A lawn mowing pattern might sound fancy and unnecessary but in fact, every time you are mowing the lawn, you are creating a pattern. Regularly changing up the mowing pattern is not only done for aesthetic purposes but also because it benefits the lawn.
Benefits of Changing Your Lawn Mowing Pattern
When you mow the lawn, the weight of the mower compacts the soil where the tires touch the ground. To minimize impact, it is important to cut the grass so the tires travel in a different track each time.
Mowing the lawn in the same pattern every time also wears out the grass in the tire tracks. This leads to bare spots in which weeds will quickly grow. Reseeding those spots has only limited success because new grass won’t grow well in compacted soil.
How to Pick a Pattern
Whether you stick to the basics of changing up your lawn mowing pattern, or you create one that gives the lawn a manicured look that is the envy of the neighborhood is a question of how much time and effort you want to put into it.
Some lawn cutting pattern can draw the eye inwards and can make a focal point, such as the house, stand out more.
Factors Affecting Lawn Mowing Patterns
The appearance of a pattern very much depends on the angle from you look at it. Grass blades that are bent away from you look lighter because there is a larger blade surface reflecting the light whereas those bent towards you look darker because the blade surface reflecting the light is smaller.
Cutting the lawn in an opposite pattern by alternating the direction of the stripes creates the most contrasting effect, regardless of the viewer’s angle. The sun exposure also plays a role in how intense the pattern looks at different times of the day.
The intensity of the lawn stripes also depends on the length of the cut. Shorter grass blades bend less and thus reflect light less than longer blades. Grass cut to 3 or 3 ½ inches instead of the minimum height of 2 to 2 ½ inches creates considerably more visible striping.
To intensify the stripes, you can use a lawn roller or lawn striper to bend the grass further, a practice used by professional lawn care companies.
Not all grasses are equally suitable for lawn mowing patterns. The more a grass bends, the better the visual effects of the pattern. The visual effects of striping are typically less prominent in warm-season grasses because they are more rigid and bend less than cold-season grasses.
Be mindful of the grass clippings that your lawn mower leaves behind. A heavy accumulation of grass clippings can hamper the visual effect of the stripes, as well as suffocate and kill grass, so make sure that grass clippings are evenly distributed over the lawn.
Common Lawn Mowing Patterns
Unless otherwise noted, it is best to mow around the perimeter of the lawn two to three times to create a clean border that you can use as a visual guideline and for turning.
Always overlap the stripes or rows so the lawn mower does not compact the soil in the exact same track.
Whichever pattern you chose, keep in mind that maintaining a consistent mowing speed ensures more even lines.
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This is the most basic lawn mowing pattern and the one to pick when you need to get the job done in the least amount of time.
Mow in straight rows, avoiding sharp turns. You can change up the pattern—it does not have to be perpendicular all the time, you can also mow stripes diagonal to your house or another focal point on your property.
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Smooth waves are a variation of stripe, but instead of going straight, you use a pleasing curving pattern. Follow the first wave as the guide. Once you get to the edge, make a subtle, 180-degree turn and go in the opposite direction. Make sure to keep the turns consistent throughout entire lawn.
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This pattern is created by mowing two parallel rows next to each other in the same direction and the third in the opposite direction. Once you have created the first three rows, follow that pattern. You might have to double-back on the same row.
The lines become more pronounced when you leave the grass clippings behind, which is a good thing to do in any pattern because it adds nutrients back to the soil.
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There are two ways of starting a circle pattern, outside or inside. For a lawn without any focal points, starting on the outside is best. If you have a tree or another focal point, you can also start inside and work your way to the edge.
Wherever you start this pattern, it is important that you go slowly. Overlapping the tire tracks of your mower is even more important in this pattern because in a circle, the tires create a wider track.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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This variation of the circle creates a spiral pattern. Again, go slowly and make sure to overlap the rows.
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This is the pattern to use if you want to give your yard a baseball park look. The checkerboard effect is created by how the grass blades bend in opposite directions and reflect the light, looking darker and lighter.
Mow the entire lawn in straight rows in one direction, then mow the lawn a second time at a 90-degree angle to the first mowing. Mow the perimeter again at the end to remove any pattern irregularities from turning at the end of the rows and give the lawn a neat look.
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Diamond or Crisscross
Unlike the checkerboard pattern where you mow the lawn twice at a 90-degree angle, you do the second mowing in a diagonal fashion, at a 45-degree angle. To create a reference point, start in the center of the lawn and mow the entire lawn in one direction first, then the second pass in a diagonal angle to create a diamond effect.
Regardless of the pattern, follow the triple golden rule for lawn mowing: mow dry, mow high, mow sharp.
Indiana Drought Fact Sheet for Warm-Season Grasses. USDA NRCS Indiana.