Regular mowing is essential to the production and maintenance of a good lawn. Unless this is assured, expense and work on all kinds of recommended treatments are of little value.
A first-class lawn needs cutting two or three times a week during periods of vigorous growth and even a very ordinary type of lawn needs cutting at least once a week. Less frequent mowing is adequate when growth is poor but the grass should never be allowed to exceed the chosen height by very much. Even in the winter months occasional topping may be needed when conditions are suitable. Whenever mowing is carried out, the best results are obtained if the surface is dry.
The height of cut depends on the quality of the lawn required and the type of grass sown. There is no need to maintain a lawn at the very short length required for bowls or golf. Such close cutting 5mm (1/2in) causes great strain on the grass plants and even the very fine grasses thrive best at heights of 8-12mm (1-4-in). Other grasses do not survive very well at all when cut at this height even, and so a height of 1-2cm (.5-1in) is more suitable. Even the best varieties of perennial ryegrass, however, should not be cut closer than 2.5cm (1in).
Grass cuttings contain a useful amount of mineral matter in their bulk of moist organic material and allowing cuttings to fall back on the lawn decreases the drain on plant foods which arises when cuttings are removed. On the other hand the organic material is known to encourage disease, weeds, earthworm casting and soft surface conditions so that the best rule is undoubtedly to box off the cuttings and use them elsewhere in the garden.
The essence of a good lawn is uniformity and to get a uniform cut it is necessary to have a smooth surface. The best ways of achieving this are care in the original preparation of the lawn (ie obtaining a smooth seed bed which is sufficiently and uniformly firm to reduce the risk of settlement) and top dressing the existing lawn with sandy compost material so as to gradually smooth out the hollows. Rolling helps, of course, but rolling also causes consolidation which restricts root development and impedes moisture penetration so that it is an operation which must not be overemphasized.
To achieve a really good cut you need a good mower in good condition. Clearly, you cannot achieve a bowling green finish with a second-hand grade C mower. The quality of a mower is generally related to cost, so buy the best you can afford. For really good results you need a good conventional mower giving the maximum number of cuts per yard run. Rotary mowers like a reel lawn mower are undoubtedly very suitable for many purposes but they do not give a first-class finish suitable for the really good lawn. Whatever kind of mower is used, the best results are obtained if it is set correctly, and if regular cleaning, oiling, etc is carried out.
When mowing, start at one edge of the lawn and push the mower continuously, rather than with a ‘push-pull’ motion, until you reach the end of the lawn. Then turn and mow in the other direction, the cut slightly overlapping the first cut. This produces the alternate light and dark bands which so many people admire.
However, to obtain the best results, you should change the direction of mowing each time you cut the lawn. If you cut from north to south at one mowing, cut from east to west next time, and so on. Continuous mowing in one direction only will produce the so-called `washboard’ effect, a series of alternate ridges and hollows.
An exception to the rule of starting at the edge is when a `Cal Trimmer’ mower is used. With this machine the cuttings are not boxed but are left lying in small heaps on the lawn and, to avoid having to spend much time and energy raking them up after mowing, it is better to start by making the first cut down the center of the lawn and then making alternate cuts, first on one side and then on the other of the first cut, in opposite directions. It will be found that most of the clippings will be pushed gradually to the edges of the lawn and may be raked up much more easily or with the last cut may be blown on to flanking flower beds where they will act as a mulch.