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How to mow: what's the best way?

You can save some time and sweat by mowing a yard in the most efficient way possible. The mowing path you choose can make lawn care easier while also reducing wear on your equipment. If you're using a battery powered or gas mower, efficiently planning your route can also save fuel.

Each yard is a bit different, with unique obstacles and elevation issues. When planning your route, it's important to take those obstacles and heights into account. If you can work a mowing pattern around your trees or birdbath, that means less time wasted walking your mower across previously cleared ground. Also, if you can mow downhill on the steepest parts of your yard and uphill on moderate slopes, the muscles in your legs will be much happier.

The Box Method

Most yards have clear, straight edges that form a square or rectangle. One of the most common ways to mow a yard is to mow along the edges and take 90 degree turns. This creates smaller and smaller squares of unmown grass until the entire yard is mowed. With a riding or push mower, it's generally very easy to take 90 degree turns, and this method gives you good control over the mower head. It does involve a lot of cornering though, and at each turn you lose virtually all of the inertia you've built up pushing your lawn mower on the straightaways. This problem is made even worse by mowing in stripes, because 180 degree turns require intense work to stop the mower and then turn it around.

The Spiral

Another method is the spiral. By making a continuous turn around and around your yard, you conserve inertia and don't have to wrestle as much at the corners. This method is particularly useful for heavy lawnmowers that are difficult to start and stop. If you start mowing in the middle of the yard, you can start mowing around an obstacle in a spiral and then flatten out the spiral as you work your way gradually out to the edges. One downside of the spiral pattern is that it can be difficult to control how much you overlap previously mowed areas. Also, the level of constant effort is higher, because the lawn mower is turning continuously.

The best method will depend on the shape and distribution of your yard. With either the box or spiral mowing pattern, here are a few other things to bear in mind for efficient mowing:

1) Sharpen your blades

Dull blades are difficult to push through the grass, so sharpening the blades regularly can boost efficiency.

2) Less grass equals less resistance

If the grass is particularly thick, you can mow with the blades half on uncleared ground and half on ground you've already covered. Doing so will just about double your mowing area, but it can drastically reduce the amount of effort involved in the process.

3) Mow often to keep grass manageable

It's easier to mow 3 inch tall grass than it is to mow 3 foot tall grass. If you mow often, that will keep the grass at a manageable level. During the growing season, you may need to grow weekly, instead of monthly.

4) Prevent corrosion to save effort

Rust and dents in the machinery can slow down a mower and increase the frustration factor. To prevent damage to the inner workings of your lawn mower, be sure to clear any debris before mowing. Also, once every 6 months or so, apply a light coat of environmentally safe oil to prevent rust.

5) Get creative!

Try different things and see what works best for you!