David Mellor, a groundskeeper at Boston's Fenway Park and author of the book, The Lawn Bible, says his "favorite way to draw attention" to his lawn is to mow a checkerboard pattern or diamond pattern into his grass. The process is known generally as "striping." According to David, "You'll need a mower, of course, and a roller for highlighting the pattern." Note: Weighted lawn rollers are available for purchase or rent at most lawn and garden supply stores.
That roller is the key. As in many DIY projects, the concept behind mowing checkerboard patterns is remarkably simple and is based on the fact that the roller will push and bend the grass in one direction, causing it to mat down. You just have to have the right equipment. It also helps to have the right kind of lawn grass: Generally speaking, cool-season grasses are better for striping than are warm-season grasses.
Achieve a checkerboard pattern in the grass by following these few easy steps if you are using a walk-behind mower (the basic concept applies more or less in the same way to riding mowers):
- Mow the grass in one direction—let's say north to south, by way of example—then come back with a parallel cut south to north. You essentially mow your lawn as you would normally, except for the presence of the roller attachment.
- Each time that you get to the end of a row and need to turn your lawnmower around, make sure you push down on the handle so as to raise the mower deck off the ground so that the blade is not cutting while you are making the turn.
- The result will be one dark stripe running parallel to one lighter stripe.
- Repeat step #2 until you have mowed the whole lawn this way, thereby creating alternating dark and lighter stripes.
- Then switch orientation and do the same at an angle perpendicular to what you have just done—that is, mow up east to west, back down west to east, etc.—until you have mowed the whole lawn.
- Since the mowing in step #5 will somewhat blur the lighter lines created in steps #2 and #4, mow over just these lighter stripes once again.
- Mow the perimeter of your lawn as a finishing touch, giving your turf masterpiece a "frame" of sorts.
Tips for Beginners
The stripes that you are creating in mowing a checkerboard pattern are really just an optical illusion. The appearance of stripes results from the way light reflects off the blades of grass in each row. When the roller has bent the blades towards you, the result is a dark-looking stripe; the grass blades bent the other way seem to be lighter.
When mowing checkerboard patterns into your lawn, do not forget the same old, basic rules that apply to mowing grass regardless of whether or not you are creating patterns.