You Can Mow Like A Pro Says Engineer

Richard L. Parish  |  10/4/2004 4:24:20 AM

Distributed 7/25/03

Does your lawn have ruts or stripes caused by mower tires? Have you ever envied the beautiful checkerboard and diagonal patterns on golf greens and sports fields? You can counteract the ruts and improve the look of your lawn with a little forethought and change in your mowing patterns, according to LSU AgCenter engineer Dr. Richard Parish.

"It’s not difficult with most lawns to improve their appearance by varying your mowing pattern," the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station engineer says. "Whether you mow with a small walk-behind mower, a garden tractor or a large commercial mower, the same principles apply."

Parish says the problem with ruts or stripes comes because most lawns and sections of lawns are shaped so that one way of mowing is easiest and fastest – either back and forth or around the edge.

"Because it’s easier, we tend to mow in the same direction time after time," Parish says. "After a few mowing cycles, your repetitive tire tracks will show in the turf."

If you follow the same pattern long enough or mow when the ground is wet, you may actually create ruts, the engineer warns.

Parish’s solution is to mow the way the pros do it – alternate or vary your mowing patterns.

"If you mowed back and forth east-to-west last week, mow back and forth north-to-south this week," he says. "Or try mowing diagonally – southeast-to-northwest or southwest-to-northeast."

Alternating your mowing pattern will have two beneficial effects. First, you minimize tire marks and ruts since you run the tires in different places each time. Second, the alternate or varying patterns tend to be attractive since the previous pattern or two will still be visible after mowing.

"Your lawn will take on a checkerboard appearance somewhat like the beautiful sports fields you see on TV," Parish says. Although in most cases mowing will take somewhat longer in the less efficient patterns, the results can be well worth it.

Although varying the pattern works well and is easy to do in large, open turf areas, it can be more difficult in small spaces – particularly those that are long and narrow like some side yards and the right-of-ways between sidewalks and streets.

"Even though it’s difficult, varying the pattern as much as possible on these odd areas is still beneficial," Parish says. In the case of right-of-ways, it’s often possible to just mow right over the sidewalk and include that area with the front lawn.

"There is a caveat to all this," Parish says. "Alternating mowing patterns will certainly improve the appearance of your lawn, but you can’t expect your lawn to match the dramatic patterns you see on sports fields on TV."

Parish explains that grounds managers on professional sports fields use reel-type mowers with rollers that lay the turf over and create the highly visible patterns.

"You can get a somewhat similar appearance, but your results with a rotary mower will be much less dramatic," he says.

Varying your mowing pattern may cause you to spend a little more time mowing, but the result will be a greatly improved appearance for your turfgrass. In larger areas, Parish suggests rotating among four patterns – east-to-west, north-to-south, diagonally northeast-to-southwest and diagonally southeast-to-northwest.

"In long, narrow, awkward areas, even alternating between two patterns will help reduce tire tracks and make your lawn look better," Parish says. "In other words, mow like the pros."

Parish also recommends contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about mowing techniques. In addition, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site:


Source: Dick Parish (985) 543-4125 or

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