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Strategies for a Healthy Lawn

Getting whacked by a heavy machine stresses grass. Follow these tips to limit the trauma.

Sharpen the blade. A dull blade rips grass, leaving jagged edges that turn brown, are slow to heal, and invite disease. Start each mowing season with a sharp-edged blade, and resharpen it in July or any time you nick a rock, root, or large branch. To hone your sharpening skills, visit

Don't cut too much at once. Trim no more than one-third of the grass blades' overall height at a time; that's optimum for mulching and won't slow down the engine. Sticking to a weekly mowing schedule helps you stay on that one-third target, but after a growth spurt or missed week, raise the deck and make two shallow passes instead of one deep cut. If clippings are too long to mulch, collect them in a bag.

Leave the grass long. A lawn with 3- to 4-inch-long grass blades does a better job of blocking weeds, keeping the soil moist, and growing deep, drought-resistant roots. A shorter cut in the fall makes leaf raking easier.

Rotate the patterns. To avoid compacting the soil, vary your mowing pattern. If you mow left to right one weekend, go up and down the next time and diagonally after that. If you go in a circle, reverse directions each week.

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