The Basics of Austin Lawn Mowing


3 Quick Tips for Proper Lawn Mowing

Mowing your lawn sounds like a pretty simple task, but you may be surprised to learn that many Austin homeowners simply do not do it properly. Follow these 3 simple guidelines to ensure that your mowing is growing your lawn as opposed to harming it. Additionally, if you hire a local lawn mowing service, be sure to make sure that they abide by these best practices.

1) Mow at the proper height

First, it's important to understand what grass type you have, as this will determine your mowing height. Here in Austin, lawns typically consist of either St. Augustine grass or Bermuda grass. If you have St. Augustine grass, you should cut your grass to a height of 2.5 inches or so. For Bermuda grass you'll want to cut the grass a little shorter, between 1.5-2 inches. You should be able to set your mower height prett easily.

No matter what type of grass you've had, the rule of thumb is to never cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade length. Many people try and wait 3-4 weeks before they mow, and end up cutting a significant portion of the grass blade off. Over time, this practice will lead to a shabby lawn.

To illustrate this concept, think of a hayfield. Hay is essentially really long grass. Once it's harvested, you're left with a barren field of brown grass shoots. These grass shoots are dead as could be, because over 90% of the grass is cut off.

2) Keep your lawn mowing blade sharp!

Most people never sharpen or change their mowing blades. This is a big problem. It's easy for a lawn care professional to take a look at a lawn and see if the grass cutting blade was sharp or not. If you inspect a blade of grass and it looks tattered or brown on the top, your mower blade is too dull.

When the blade is dull, it does not provide a clean cut. It tears the grass instead of cutting grass, and this is terrible for growth. In the case of extremely dull mowing blades, you may even see grass torn up at the root. Clearly, this is a bad sign.

You generally want to change or sharpen your mowing blade once a year, assuming you're only cutting your own grass. Professional lawn mowing services will sharpen or change their blades every day or two.

Sharpening a mower blade is easy to do for us grease monkeys who are used to using bench grinders and metal files. It isn't difficult at all to do, but be careful taking your mowing blade off of your mower! Before taking the mower blade off, you MUST disconnect the spark plug or else you risk starting the engine and cutting your hand off. Check out this video to learn more.

For those of us who would rather not hassle with sharpening the mower blade, you can usually buy a brand new one for around $20. But again, be careful removing the blade.

3) Mulch your grass clippings

Clippings refer to the portion of the grass blade that is removed during mowing. The clippings contain valuable nutrients that are beneficial to your lawn. It's best to use a mulching blade, which chops up the grass into really fine bits. These small grass clippings will fall to the bottom of the grass blades, decompose, and provide valuable fertilizer. Plus, who wants to deal with bagging clippings anyway?

Another use of grass clippings, if you must bag them, is to use them as compost. A good chunk of one of our Rollingwood lawn service customers' yard is a vegetable garden, and nearly all of his fertilizer comes from composted grass clippings and leaves.

When taking care of your Texas lawn, be sure to give it the care it deserves. If you do nothing else, make sure you're lawn mowing is done properly. If you hire a lawn care professional, be sure to ask how often he sharpens his blades, and inspect the grass post mowing to ensure that you're getting a nice, clean cut.

What kind of Grass Do I Have?

Grass does so much more than the average homeowner imagines. It not only looks beautiful when properly maintained, but also:

1) Acts as a natural filter for water funneling down into underground waterways/wells

2) Absorbs water from rain or other sources, thus preventing flooding

3) Prevents soil erosion

4) Benefits the environment by enhancing air quality. It does this by absorbing particles and various gasses from the environment and in turn emitting oxygen.

Just think about it; your grass is the main platform for your entire lawn. Ultimately your lawn is the picture frame to your house. Would you put a Picasso painting in a cheap picture frame? No! then don't do that to your house. The point is that your lawn is important, and to understand your lawn, you must understand the type of grass you have.

Now that we understand the importance of grass, let's understand a little more about identifying what kind of grass you have. In Austin, Texas there are quite a few different types of grass you may have growing on your lawn.

Bermuda Grass

Let's begin by discussing Bermuda grass. Bermuda grass actually originally came from Africa, not Bermuda. It is a very durable grass that fares well in high temperatures. These two qualities make it the most common grass in the south. The grass overall has a smooth feeling, is fine bladed, and is many times used on golf courses. If planting Bermuda grass, the best time to do so is in the Spring. Also, keep in mind that it doesn't grow well in the shade, so be careful if you have lots of trees in your yard

Centipede Grass

Next let's talk about Centipede grass. Centipede grass is a thick, coarse-textured grass that grows stems about 3-5 inches apart. It is a warm season grass and does not need to be maintained very frequently. Centipede grass has better shade tolerance than Bermuda grass.

St. Augustine Grass

The unique feature about St. Augustine grass is the fact that it grows at an incredibly fast pace. In turn, it does require over 6 hours of sunlight per day. St. Augustine is also very tolerant to the shade, but does not have strong cold tolerance. The best time to plant St. Augustine grass is early Spring.

Zoysia Grass

Lastly let's touch on Zoysia grass. Zoysia grass is a thick, welcome-mat-like turf. It is completely resistive to high temperatures, low water intake, lawn care disease, shade, and pest problems. To uphold all those shields, Zoysia grass does in turn require over 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Zoysia is also a more expensive seed to purchase and is slower to grow and spread.

As you can see there are many types of grass in Austin, Texas. The ability to properly identify the type of grass you have, as well as how to care for it, are two significant goals to complete if you want to get the most out of your lawn.

How Often Should I Mow my Grass?

It's such a simple yet tough question. How often should I mow my grass?

Well, to answer it simply, there really is no definitive answer. This section will explain the different factors that go into deciding how often your grass should be cut.

Why this is such an important question? Well, it has to do with creating a balance between growth and overall health of the grass. Let's first delve into how exactly grass grows so green and stays out of the yellowing, dying, discoloration zone. First things first; in order for grass to be green it needs to be in a growing state. If it is failing to grow, it slowly but surely begins to yellow and eventually completely dies. This process can be accelerated in some hotter dryer times of the year, especially in the Austin area.

To maintain the grass's steady state growing lifestyle, one must continually fertilize, water, and tend to the lawn. Overdoing this process in combination with not mowing properly can have negative effects on your lawn though. So how do you find that middle ground between letting your grass die and having a lawn that is completely overgrown? The answer comes from how often you mow. See the diagram below for a flow of how one operation effects the next within your grass's growth cycle:


The frequency (how often) you mow your lawn, is an incredibly important step to sustain an impressive lawn. In reality, the ultimate defining factor to maintain strong growth is mowing in relation to its growth. This means that if the grass is growing faster, you must increase the amount of times you mow (lawn mowing isn't rocket science). As unfortunate as this may be, mowing more frequently leads to a much greener lawn. See both diagrams before for cause and effects of less vs more care for your lawn.

Now that you know to mow in accordance to growth, what height should you mow to? A great metric to follow for beautiful lawns is the, ‘one-third rule.' This instructs to never mow lower than to one third its original height. But, what is the original height we should be mowing from?

This is another metric that varies per given lawn and grass you have. Various types of grass appear the greatest and remain the healthiest at a particular level. This height can be found through quick searching online for your particular type of grass.

So what's the average rate I have to mow my lawn? Normally it's about once a week, or once every two weeks when there are watering restrictions. If you miss a week or let your grass grow a little longer than normal it's important to still follow the one third rule, and gradually cut your lawn down to the level it should be at. This may require you to double up a week or two.

Why shouldn't you cut your lawn shorter than two thirds of the original length? Say you're going to be away for an extended period of time and you would like to take into account this fact and compensate for your absence by over cutting your lawn before you leave. At a glance, this seems to be a good idea. But wait one second…the healthiest and greenest part of the grass is actually the top fourth of the blade. Grass is less healthy and green the closer to the root you go; therefore, cutting too short damages the grass and makes it look its unhealthiest.

Whether you mow your own lawn or hire one of the local Austin lawn mowing services, make sure that whomever is mowing your lawn adheres to the one third rule when cutting your grass.

What Kind of Lawn Mower is Right for Me?

The “right” mower takes on a new meaning for every different homeowner. Different people have different lawns, different expectations of a cut, and also different mentalities about how to go about mowing your lawn. So making this decision depends on you and your lawn care needs. Below you'll find a helpful guide to make that decision on which lawn mower to purchase should you decide to provide your own lawn care service.

First thing to consider: Which Lawn Mowing Method You Yourself Can Perform

The method in which you want to mow your lawn should rely on a few things:

1) Your current physical condition

2) Your desired level of self-action

3) If you want to add any intricacies

Why are these all important in determining the best method to go about the job?

1) Well if you're physically disabled, not in shape enough to use a push mower, or elderly enough that you have better things to do, the clear choice to take would be to go with a riding mower.

2) If you want to get a better exercise from the activity instead of just sitting around and steering, you could select the push mower method. Also, you may decide you really don't want to do the mowing at all. In that case it is smart to hire a reliable lawn care service to complete the job.

3) When you are using a push mower, you have much more self-control of every action. For those that desire to do specific designs within their grass or to leave precise areas cut/uncut, the push mower may be best. If you want to just get the job done well and with a normal cut the better type of mower for you maybe the riding one.

Second thing to consider: The Size of your Lawn

The size of your lawn is crucial. You don't want to select a lawn mower that will turn the job into a full day one, when with a bigger mower you could get the job done in a quarter of the time! Vice-versa goes for small lawn. It's pointless to have a massive lawn mower to cut a postage sized lot, as you are bound to miss a few nooks and crannies of your lawn. For smaller lawns with such intricacies, a smaller mower allows more precision.

Follow these given metrics for a fair understanding of size and priced based on that.

For all yards under 1/2 acre, if you are able bodied the best solution may be to use a push mower. Once you pass the 1/2 range and especially once you pass the 3/4 area range you probably should think about getting a rear-engine mower or a lawn tractor. The benefit of having a rear-engine is that there is nothing to obscure your view. Strong visibility is key on a lawnmower. Rear-mounted engines have mowing decks that span from 30-42 inches wide also create greater agility around trees and other landscape features. Their engines have 12-20 hp.

A front engine lawn tractor or zero-turning rider is possibly the best machine for lands in the 1 to 3 acreage span. Engines for these vehicles should carry a 14-16 horse power range and at smallest, 40 inches wide mowing deck. The wider mower deck will help you to get your lawn cutting done much quicker and more efficiently.

If you have a really big lawn (over 3 acres) you probably want to handle the mowing with a relatively big zero-turn rider or even a garden tractor. Specifically be on watch for models with more than 20 horse power engines and mowing decks in the 42-56 inch range.

Third thing to consider: The Topography of Your Land

Do you live in a relatively flat area? Are you on the side of a mountain? The answer to these kinds of questions can drastically alter your lawn mower purchase. Just think about it…even if you have a relatively large area of land, ride on mowers will not be practical in very hilly areas. Not all vehicles can handle such difficult terrain. If this is your situation, you'll probably have to purchase a push mower.

Expanding on that point, if your terrain is very steep in some areas and you're forced to purchase a push mower, ensure it's powered. The only exception to this guideline is if you wanted a really difficult workout. Also, be careful of pushing uphill, as a mower rolling down the hill can be dangerous.

Topography effects all homeowners. Hills can open the door to unique and fantastic landscaping; however, will make mowing rather tough. If your yard is too difficult to self- manage it is best to consult a lawn care professional.

Final thing to think about: Optional Features for your Lawn Mower

There are several additional attachments that you can attach to your lawnmower. Many of these attachments are optional but make your life much, much easier. Consider the following three common optional features:

1) Mulching Blade: Imagine as you're mowing, you're lawn mower is returning a natural fertilizer to the grass it just ran across. This benefit comes with a mulching blade. A mulching blade chops up the grass into tiny pieces and then evenly distributes the diced grass cuttings, which then decomposes and acts as natural fertilizer.

2) Grass Bags: Say you've decided you don't really need that mulching grade additional fertilizer or you just have a normal blade. Or, maybe you have an organic garden that needs extra fertilizer (read: compost). You're ultimately going to want to find some means of removal of the grass from the lawn you're mowing. How about if your mower put all the cuttings in a bag, making it easy for you to dispose of them or do whatever you wish. A mowing bag can make this happen. Consider this purchase if that's something you'd like.

3) High Quality Engine: Are you the user that has a rather large area to mow but still expects pristine quality throughout the entire job? If so, or even if you just feel you'll be pushing the mower to its limit through the work load you'll give it, then you may want to consider purchasing a higher quality engine.

There are many other factors into determining what kind of mower to get. This post just focused on a few of the more popular ones. Feel free to contact the guys here at LawnStarter. Even though we are a lawn mowing service, we're happy to help out for you do-it-yourselfers out there.

Example of aeration in Rollingwood