Get an edge on summer lawn care with these five mowing tips

Get an edge on summer lawn care with these five mowing tips

Even a top-performing walk-behind mower, lawn tractor, or rider won’t make your lawn the belle of the block if your mowing is too random. Here are some tips for smarter use of your mower or riding machine, along with some finishing touches to help your yard look its best before you fire up the grill this Memorial Day weekend.

Mind the mower. Keep your blade sharp, getting it sharpened monthly or at least twice a year. (Alternating between two blades means no waiting.) Adjust deck height to about 3 inches. Moreover, don’t neglect the deck’s underside. Cleaning out clippings and debris after mowing helps maintain cutting quality as well as prevent rusting.

Plan your cut. Mow only dry grass. For best results, don’t rush cutting either with a walk-behind mower or a riding machine—especially if mulching, which needs extra time to process the grass. Don’t try to follow your exact wheel tracks for quicker completion; some overlap in the cutting swaths makes for more evenness. And alternate directions, which helps disperse clippings for a cleaner, healthier lawn.

Cure for the summertime browns. Once summer gets its hottest, change your approach. If you’ve been cutting shorter than 3 inches to avoid having to mow more often, stop—too short a lawn, and the midday sun will scorch it. (The higher grass shades the lawn, protecting the roots.)

Take care on slopes. Even if you’re keeping safe, higher speeds and sudden turns over hills tend to tear up turf. With a walk-behind mower, mow side-to-side. With a tractor or rider, mow straight up and down slopes unless your manual says otherwise. Go especially slow down hills if you own a zero-turn-radius mower.

Fine-tune with a string trimmer. Hold the trimmer so that its cutting head and path are at a slight angle (leaning in the direction you’re going) for more precise cutting. Assuming the head spins clockwise, you move from right to left—check the manual—letting the tip of the line do the work. With growth over about 8 inches, cut in stages to keep the line from wearing prematurely.

Should you need to replace any of your lawn gear, see our buying advice for mowers, lawn tractors, and string trimmers before checking the results of our tests for mowing equipment and string trimmers.

Our list of top string trimmers includes 25 models—gas-powered, electric and battery operated. While gas trimmers, such as our top-Rated Husqvarna 223L, $ 260, are champs at chomping through tall grass and weeds, many homeowners don’t like the muss and fuss of fueling them. Our top-rated electric trimmer, the Green Works 21142, $ 90, also excelled at this job as well as trimming tasks. The top battery-operated trimmer is the Stihl FSA 65, $ 510, but for a lot less you can buy one that’s almost as good, the Black & Decker LST136, $ 170, which was very good at trimming and edging.

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