Striping a lawn can create a dramatic effect and elevate the lawn to a new level. When people refer to wanting their grass to look like a golf course, they usually mean the look of the striping rather than the health of the turf. Alternating mowing patterns by 90 degrees or 45 degrees adds to the aesthetic and is good for the grass.
What is Striping?
Striping is nothing more than pushing the grass down in one direction and then the other, as you mow.
Similar to the grain on suede or velvet, the effect is two different shades of green, a light and a dark. The effect of stripes you see on a lawn or playing field is simply light reflecting off the grass blades. Blades bent towards you look dark, while those bent the opposite way look lighter. You can see some of the same effects with normal mowing, and creating patterns just takes it a step further.
How Do They Do It?
The bold striping on a golf course or ball field is usually achieved with a finely tuned reel mower with rollers in the front and back of the mower. The first roller is sometimes grooved, and aids in lining up the grass for an even cut by the reel. The reel cuts in a way that pushes the grass down in one direction, and the rear, weighted roller pushes the grass down a final time. Commercial grade reel mowers like those found on golf course and ball fields, are very high tech machines and priced extremely high for the average homeowner
How Do I Get Stripes?
Riding or walking rotary mowers can be fitted with striping kits. You can buy a striping kit online or find instructions on how to build one yourself. A striping kit is attached to the rear of the mower or right behind the mowing deck. It can range from a weighted back roller assembly to a firm rubber flap or brushes to lay the grass down.
Home made attachments made of PVC or lumber can also do a decent job of striping a lawn. If you are unable to do it yourself, many lawn care companies are now equipped with striping mowers.
You may have trouble striping a lawn comprised of certain low growing warm season grasses like Bermuda grass. The low growth habit and coarse leaf blade will not allow it to lay over.
Picking a Pattern
Before you start mowing, decide on the pattern you want to create. It may help -- especially when doing this the first time -- to make a sketch of how the pattern will fit the layout of your lawn. The possibilities are practically endless, but stripes, checkerboards, and diamonds are the most common patterns.
Unless you're purposely creating a wavy pattern, take care to mow in a straight line. Start by mowing parallel to a straight sidewalk or driveway. To keep mowing straight, look at least 10 feet in front of you while you mow, rather than at the ground right in front of the mower. When you come to the end of a row, lift the mower deck as you turn, then mow in the opposite direction next to your previous pass.
To create a checkerboard, mow the lawn a second time at 90 degrees to your first mowing. Finish by mowing a strip around the edges of the lawn.