about how the grass lays after you cut it.
As your mower goes over them, the blades of grass will bend in that direction. Then when you go the other way, the grass bends in that direction.
The light reflects off of the blades differently in each direction – and that’s what makes the lines.
Mowing the grass taller (raising the lawn mower height) will make the stripes show up better, because longer blades bend more than short ones.
How To Mow Patterns In Your Lawn Step-By-Step
You don’t need any special equipment to create the professional look in your own yard, any push or riding mower will work. Here’s how to create those pretty lawn stripes…
Step 1: Cut the outside edges – Mow around the outside edges of your yard first (just like when a Zamboni starts cleaning the ice).
This is where you’ll turn your mower as you’re cutting the rest of the grass. Having a few feet of turning space makes it much easier to create straight lines.
Cutting around the lawn edges like a zamboni
Step 2: Line up the first stripe – Make your first stripe using a landmark to keep it straight. I use the edges of my garden beds to help me get a nice straight pattern that matches the lines already in my yard.
You could also use a sidewalk, driveway, patio, or some other straight-edged hardscape in your yard as a guide.
Lining up my mower with a straight edge
Step 3: Use the first stripe as your guide – After you make your first stripe, turn your mower around on the outside edge of the lawn where you’ve already mowed.
Line your mower up so that the wheels are on the edge of the line you just created. Then follow that line to create your next stripe.
Mowing patterns into my lawn
Step 4: Repeat the same pattern – Continue going back and forth over your lawn, lining your mower up after each turn with the last stripe you created.
Each new stripe you make will be in the opposite direction of the last, creating those nice clean lines. If you end up with a crooked line, just mow back over it in the same direction to fix it.
Step 5: Go over the outside edges again (optional) – Once you’re done creating your lawn stripes, go back around the perimeter of the yard again.
This will get rid of any turn marks left over from your striping, and any unsightly clumps of grass that were dropped by the mower.
Taking this extra step gives the lawn a more finished look, but it is totally optional. If you’re already happy with the way it looks, then you can skip this step.
Once you get some practice making nice straight lines, play around with other patterns and designs to see which ones you like the best in your lawn.
How Grass Type Affects Lawn Mowing Patterns
It’s important to note that the type of grass you have can make a big difference in how dark your stripes will be.
We have Kentucky Bluegrass, which is a variety that does better in cooler climates (like we have here in MN). It has a longer blade, and is thicker and lusher than those you’d find in warmer climates.
If you live in a hot climate, have a shorter variety, or one that has a more stem than blades, it won’t bend as nicely as the longer grass types.
In that case, the patterns won’t be as prominent, or your mower may not leave any lines at all.
A simple lawn striping pattern
Lawn Mowing Patterns Tips Tricks
Creating stripes and designs in your lawn is easy, and it won’t take you any extra time to mow once you get the hang of it. Here are a few tips and tricks to remember when you’re just getting started…
- Try to use a different pattern or change the direction of your stripes after every 2-3 mows. This will keep the grass growing its best, and avoid wear and tear damage caused by the mower tires.
- The trick to creating darker lawn stripes is to mow the grass taller, because the blades don’t bend as well when they’re cut short.
- Use a sidewalk, driveway, or other hardscape in your yard as a guide to keep your lines straight.
- Experiment with different cutting patterns to see which one you like, and what looks best in your grass.
Beautiful straight lines mowed in the grass
General Tips For Mowing The Lawn
- To help with weed control, don’t cut the grass too short. Weeds have a harder time establishing themselves in a thick, healthy lawn.
- Cut the grass lower in the fall, and make sure it’s short before snow covers it. This will help to avoid dead spots caused by winter damage, and also prevents mold growth in early spring.
- Remove all the leaves and other debris from your lawn before winter to avoid dead spots in the grass come spring.
- Keep your lawn mower in tip-top shape, and always be sure the blade is sharp for a clean cut.
- To avoid ugly clumps of grass messing up your lines, raise the mower height. Then gradually lower it when it’s time to cut your grass shorter. Mowing more frequently, and only when the grass is dry, will also prevent unsightly boogers.
When you learn how to use lawn mowing techniques and patterns, your grass will be much healthier and easier to maintain. Plus, it will look amazing too.
Yard Care Tips
Share you favorite lawn mowing patterns or tips in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев section below.
About Amy Andrychowicz
I’m an author and expert gardener who loves growing ALL of the plants. From vegetables, herbs, and flowers to cacti, succulents, tropicals, and houseplants. you name it, I’ve grown it! My green thumb comes from my parents, and I’ve been gardening for most of my life. Read
Комментарии и мнения владельцев
I started mowing a different pattern when I saw the tire marks before I mowed. Now I start the season mowing north and south, and rotate 45 degrees clockwise with each successive mowing. A little OCD, I know, but I think it looks better. I mow about 3/4 acre, so th pattern shows up.
Awesome! I feel OCD about using mowing patterns too, LOL! But it looks so much nicer, and it’s better for the grass too. Great work!
All great tips. didn’t know to lower deck before winter. Also, sharp mulching blades make a nice Clean cut. Cleaning up edges after mowing inhances the Effort you’ve put into job. it doesn’t take a lot of time to go that extra mile to show off your pride of work ! Thanks for all the great tips ! Brendan ?
Thank you for all te wonderful tips on how to mower like a pro. I will make sure my hubby read this post so he can start mowing like pros.
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Mower Traffic Stress
I have walked countless properties with homeowners during service visits to their lawns, and one of the questions I’m asked frequently is, “If your company is taking care of my lawn, where are these bare spots coming from?” The question is often posed after we have strolled past several seemingly random bald patches of lawn here and there. “Is this disease? Do I have grubs? Is it because the technician is dripping chemicals from his spray gun?” While these lawn issues in question have the potential to cause damage to the grass, none of them cause the grass to disappear suddenly.
So how have small areas of the lawn disappeared? The answer is often far simpler than you would think. The good news is that there’s no additional treatments needed to combat this particular lawn pest. The bad news is that the monster gobbling up portions of your lawn may in fact be you!
It’s Common Sense
When you see a bed of flowers or shrubs, is your first impulse to drive over them? Of course not! You could potentially damage them. Yet, one of the most basic practices employed by every homeowner since the dawn of suburbia involves driving a mower (or at the very least pushing a heavy, wheeled implement) on top of the thousands of plants that comprise our lawns. However, we expect these plants to hold up without consequence to the regular mower traffic, when the machines weigh several hundred pounds.
Don’t worry I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t mow the lawn, or that you should expect the quality of the lawn to suffer a great deal after every cut. What I am telling you though is not to expect the relatively fragile living ecosystem that is your lawn to hold up to mower traffic indefinitely.
DIY LAWN STRIPING KIT under 15
Wear and Tear
The damage typically caused by mower traffic is two-fold; there is the wear caused by the frequent traffic over the same areas over and over, and the tear caused by the mower wheels physically tugging at the plants.
Have you ever noticed the depressions that develop in the road where car tires ride over it day after day? This same depression effect occurs as a result of mower traffic in the lawn, and soil compaction issues develop. In central New Jersey we have clay soil, and while it doesn’t mean you can simply pick up a handful of it and start sculpting, it does mean that when it is wet it’s softer and more easily compacted. Once it dries, as you would expect clay to, it hardens in its compacted state. This process repeated over and over causes the already microscopic pore spaces between the soil particles to become non-existent. Once the pore spaces are gone the soil becomes impenetrable to water and oxygen, which is a bad thing for the grass plants. The longer this process goes unchecked, the more compacted the soil becomes, and the more the lawn suffers. Like the road, the lawn becomes worn out very gradually, so immediate damage is not evident for years.
The effects of long-term mower stress can be seen in the lower portion of this image where the lawn has been worn away in two parallel spots by the continuous mower traffic through the same path.
You can, however, sometimes see short term effects from compaction. If plants are already suffering under extremely hot or cold weather conditions, you can see streaks develop along mower tracks in the lawn due to the additional compression stress. While the lawn generally recovers from this, it helps to highlight the fact that there are consequences to mower traffic.
The image above shows temporary stress from machine traffic that occurred following frost.
The second type of mower stress is the tear caused by traction of the tires. As the mower makes turns, the tires pull on the plants and can sever their stems or uproot them altogether. If the lawn is mowed following heavy irrigation or rainfall, the soil is easily torn up by the tire traction and can cause ruts. This type of stress is certainly more evident, and something that most homeowners try to keep from happening. However, this too can be very subtle. Minor ruts in the lawn that happen every now and again can add up over time. It isn’t until several small injuries accumulate that the homeowner takes notice.
The images above show damage to the lawn that has been caused by mower tear. However, the diagnosis is hard to make given the vantage from which it is being viewed and the time that has lapsed since the most recent cut.
So, What’s the Solution?
To avoid damage that may develop from compaction caused by mower traffic, it is imperative that the lawn be core aerated on a regular basis. For most residential lawns, core aerating every-other-year should be often enough to keep the soil compaction from becoming an issue. Also, if there are areas that stay wet due to poor drainage, they should be addressed professionally by a landscaper to resolve this problem. Areas such as these become damaged exponentially faster than well-drained areas and core aeration will most likely not provide ample correction on its own.
Also, avoid mowing the lawn when it is saturated or following a heavy storm. Homeowners with in-ground irrigation should also consider their watering schedule and set irrigation to run as far from the mowing schedule as possible. For example, if the lawn is typically mowed on Mondays, irrigation should be run on Tuesday or Wednesday so that the maximum amount of time lapse occurs between heavy watering and mower traffic.
Though it may sound obvious, seed the damaged areas. It is a great practice to go through the lawn at the end of each summer and spot seed the lawn as necessary. This keeps small damaged spots from being able to accumulate over time.
Finally, try to avoid creating narrow sections of turf in your landscape designs. Mowers are forced to traffic the lawn in the same pattern regularly through these bottle-neck areas, causing the grass to wear away quickly. If you must have narrow passages between landscape beds, these should have some other alternate ground cover in place such as gravel, stone paths, or low-lying shrubs. Long-term turf growth should only be expected to occur with reasonable maintenance in well drained areas of the property that are fully exposed to the sun.
There is wear and tear that occurs as a result of nearly every regular practice developed by human beings. Just like brushing your teeth or jogging each morning, with mowing the benefit outweighs the consequences that may come as a result. Your lawn care specialist may point out to you that mowing the lawn has contributed to some turf loss in your lawn. Luckily, there are some simple best practices that can help reduce mowing stress to the turf.
If you are in our service area and have questions about possible mowing damage or mowing best practices, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888, or request an estimate.
The Lawn Mower Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Buy the Right Type of Lawn Mower
Not all yards are the same, and not all mowers are either.
By Roy Berendsohn Published: May 5, 2022
Nothing kills the joy of a sunny day like the wrong type of lawn mower. Fortunately, the opposite is also true. The right type of lawn mower can make cutting your lawn a pleasure.
If you know you need a new lawn mower, but aren’t sure how much mower you need or what features you might want, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Use this guide to select the right machine, and happy mowing.
Step 1: Walk or Ride?
The first step is the choice between two basic types of lawn mowers: riding mower and a walk-behind. Any more ground to cover than a 1/4 acre, you’ll want to ride if for no other reason than to get the lawn done faster.
First, make an approximation of your mowing surface. Simply walk off large rectangles. counting your steps as you go. Add up the areas of the rectangles. No need to get too precise here. An average man’s stride is about 30 inches and a woman’s stride is about 26 inches, or measure your own stride for the most accurate measurement.
An acre is 43,560 square feet, so one-fourth acre is 10,890 square feet. Anything above that threshold, and you’ll likely want to get a riding mower. In fact, the vast majority of people wouldn’t dream of cutting a ¼ acre of grass with a 22-inch walk mower, but we have to start somewhere. So think realistically about how much time you have to mow your lawn on a busy weekend and select your equipment accordingly.
For lawns from ¼ of an acre to 2 acres. you’ll most likely be most comfortable with a rear-engine riding mowers, light-duty lawn tractors, and residential-duty zero-turn mowers. Anything more than two acres and you’ll want a commercial-duty zero turn mower.
Step 2: Selecting Your Features
Once you’ve selected whether you ride or walk, there are two factors that will drive your purchase—your budget and your comfort. The more you spend on a mower, the more durable, versatile, intuitive, and probably, the quicker you’ll get the job done. The opposite is also true.
It doesn’t make as much difference with a small, simple yard. But the larger and more complex the yard, the more thought you need to give to selecting mower features.
We’ll begin with walk mowers. one of the most versatile cutting machines out there.
Walk mowers are somewhat like cars in that they are available with a wide range of options, all of which increase cost and complexity. Look carefully at the product’s hang tag and talk to the sales staff to get a better sense of whether the features are useful to you.
Let’s break down all the major components and what lawnmowers use them:
Look it at this way: You can push a mower, or the mower can push itself, in which case it’s either a front-drive or a rear-drive mower (we’ll get to all-wheel drive in a moment). A self-propelled mower makes your life a lot easier when mowing hills, or when you mow and bag. There’s nothing like pushing a fully loaded mower uphill to make you appreciate a self-propelled machine.
The Lawn and the Short of it
Front-wheel drive is best for level ground with a lot of obstacles. This allows you to push down on the handle, reducing traction on the front wheels and pivot into and out of corners.
Rear-wheel drive works best for for uphill mowing and sidehill mowing. Rear wheel drive works better here because when you push down on the handle going up a hill, the front tires will not lose traction.
Yes, a handful of mowers are all-wheel drive. built for homeowners who cut across washboard surfaces, sidehill mowing, steep uphill and downhill mowing that makes good of AWD. We were dubious when these mowers were introduced several years ago, but when we cut some very rough ground, we were surprised at how much easier AWD made things.
In this section, we’re talking about what the machines actually does with the grass. Mowers can mulch clippings (repeatedly cut and recut them), discharge them to the side or rear, or bag them.
Two-function is a mower that mulches and bags. Mulching is healthier for the lawn in that it returns nitrogen-rich grass clippings into the ground, but it doesn’t work particularly well for tall-grass conditions in the spring and early summer or early fall when the lawn bounces back from summer stress.
A three-function machine bags, mulches, and side discharges. Side discharging is useful for utility mowing (mowing areas with tall weeds and non-turf grasses). It also helps if the lawn gets away from you and you need to set the mower deck to its full height and take the grass down in stages.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of mower features. These are the more common things you’ll find on your average mower’s spec list:
Deck levers come in groupings of one, two, or four. One lever is the most convenient, but it comes with a lot of linkage that adds weight and that you have to keep lubricated if you want it to work well. Two levers are a good compromise between one and four levers. Yes, these mowers have a bit more linkage than a four-lever mower, but it’s easier to get the height right. Four levers is the standard, time-tested design.
The only way to get a sense of whether you’ll like the ground speed control is to actually get your hands on a mower at a dealership, hardware store, or home center.
The control may be integral with the handle. The harder you press forward on the drive control in the handle, the faster the mower goes. Or it may be a separate lever or even a bail (a metal rod). Squeeze the lever to increase ground speed or to activate the mower’s drive system for fixed-speed mowers.
Self-propelled mowers are equipped with three types of transmissions. Hydrostatic is the most expensive and the smoothest operating. It drives hydraulic fluid past an impeller that spins an output shaft, which controls ground speed. This is your smoothest running and most reliable transmission, but it’s also the most expensive.
The typical front or rear drive walk mower uses some form of belt-and-pulley arrangement to direct power from the engine’s output shaft to a gear box on a front or rear axle (or a gear at the wheel). There are several variations of this design, but all work well and are reasonably easy to maintain and repair.
Make Your Lawn Last
Gas engines sizes run from 140 cc to 190 cc. Larger engines produce more torque and are less likely to stall in tall grass at the beginning and end of the cutting season. A larger engine also helps drive self-propelled mowers more effectively uphill.
From least-expensive to most-expensive, mower engines may be traditional side valve design, overhead valve, or overhead cam. expensive engines provide increased durability, reduced noise, and less oil consumption.
The rear wheel size of a walk mower may be larger than the diameter of the front wheels. The wheels’ increased diameter helps it more easily navigate ruts and rough ground.
Ball bearing wheels are easier to push than those with bushing-type wheels. The larger your yard, the more difficult its terrain, or if you’re hauling around a bag of clippings or clippings mixed with mulched leaves, the more you want this option.
A blade-brake clutch is a feature found on high-end walk mowers. It allows you to completely release the operator control handle without stopping the engine. That way, you can pause your mowing, move whatever obstacle out of your way and continue mowing without having to restart the engine.
A range of unusual features have been introduced in the last several years to make mowing easier or the whole mowing experience better.
Some engines require no oil change. like the small gas engines made by Briggs Stratton. The feature is known as “Just Check and Add.” You just add oil periodically to replace the small amount of oil that’s slowly vaporized in the combustion process.
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Toro’s innovations have created mowers that have power-assisted reverse and a vertical-storage design that lets you fold the handle down, tip the mower back, and store it vertically against the wall.
Front caster wheels are great for elaborately-landscaped yards that require a lot of pivoting. Front caster wheels don’t track particularly well on bumpy ground or mowing sidehills. Mowox mowers have replaced dual front casters with a single front caster wheel, perhaps the most maneuverable form of mower you can get. But Cub Cadet has been among the mower manufacturers that pioneered the use of front caster wheels.
Wash-out fittings enable you to hook up a garden hose to wash accumulated grass clippings from under the deck. A clean deck lasts longer because accumulated grass holds moisture and lawn chemical residue, which causes deck corrosion. Our tests show that these fittings do help considerably, but that you still need some under-deck scraping with a putty knife.
Wide-cut mowers with decks that range from 28 to 33 inches are a fast cutting alternative to a 22-inch mower. These are still comparatively rare products made by Cub Cadet, Toro, Troy-Bilt, and Craftsman.
Finally, electric walk mowers are a perfect fit if you have a small yard (under 5,000 square feet of mowing surface) and one that’s quite manicured. However, there are three important things to keep in mind:
- Cordless electric mowers tend to have smaller decks (19 and 20-inch sizes are the most common, though a few have 21-inch decks). That means it takes you longer to mow.
- They tend to be less powerful than their gas engine counterparts. They can struggle with tall grass, wet grass, and thick grass with leaves. For intermediate mowing conditions, cordless mowers do just fine.
- The larger the lawn, the more batteries you need. Manufacturers make recommendations about run time, but that’s very difficult to do accurately. It varies widely depending on your mowing habits and the height or thickness of the grass. We recommend you buy extra batteries so that you’re not compelled to rush the cut.
If you can afford it, a riding mower is the way to go. Don’t get us wrong, we love walk mowers (goodness knows, we’ve used enough of them over the years here). But for speed and efficiency, there’s simply no comparison with a riding mower when you’re talking a large lawn.
When looking at riding mowers, you’ll likely come across three versions—lawn tractor, rear-engine riding mower, and a zero-turn mower. Let’s break them done one by one:
Many people start out with a lawn tractor. With a steering wheel and a front-mounted engine, these look and feel familiar. Engine size range from 18-25 HP and most come with a single cylinder with step-up models having a V twin. Some fancier models also feature engines with electronic fuel injection.
When it comes to transmissions, less expensive models tend to be lever-operated gear transmissions. But a step-up from there comes pedal hydrostatic or continuously variable transmission (CVT) operated by a shift-on-the-go hand lever. The CVT is an automatic transmission powered by pulley drive to a sealed and lubricated gear case. You know you’re spending serious money if you’re considering a more expensive tractor with a heavy-duty foot pedal hydrostatic transmission.
Finally, how much can it cut? Well, much more than a push mower. Deck widths range from 42 inches to 54 inches. To know what size you need, divide the mower deck size by 12 to get an approximation of the acreage the mower can handle. So residential-duty a mower with a 54-inch deck can mow up to 4.5 acres. That’s a lot of grass and would result in significant wear and tear on a residential-grade mower in the course of the season. Still, it could do it.
These kind of mowers range anywhere from 1,300 to 3,000.
Rear-Engine Riding Mower
Many people with larger lawns too big for a walk mower but too small for a tractor or a zero turn should go with a rear-engine riding mower. The specifications below apply to deck under the operator’s position and not rear-engine residential/commercial mowers with the deck in front of the operator.
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Most rear-engine mowers a single-cylinder engine ranging in size from 344 to 38 cc, estimated at 10 to 11 HP. The transmission is usually a CVT operated by a shift-on-the-go hand lever. Snapper’s famous rear-engine riding mower uses the company’s time-tested disc drive transmission, but a few rear-engine riders are offered with a hydrostatic transmission.
Deck sizes stretch anywhere from 30 to 33 inches, and operators use a manual hand lever for deck adjustment and deck engagement. That small cutting size also means a smaller price tag, ranging from 1,200 to 2,400.
In the last twenty years or so, zero-turn mowers have proved their worth to homeowners and landscape contractors alike. Their design enables forward speed and steering by means of dual hydrostatic transmissions at the rear wheels, each of which is controlled by a lap bar in front of the seat.
A pulley off the engine spins the impellers on the dual hydrostatic transmissions that power the rear wheels. When you move one of the lap bars farther forward than its neighbor, it acts as a throttle, allowing more hydraulic fluid to flow to the transmission at that wheel. This causes wheel to turn more rapidly than the opposite wheel, allowing you turn corners or pivot.
Engine size can range from 452 cc up to 700 or more, with power estimated from 12 HP to 25 HP. This is powered by either a single cylinder or commercial-duty V twin, and transmissions are either hydrostatic or commercial-duty hydrostatic.
With deck sizes ranging from 32 inches to 60 inches, these mowers cut the most grass in the least amount of time. The decks are either stamped or heavy-duty fabricated, deck adjustment uses a manual hand lever or foot pedal, and deck engagement uses a manual hand lever or an electric PTO
All that grass-cutting power comes with a price, usually ranging between 1,200 to 6,000. But now, you can knock some dollars off thanks to 2023 Memorial Day sales.
Roy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment. When he’s not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.