Lawn Mowing 101

Late April

     If you haven’t been out to mow your lawn yet, you’re just avoiding reality.  The grass is already ahead of you, and you might as well face it.  The lawn mower ritual is being performed once or twice weekly at millions of bluegrass and fescue shrines across the country.

     It’s funny that, as common as this chore is, its procedures are so little discussed. Each of us seems to have our own private method of mowing.  We don’t talk about it much.  We just do the job and go to work the next day and say something like, “Looks like rain.  Glad I mowed the yard last night.”

     I’ve been cutting grass for years.  I have spent my summers panting behind or bouncing on the top of Lawn Boys, Toros, and Snappers.  I can wield a weed-eater with precision, and I’m an expert on dandelions, chickweed, creepers, and grubs.  I’m thoroughly acquainted with brown patch, leaf spot, and snow mold.  But I must admit I still have some basic questions about how to cut the grass.

     First, what pattern are you supposed to follow?  I think that it might be based upon the individual personality of the mower operator.  The no-nonsense person goes back and forth until the entire yard has been done.  People with a more creative bent operate on the perimeter of a square, working inside until all sides meet.  The true artist figures out a system of diagonals or more elaborate designs.  Does anyone really know if one way is better than another?

     I also wonder about some rumors I’ve heard over the years.  One says that you should not move too fast with the mower or you’ll botch the job.  Those of you who have riding mowers with overdrive have obviously decided there’s no truth to this.  Another rumor is that you shouldn’t pull the mower backwards over the grass.  Does the grass really know which way you’re going?

     The lawnmowers themselves, I think, are curious contraptions.  Some take their oil separately and some must have it mixed with the gasoline.  I’ll bet a lot of  people get confused and put oil into the gasoline of mowers that need the pure stuff.  You never hear about it, though.  It’s something nobody ever talks about across the back fence. 

     My own situation is a bit complicated.  I have two mowers that each need the gas/oil mix.  However, one requires a 32:1 blend while the other runs on a leaner 50:1.  Rather than keep two gas cans on hand, I have employed some good old American ingenuity.  I have formulated my own private blend of 41:1, which seems to be a happy medium for both machines.  At least they both run on it without too much sputtering or smoking.  Don’t ask me how I can be sure the mix is exactly 41:1 and not 40:1 or 42:1.  It’s just a system that works for me.

     I guess cutting the grass is like raking the leaves, cleaning out the garage, and washing the car.  You do it the way that seems best for you.  Besides, with the lawn, a poor job isn’t obvious for very long.  The grass covers your mistakes quickly, and you soon get another chance at it.  The secret is to swipe away at it every few days until you get it right, or late October, whichever comes first.