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How do you make stripes in the grass when mowing?

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One of the most striking features of a well-manicured lawn, most notably in stadiums and golf courses, is lawns with stripes of different shades of green. This feature is pleasing to the eye and strongly associated with lawn quality and care.

The effect is a product of light reflection. The alternate grass lanes absorb or reflect more light from the observer’s perspective. Grass leaning away from the observer exposes the more reflective underside of the grass blades and therefore appears lighter.

Table of Contents

Achieving stripes on your lawn is an attainable goal. This article will explore all the factors contributing to more distinct lawn stripes when mowing grass. In detail, we will discuss elements such as grass type, lawn length, and striping kits. If you’re interested in having the best-looking lawn in the neighborhood, read on.

Regional Grass Types

The basis of a healthy, lush lawn is planting the right seed for your region’s climate and soil type. When you mow stripes in the grass, the effect is optimized by several factors; density of foilage, leaf’s broadness, and blade length.

stripes mown into grass

The U.S. has two main categories of turfgrass or lawns: Grass that thrive in warmer regions and grasses that are more suited for colder winters and fluctuating temperatures. Warm-season grasses grow well in the southern, southeastern, and Gulf Coast regions of the U.S. Cool-season grasses do better in the northern, northeastern, upper Midwest, and Pacific Northwest regions.

There are hundreds of grass variants and continued research to produce usage-specific sods for different climates and applications. The July/August 2019 issue of Turf News, published by Turfgrass Producers International (TPI), has an extensive list of customized grass. Alternatively, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests each region’s climate-appropriate grass cultivars.

If you want to research State-specific options, you could search the extension program sites for each State.

Cool & Warm Season Turfgrass

Cool-season grasses can endure a broad range of temperatures, including extreme cold. Warm-season grasses typically thrive in the southern regions of the U.S. These grasses will be dormant in the fall and winter.

Cool Season Turf GrassWarm Season Turf Grass
  • Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Bermudagrass
  • Ryegrass
  • St. Augustine Grass
  • Fine Fescue
  • Zoysia grass
  • Tall Fescue
  • Bahiagrass
  • Creeping Bentgrass
  • Centipede grass
  • Warm Season Turfgrass
  • Buffalograss (a native grass)
  • Because the blades of warm-season grasses are stiffer and more rigid, they don’t stay bent over as long. That said, I have seen good results on pitches with Zoysia Grass. Of course, a stripe-effect cheat on YouTube used a cylinder mower at different heights for each directional pass on Bermudagrass.

    Mowing Grass

    The general rule for lawn mowing, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also supports, is: Mow high, often, and with sharp blades. Ensuring that you keep your lawn a bit longer will produce stronger, healthier grass with fewer pest problems.

    Longer grass has a more exposed leaf surface, allowing it to absorb more sunlight for photosynthesis and chlorophyll formation, which contribute to a healthy-looking lawn. Longer leaves enable the grass to thicken, allowing a deeper root structure to emerge.

    A well-established root system aids the grass’s ability to withstand drought, insect damage, and disease: the taller your grass, the cooler your ground stays, and the more able to hold moisture. Taller grass also makes it difficult for weeds to germinate and grow.

    The ideal length of your lawn depends on the grass type. A safe rule-of-thumb is between two-and-a-half to four inches. You may need to adjust your mower as most are set too low. Also, the longer your grass, the easier it is to get it to lean over for the stripe effect.

    Ensure your mower blades are sharp to avoid tearing and injuring your grass. For $10 to $15, you can get a replacement to have one sharpened while using the other.

    Never cut more than a third of a leaf’s length off. Cutting more off per cutting will stunt the lawn and allow disease and weeds to take hold. Regular, minor cutting is better than occasional, more severe cuts. In peak growing season, that could mean mowing up to three times a week.

    You can save on fertilizer by leaving clippings on the grass. The clippings are full of essential nitrogen, and sending it off to a landfill isn’t optimal usage of resources.

    Mow Stripes in Grass

    As discussed in the intro to this article, stripes are a product of differences in reflected light on mowing lanes. The reflection of light on grass is a factor of length, angle, and grass type. In the previous section, we reviewed lawn height. Now let us consider the pitch element, both the grass blade and the sun.

    Ideally, you want your newly cut grass to lean toward the mower’s motion. For optimal sun reflection, this will be in a general East-West direction. If your plot shape makes that impractical, it’s not essential.

    Universally, there are two mower types: cylinder mowers and rotary mowers. Without a doubt, cylinder mowers give the best striping results. This is because these mowers are generally self-propelled by a drum. Also, the curring edge’s position pushes the grass in the direction of motion after the cylinder’s cut.

    This means that all the grass blades are bent and rolled flat in the direction of the mower’s movement.

    A rotary blade mower works on the principles of suction and slicing. The angled blade operates as a fan that sucks air in from the sides of the bell-shaped blade housing, drawing the grass upward toward the top. The blade then slices the top of the glass leaf off, blowing the clipping out.

    If the cutting edge rotates clockwise, the left half of the mower is cutting with a forward motion and the right side with a backward motion.

    Each blade of grass on the left side of the mower is subject to being pushed left, forward, and right. Grass on the right side of the mower is subject to being forced right, back, and left repeatedly.

    Therefore, the post-cut direction is less uniform than the cylinder mower.

    Fortunately, there are ways to force post-cut leaning in the direction of motion. These may include attaching a weighted roller or a flat iron assembly behind the mower to rake or roll or rake and roll the freshly cut grass in the direction of movement. j

    There are a variety of rollers commercially available, or you could make a contraption for yourself. The essential elements to consider are weight and width. The test is in the lean of the lawn after you have passed over it.

    The width of a stripe is usually the same as the mower’s width. However, with some pre-planning, you could create several patterns. If your lawn size is big enough, you may cut, comb, and roll your lanes double-width. On smaller domestic lawns, more refined lines look better.

    You could also add diagonal lines on top of the vertical lines. The limits are in your imagination.

    When creating stripes, remember that the sun’s angle is essential for better visibility. Cloudy days and midday sun will lessen the effect, so plan your presentations accordingly. Warm-season turfgrass stripes seldom last more than two days.

    How to Mow Stripes That Stand Out

    stripes mown into grass

    I’ve seen the best possible results on a Tall Fescue/Kentucky Bluegrass mix of 3-inch length. That is just my opinion. Warm-season grasses can also stripe well but with a little more effort. This here is just my take on what would deliver the best results.

    I would use a cylinder mower on the above grass mix, mowing a bit slower to maximize the compaction time on the individual blades of grass. I would even consider adding a weighted rubber-tooth harrow behind the mower to enhance the bend of the grass toward mow, but that may be overkill.

    Also, I will show the grass before irrigating it, as the water will cause the lawn to stand erect, its natural posture.

    Remember, stripes are purely cosmetic and do not contribute to having a healthier lawn. That said, they do not harm your grass either.

    Precursors to Successful Stripes

    Lawn health is an essential element to mowing stripes that pop. Let’s start at the very beginning; soil preparation. I strongly advise that you get your soil tested. This will cost you in the region of six dollars and will save ten times that.

    If your pH is low, i.e., your soil is acidic, you may need to add some lime. Lime does no harm, is inexpensive, and may help your lawn do much better. Remember, your lawn absorbs nutrients better if slightly acidic. A pH between 6.5 and 7 is optimal. If your soil is too alkaline, add some sulfur to sour it up.

    The essential lawn nutrients are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Of these three, nitrogen is like grass steroids; it boosts growth and adds depth of color.

    That said, please do the world kindness and don’t overdo it. Your lawn can only absorb so much. Excess nitrogen runs off and seeps into local water tables. The run-off ends up in lakes and rivers, causing the proliferation of unwanted vegetation.

    Also, lawns grow best in loam soil, a mixture of sand, clay, and silt. Adding organic matter, such as compost and manure, will help with acidity, composition, and nutrients. When adding manure, take note of this EPA brochure for more information on the risks of contaminants. My advice – get input from a local expert on soil amendment and fertilizers.

    Plant your grass seeds in the prepared soil by spreading them evenly and then raking them about an inch deep. You can also use sprigs or off-shoots of your grass cultivar to propagate your lawn. Again, make sure your base soil is well-prepared, flat, and even.

    The hours spent doing this will save you days of work in the future and allow you to create a magnificent lawn.

    You may want to deep-soak your lawn to about 6 inches regularly in peak-growth seasons. Please consider that water is a limited, essential resource. Watering your grass correctly once a week is more effective than daily light watering for growth and resources.

    Conclusion how do you make stripes in the grass when mowing

    Few things are more satisfying than the visibility of a job well done. A well-cared-for lawn speaks volumes for the occupants of a home. Striping your lawn draws attention to your yard, a subtle yet definite statement that you care for what is yours.

    Mowing is an exciting task, but it’s not an easy physical task. If you’re a beginner, I wrote an article on how to mow a lawn for beginners. You can read it here.

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