KC Gardens

Straight talk on making mowing easier

Long, straight mowing patterns reduce turns and save time.
Long, straight mowing patterns reduce turns and save time.

For most people mowing the lawn is somewhere between a time to escape and a necessary evil. Whether you like to mow or not, a few simple changes can save you time and money.

Avoid turns

Starting and stopping and making turns eat up time and create work. Turns can be avoided in several ways: Mow in patterns that have longer runs and fewer sharp angles. Although it is recommended to alter the pattern from mowing to mowing, be sure to avoid those that result in more turning.

Find ways to reduce corners. Each time there is a corner you must stop, back up and pivot. Create gentle curves that allow you to continue to move forward around the bend without stopping. This also can reduce the need to trim and edge.

Create beds and borders

I drive by a lawn where a series of shrubs dot the landscape. Each plant must be mowed around, and I think what a pain to mow and trim. Avoid random plantings in the lawn.

Trees or shrubs that are planted somewhat close together should be grouped in a bed without grass that you can simply mow around, avoiding all the starting and stopping. Some refer to these as islands — islands of plants surrounded by grass.

When creating beds, avoid that first energy sucker: tight corners. Beds should be flowing in a form that mimics the turning radius of the mower. The easiest way to create this is to lay out a garden hose or simply run the mower along the edge. The curves should follow the same range that can be naturally mowed with a forward motion without the need to make sharp turns or trim later.

Don’t bag it

Researchers have known for years that there is seldom a need to catch grass clippings. In fact, clippings can be beneficial for the turf and because they are are mainly water, they quickly dehydrate on a sunny day.

Grass clippings do not cause thatch or increase disease. They are rich in nitrogen and other nutrients that are returned to the soil, slowly feeding and helping to maintain a healthy turf. Research has shown that clippings left to decompose naturally can return about one-fourth of the fertilizer applied to the lawn.

Bagging clippings increases mowing time, cost and waste. It takes time to catch and bag the clippings, and costs and waste increase as they must be transported to the composting facility.

Whatever your relationship with mowing, it is a task necessary to maintain your property. These tips can help whether your lawn is a lush carpet or a mix of grass or weeds. Happy mowing.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to garden.help@jocogov.org or visit KCGardens.KansasCity.com.