Stay Sharp: How To Keep Your Lawn Mower Blade Working Its Best

lawn mower
Have you ever pondered the sharpness of your lawn mower? If so, you are not alone in your consideration of the sharpness of your mower. You can follow all the mowing tips and mowing best practices available for consumption, but with a dull blade, you won’t get too far. The pros at Spring-Green, your neighborhood lawn care professionals, are here with the tips you need to keep your mower blade sharp and your lawn looking sharp!

Guide To Keeping Your Lawn Mower Blades Sharp

Does a sharp mower blade really matter?

Compare the sharpness of your lawn mower blade to your razor. Your goals of a clean-shaven face would fall flat without a sharp blade, wouldn’t they? An old or dull lawn mower blade can leave your lawn looking less than amazing as well as cause damage to your grass.

If your lawn mower blades are dull and/or damaged, it can actually create long-term issues with your lawn. The dull cut can leave a torn grass blade becomes distressed and more susceptible to pests and diseases. As we work so hard to keep our lawn looking great all summer, the state of our lawn mower can actually undo all that hard work if not maintained properly.

How do I sharpen my mower blade?

Lawn mowers have a few options to sharpen lawn mower blades, ranging from a bench grinder, hand file, rotary tool or angle grinder. Your lawn mower blades can also be sharpened with a drill and sharpening stone designed for sharpening dull lawn mower blades. While every lawn mower make and model is unique, here are some guidelines to removing the blades before sharpening:

  • Some mowers allow you to sharpen the blades without removing them, which saves a lot of time.
  • Taking the blade off, however, does allow you to do a more thorough job and avoid damaging any other part of the mower.
  • Take safety precautions like disconnecting your lawn mower’s ignition wire from the spark plug or removing the battery pack before getting started. Also, drain the gas tank, so there is no chance of a fuel spill while you are sharpening the mower blades.
  • Once you have the mower blades removed, take advantage of this opportunity to clean your mower scraping away any debris that’s hard to reach when the mower is intact.
  • Once you’ve sharpened the mower’s blades, be sure to the blade using a lawn mower blade balancer. This step is important as a lawn mower blade that is out of balances can damage the motor and stress the mower.

How often should mower blades be sharpened?

A commonly-asked question is how often, “Should I sharpen my mower blades?” The answer is it depends. Factors such as the type of mower you use, the age of that mower and the condition of your mower can impact the frequency. Your sharpening frequency will also be impacted by how often you mow and how large the space you are mowing is.

A good rule of thumb would be to sharpen if you notice the grass is not cleanly cut or is uneven. Another good frame of reference is to sharpen your mower after every 20 to 25 hours of use. This could be once a year for small, personal mowers or once a quarter for those who mow large areas more frequently.

How much should I expect to spend on sharpening my mower blades?

Some good news…it doesn’t cost a lot of money to keep your mower blades sharp! If you are a do-it-yourself type, you need to invest in the cost of the sharpener or drill bit which will typically be in the ballpark of $20. Of course, you may have to factor in the value of your time, if you want to get an accurate cost.

If you choose to have a local garden shop do it for you, it will cost a bit more (most likely) but will save you time. For those of you doing the math, if you pay someone to sharpen your blade twice during the lawn mowing season, you’ll likely pay enough to cover the cost of the sharpening tool that you could use to do it yourself for years to come.

A routine check of your lawn mower’s blades is essential to keeping your lawn looking good, feeling healthy and keeping your lawn mower working at optimal levels. Sharpening your lawn mower blades is easy to do yourself or have a local professional assist you.

The professionals at Spring-Green are here to provide you tips for proper lawn mowing. Being locally owned and operated, Spring-Green is able to truly understand the lawn care needs of your area so we can create the best value and most personalized yard care programs for you!

Contact your neighborhood Spring-Green lawn care professional today.

Summer Lawn Care: Mowing and Watering Tips

summer mowing and watering tips

It’s summer, which means it’s hot, and in many cases, dry. Lawns are showing the effects of these stress factors. It is critical to the health of the lawn to water properly and to set the mower to cut the lawn at a higher setting.

Mowing Your Lawn Properly

One of the most common problems that Lawn Care Operators face involve lawns that are mowed too short. Many homeowners are under the impression that if they cut the lawn short, they don’t have to mow as often. To a certain extent that is true, but by mowing short, the lawn will not grow well since it is trying to recover from the loss of food that was being produced by the grass blades. This is NOT a healthy practice to follow as it will weaken the lawn.

Here are the four main reasons why a lawn needs to be cut at a longer length:

  1. The grass blade is the food producing part of the plant. When mowed short, less photosynthesis is taking place until the plant grows a new grass blade.
  2. The longer grass blade will shade the ground underneath, keeping it cooler and inhibiting water evaporation. The lawn will require less water when cut at a higher length.
  3. By shading the ground underneath, less sun will reach the soil and there will be less chance for weed seeds to heat up and germinate. Having longer grass will help reduce weed growth.
  4. It is a natural balance of nature that the roots will grow in depth to match the height of the lawn. This does not mean that the grass should be mowed at 6 inches, but it does mean that the roots will be better developed and grow deeper than a lawn where the grass is cut short.

Many commercial lawn maintenance companies mow too short, stating that is what their customers want. It is important to discuss the mowing height requirements with the company that mows the lawn and find one that will mow at the proper height. These are the recommended summer mowing heights for common lawn grasses in the US:

• Bermuda Grass 1-1/2”
• Zoysia Grass 1-1/2”
• Centipede Grass 2”
• St Augustine Grass 3-1/2 ”
• Tall Fescue Grass 4”
• Bluegrass 3”
• Perennial Ryegrass 3”
• Fine Fescue 3-1⁄2”

Watering Your Lawn

Watering is the second most misunderstood lawn care practice. Unless the lawn has an automatic sprinkler system, watering can be a laborious task. Moving around hoses and sprinklers can be tedious and remembering to turn on and off the water can be difficult, especially when not at home during the day. The best time to water a lawn is during the early morning and try to avoid watering at night. The prime conditions for diseases to develop in a lawn is when it is cooler, there is a good deal of available moisture on the grass blades and the sun has set for the day.

Either water a lawn on a consistent basis or allow it to go dormant. Except in extreme drought conditions, most grasses can survive for about 30 days without water. Watering enough to stimulate new growth and then allowing the lawn to go back into dormancy, time and time again will use up the plant’s carbohydrate reserves – increasing its susceptibility to disease and insect infestations. If you are going to water, be consistent and provide one inch of water per week, regardless if you are doing it manually or have a sprinkler system.

If you do have a sprinkler system, be sure you have your system checked by a professional company. Many Spring-Green locations offer lawn irrigation system maintenance check-ups during the summer. This is a great idea to ensure that all sections of the lawn are receiving adequate water and there are no leaks or damaged heads. It is also a great time to update your system with rain gauges and moisture sensors to provide water when it is needed and not every day.

Feel free to contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green if you’re interested in learning more about our Irrigation System Maintenance program.

Mowing and Watering Tips to Avoid a Brown Lawn

bad mowing brown lawn

Spring-Green often gets asked, “why is my lawn turning brown?” or “why do I have a brown lawn and my neighbors don’t?”Often people think that the reason their lawn is brown is due to insect or disease activity. In most cases, the damage is usually the result of improper mowing and watering. Learn these mowing and watering tips to help avoid a brown lawn, and ensure a healthier and greener one.

Mowing Tips To Avoid a Brown Lawn

The number one reason for most lawn damage and having a brown lawn is improper mowing. Here are the proper mowing heights for the most common grasses found in home lawn areas:

  • Bermuda Grass 1/2 to 1-1/2”
  • Zoysia Grass 3/4 to 1-1/2”
  • Centipede Grass 1-1/2 to 2”
  • St Augustine Grass 3-1/2 to 4”
  • Tall Fescue Grass 3 to 4”
  • Kentucky Bluegrass 2 to 3”
  • Perennial Ryegrass 2 to 3”
  • Fine Fescue 2-1⁄2 to 3-1⁄2”

There is a rule in regards to how much to cut off each time a lawn is mowed and it is called the “one-third” rule. The goal is to mow so that no more than 1/3 of the grass blade is removed at any one time.  That is not always practical, especially when it seems to rain every weekend, which is the only time most people mow their lawns. If the lawn mower is set at the proper height, even if more than a third of the grass blade is removed, the grass will still look like a green and healthy lawn after mowing.

It is important to understand why mowing at a higher setting is important to the overall health of your lawn.

4 tips why the lawn should be cut at a longer length:

  1. The grass blade is where photosynthesis takes place. That is how the plant produces food.  When too much of the grass blade is cut off, less food will be produced by the plant.
  2. The longer grass blades will shade the ground underneath, keeping it cooler and, therefore, moister for a longer period of time, so watering requirements are reduced.
  3. By shading the ground, less sun is able to reach weed seeds that are always present in the lawn and prevent them from germinating. Mowing tall is one of the best ways to control weeds.
  4. It is a natural balance of nature that the roots will match the height of the grass plants. Short mowing will result in short roots.

How Much Should I Water My Lawn?

Watering is the second most misunderstood cultural practice. Homeowners either water too much or too little. As a general rule, a lawn needs about 1 inch of water per week to stay green and healthy.  Automatic sprinkler systems in the spring and summer make watering great, but watering too much can lead to turfgrass that is more water dependent than it needs to be. Too much water also saturates the soil, filling up the air space between the soil particles with water, causing the plant to drown. Watering less and letting the turf dry out between watering will develop deeper roots that need less water.

Turfgrass is a remarkable plant and can recover even after some extremely dry weather or drought. For the most part, cool-season grasses can go about 4 weeks without water. Warm season grasses can last much longer with little to no water and, in some cases, will survive through the entire growing season. There is no mistaking that lawns will go dormant and and cause a brown lawn. This is the plant’s defense mechanism – to shut off all unnecessary growth in an attempt to keep the crown and roots alive. At a minimum, supply about one-half an inch of water to the lawn each month to protect the crown and roots.

Before thinking you have a brown lawn due to an insect or disease problem, determine if you are mowing and watering the proper way. Contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green to have your entire lawn evaluated today.

 

Robotic Lawn Mowers, Are They Right For You?

robotic mower

Recently, there has been some buzz surrounding automatic mowing systems, or robotic lawn mowers. These robotic mowers will cut your lawn in the same manner as a Roomba® vacuuming system cleans carpeting inside your home. What an amazing idea! Right?

How Do Robotic Lawn Mowers Work?

Robotic lawn mowers are actually not a new phenomena at all, but something that’s been available for over 30 years. Once the microprocessor was invented and electronics became much smaller, lots of interesting ideas for labor saving devices started showing up in the marketplace, including the robotic lawn mower. Typically, to set up your robotic mower you need to install a low voltage wire around the perimeter of your yard. This wire acts as an “out of bounds” marker for the mower, telling it where and where not to go. Some other versions are fully automatic and will follow a pre-planned path around your yard. Just like the Roomba®, the robotic lawn mower works by returning to a docking station when it is finished mowing or when it begins to run out of “juice”.

Robotic Lawn Mower, Pros and Cons

What About the Price?

It sounds like a great idea, but this time savor does have it’s share of drawbacks. First of all, a robotic lawn mower is an expensive gadget. Prices start around $1,000 for a basic model and can go as high as $5,000! Doing a quick search on Amazon, you can find a few models that start at less than a thousand dollars, but regardless it’s still an expensive toy. Like I mentioned earlier, most the models require a direction wire installed around the perimeter of your yard, so that the mower knows where to stop and turn around. Depending on the size of your yard, this could take one person most of the day to install.

Which Robot Mower Should I Choose?

The size of your lawn also dictates the size of the unit you should purchase. Some models will mow up to an acre worth of grass. The down side is that with size does come cost, so the models that manage an acre are the more expensive choices. When it comes to choosing the right robotic mower for your lawn, a variety of manufacturers to choose from, is to your advantage. There are several different companies that make robotic lawn mowers, so it is important to make sure the features and capabilities of the model your researching meet your needs.

RoboticLawnMower2_635x300

Are Robot Mowers Better for My Lawn?

From a technical stand point, mowing the lawn on a daily basis and recycling the clippings back on to the lawn is a great idea. On most models, you can set the cutting height to almost three inches which is ideal. I have not seen any studies that compare daily mowing against once a week mowing, but it probably is better for the turf. Also, the weight of a traditional mower is much greater than a robot mower, so using the robot will lessen soil compaction on your turf.

I am not sure if the robot mower is a passing fad or something that will be around forever. I would definitely be interested in trying one out, if someone wants to let me do a “trial-run” for a few years. Since the likelihood of that happening is rather low, I guess I am stuck mowing the old fashioned way. Drat.

Spring-Green is committed to innovation in all forms of lawn care. Learn more about our services, or contact your local Spring-Green to request a free estimate for your lawn care needs, today.

Spring Lawn Care Tips: Your Guide to Mowing, Seeding & Fertilizing

spring lawn care tips

Now that lawns are beginning to become green throughout the country, many people start to get anxious to seed and fertilize and, believe it or not, mow their lawns—and they’re looking for the spring lawn care tips to get them on the right track. (For me, having to start mowing my lawn again is a chore, although not a difficult one. Maybe this is the year I hire an outside service to handle this work for me… On second thought, maybe not, as no one can mow my lawn better than what I can do.)

Tip #1: Mow High

I have written on the subject of mowing many times in the past, but it bears repeating. Proper mowing is the key to having a green, healthy, and more weed-free lawn, and it’s the #1 spring lawn care tip I consistently tell people. Unless your lawn turned completely brown during the winter, start mowing at the highest recommended height for the type of grass growing in your lawn. Bermuda and Zoysia should be mowed shorter—around 1 ½ to 2 inches. Centipede lawns should be mowed at about 2 inches, and St. Augustine at 2 ½ inches. Bluegrass and perennial Ryegrass should be mowed at 2/12 to 3 inches and Tall Fescue at 3 to 4 inches high. Set your mower at the appropriate height at the first mowing and leave it at that level for the rest of the summer. If your area experiences drought-like weather, it is better to mow a notch even higher.

Tip #2: Seed Smart

Many people want to seed in the spring. This is an okay practice as long as you take into account a couple of important lawn care tips. First, for those in the warm-season turfgrass areas, the availability and success rate for growing new grass from seed is usually low. If your lawn has cool-season grasses, you may end up battling weeds for a good part of the summer as you wait until the plants are mature enough to apply weed control products.

Pro spring lawn care tip: If you seed in the spring, you cannot apply any commercially available crabgrass control materials for as long as 4 months after seeding. If crabgrass has been a problem in your lawn in the past, it would be better to get that under control first and seed at the best time for cool-season grasses: late summer to early fall.

Tip #3: Fertilize Carefully

Finally, spring is a great time to fertilize your lawn. As the plants start growing in the spring, they are using up the food that was stored in the roots during last summer and fall. Pushing out new plants will use up a lot of that stored food and it needs to be replaced. Just don’t overdo it – too much fertilizer can either damage the lawn with fertilizer burns or push out too much top growth instead of helping the roots grow better and deeper.

It is great to see lawns and landscapes beginning to wake up from their long winter’s nap. By following a few basic practices, your lawn and landscape will improve and provide you with a pleasant outdoor environment.

Your local Spring-Green owner has countless other spring lawn care tips—and recommendations for summer, fall, and winter. Get in touch today!

Mow It High: How to Get Rid of Weeds and Have a Healthy Lawn

mowing higher is better for your lawn

When someone asks me to tell them the secret to getting rid of weeds and having a healthy lawn I always say the same thing: mow high. Cutting the grass too short is probably the most abused cultural practice by the average homeowner. I think the cause is due to a syndrome called the “Golf Course Syndrome” or “I want my lawn to look like a golf course putting green.”

Your Lawn Is Not a Golf Course.

The first thing to understand is that a golf course is all about having nice-looking greens, tees and fairways. They spend large amounts of money making it look that way. The second thing is that the average home lawn does not have the same type of grass that can be found on a golf course, nor do homeowners spend an equivalent amount of money caring for it. Finally, golf courses use mowing equipment that is completely different from what the average homeowner uses.

I recently participated in a webinar called Managing Broadleaf and Grassy Weeds in Warm-Season Turf, hosted by Landscape Management Magazine and sponsored by NuFarm Chemical Company. The co-presenter on the webinar was Dr. Jim Brosnan, Associate Professor, Turfgrass Weed Science at the University of Tennessee. During his presentation, Dr. Brosnan included the results of a study conducted by two researchers from Ohio State and Oklahoma State University, who determined that by raising the mowing height by 1/64 of an inch, photosynthesis will increase by 13%.

That is an amazing statistic. It goes along well with what I have been telling people for years; the shorter you mow, the less food the plant can produce. So, give your lawn a break and mow high. It will be greener, healthier and more weed free if you do!

A Nice looking Lawn – Expert Lawn Care Tips

If your lawn still needs help, give us a call! Your local Spring-Green owner is well versed in all aspects of lawn care, including disease treatments, grass care, weed control, and more.

The #1 Lawn Care Tip for the Best Lawn in the Neighborhood

top lawn tip

I have been asked the same question by customers, friends and relatives: “What is the secret to a nice lawn?” Many people think that it is some special fertilizer formulation or water, or even a particular species of turf grass, but the answer is fairly simple –proper mowing.

How a lawn is mowed has more impact on your lawn than anything else you can do, or all the other lawn care tips you’ll read. Here’s why:

  1. The grass blade is the food producing part of the plant. The shorter you cut it, the less food the plant produces.
  2. The longer grass blade will shade the ground underneath, keeping it cooler, which means it will not dry out as fast. Therefore, you don’t have to water as much.
  3. By shading the soil surface, less sunlight will reach weed seeds that are in every lawn. Mowing high is one of the best ways to control weeds, and that is the reason it’s our #1 lawn care tip.
  4. Mowing height has a direct effect on how deep the plant’s root will grow. The shorter you mow your grass, the shallower the roots will grow, which means the lawn has to be watered more often.

Many people think that if they mow their lawn short, then they don’t have to mow it as often. The thought is correct, but it is not a good idea. Mowing short can severely stress a lawn as it has to use up carbohydrate reserves in the root system to grow a new plant. Mowing a lawn short week after week will leave it in a weakened state, resulting in an increase of weed, disease, and insect pressure.

Here is a list of the best mowing heights for the most popular grasses. Use the higher height during the heat of the summer.

  • Bermuda grass 1.5 to 2”
  • Zoysia grass 1.5 to 2”
  • Centipede grass 1.0 to 1.5”
  • St. Augustine grass 3 to 4”
  • Tall Fescue 3 to 4”
  • Kentucky Blue grass 2.5 to 3”
  • Perennial Rye grass 2.5 to 3”
  • Fine Fescue 2.5 to 3”

So, now you know! The answer to a nice looking lawn is simple – mow high.

Does your yard need a little more help? Get more in-depth lawn care tips on diseases, seasonal topics, and tree and shrub care in the Spring-Green Lawn Care Guide.

Mulching Leaves: Why Mowing Is Better Than Raking

Leaves Covering a Backyard

Let me start this post with a fact: I hate raking leaves.

Being a homeowner with several large trees on my property and in neighboring properties, I always looked upon fall with anger and loathing as I knew I had to rake up all those leaves that came dancing down this time of year. The amount is consistently extensive… one day I wake up to find a sea of leaves where my once beautiful lawn resided! I always tell people that I have the world’s largest Silver Maple. Its diameter is 4 feet! If I’m being realistic, it most likely is NOT the world’s largest… but we don’t have to tell anyone else that!

The Silver Maple is truly huge and beautiful and provides excellent shade during the summer. In the fall, every one of those beautiful shade-casting leaves drops onto my lawn causing such a mess. I used to spend hours raking up all the leaves, putting them in plastic bags so that they could be shipped off to the local landfill. As time went on, laws changed and I had to put the leaves in a special paper bag so that the yard waste could be taken to the local recycling center. Not only did I have to buy special bags, but each bag had to have a sticker attached to it and each sticker cost about $1.75. I would easily fill thirty or forty of the special yard waste bags each fall. Such an expense!

Then, about five years ago, I attended a turf conference that changed my fall yard duties forever! The speaking professor said that there was really no reason to rake up all those leaves. Just mulch them up with your mower and they will decompose over the winter. His advice about mulching leaves was one of those AH-HA moments we occasionally have in our life, and I felt a renewed desire to like fall again.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about mulching leaves, especially when the layer of mulched leaves in certain sections of my lawn reached about 6 inches in depth. I thought that the grass underneath would be suffocated by the thick layer of leaves, but I figured the professor would not lead me astray and waited to see what happened to my beautiful lawn the following spring.

I live in the Chicagoland area, and winters can be brutal to say the least. It can be bone-chilling cold, it can be cloudy for weeks at a time, and the snow can range in depth from a couple of inches to several feet. It may not seem like the best weather to encourage the decomposition of organic matter. I was pleasantly surprised the following spring to see that the layers of leaves were gone and my lawn looked fine. In fact it seemed greener and grew better the following year!

Hopefully, you figured out the lesson here – you don’t have to rake your leaves, just mulch them. Of course, there are always exceptions. If a tree or shrub on your property suffered from a leaf disease, it is advisable to rake up and dispose of those leaves. Diseases like apple scab, powdery mildew, bacterial leaf scorch and tar spot on maples will leave behind spores on the leaves that can re-infect your trees if they are left on the lawn.
Fall is a great time of year and you should enjoy it, not spend every weekend raking leaves.

Mulching leaves is pretty easy, but there are other projects you should leave to the professionals for a healthy, weed-free lawn. Ready to get started with your customized lawn care plan? Talk to your local franchise owner today!