Do you get “green-eyed” when you view the perfectly cut stripes on a soccer field or ballpark? If alternating lines, checkerboards and diamond patterns would convert your lawn into a personal field of dreams, you can — with extra work — cut the same patterns in your own home turf.
“Within the context of using the same species of grass in your home lawn, it is possible, “ says Ryan Moy, head groundskeeper at Minnesota United Football Club’s new $250 million stadium in St. Paul, Minn. “In fact, the species we use is very much adaptable to home lawn use.”
How Lawn Striping Works
The stripes at MUFC’s Allianz Field aren’t created by mowing strips of grass at different heights. The lawn stripe effect is caused by light reflecting off the grass blades bent in opposite directions.
“In general, turfgrass species have a darker and lighter shade to their leaf surface. The top of the leaf surface known as the adaxial side of the leaf is darker than the abaxial [the underside of the leaf surface],” Moy explains. “When you lay the grass plants down in a certain direction it creates a contrast that exploits those plant characteristics. Depending on the species that make up your home lawn, the contrast itself can vary. Not all turfgrass species are created equal with respect to their ability to show that contrast.”
Moy says the stadium grass is a blend of Kentucky Bluegrass varieties (Poa Pratensis), including Bluebank, Fullback, Hampton, Bewitched, and Noble. Moy and the rest of the groundskeeping team at Allianz Stadium put in a minimum of 8 hours per day to maintain the field, which was mowed for the first time in April 2019. “But the reality is there is always something to improve on or to add value with respect to the performance of the pitch.” The recovery process after a match is the most demanding part of the job, he says, including repairing divots and expediting healing of each blemish on the pitch.
Proper Lawn Care Sets Up Your Ground Game
Along with the right varieties of grass, you need to be consistent with care, watering frequently and treating as needed with fertilizer and other nutrients.
Proper mowing helps your lawn grow: When you cut the tips from grass blades, the grass is stimulated to grow. Roots become stronger, which discourages weed growth, and creates a denser lawn surface. And more grass blades per square inch means more-impressive stripes.
Although the lawn stripes at the pitch of Allianz Field are purely aesthetic, says Moy, there is a logical purpose that applies to striping. “Over time, changing the direction allows you to cut more of the individual leaf blades to a uniform height of cut. If one direction is always used, there will be some leaf blades that don’t get cut in that specific direction. In this scenario, those blades of grass continue to lay down and grow in that respective direction.”
Roller Required for Striping
If you want to create striping in your own lawn, you will need a roller system that attaches to your mower. The roller is a heavy, cylindrical tool made of plastic or metal that bends the grass blades down in the direction you are mowing. Moy suggests buying a 30-inch Lawn Striping System/Lawn Mower Striping Kit from Toro. Whatever you choose, make sure it is designed for your mower size. Depending on the model, follow directions when you fill with sand or water to get the right weight for your terrain, soil type, and grass variety.
Prep Your Mower
Make sure your mower blades are sharp and free of debris. You want to make sure the cut is clean and doesn’t rip the grass out by the roots. Dull mower blades can also leave your grass with ragged edges. This leaves opportunities for fungus and other problems that can expand into other areas of your lawn.
Decide which pattern you want to create. You don’t have to stick with lines and squares; you can create waves, zig-zags, or circles if you prefer. Make a sketch of how it fits the layout of your lawn, taking into consideration buildings, trees, flower beds, and other parts of the landscape. Think about the viewpoint – do you want to see the design from the road or driveway? Think about the end result before you start the engine. It might take a few tries before you achieve the desired look.
Begin mowing around the perimeter of the lawn. Then pick one side of the lawn and start mowing a straight line parallel to the edge. At the end, lift the mower deck and turn to face the opposite direction. Put down the mower deck, and mow adjacent and parallel to the last strip. Continue mowing in different directions until you have striped the entire lawn.
Mow the striping effect as explained above. Then start mowing straight lines that are perpendicular to the finished stripes, lifting the mower at the end of each line and turning to face the opposite direction. This will create the checkerboard pattern that you see in many ballparks.
Create the basic stripe pattern, then mow a diagonal line beginning at the edge. Remember to lift the mower deck each time you turn.
Instead of mowing a straight basic stripe, mow in a wave pattern. Then lift the mower deck and turn the mower. Follow the edge of the first wave pattern, raising the mower deck each time you turn unless you want to create a “switchback” or scalloped pattern on the edges. Continue until you have reached the end of the lawn, allowing the wave to “run” off the edges.
You could also begin your pattern from a point of interest, such as a tree or building. Mow a striped or waved line around the object, then continue out in a ripple pattern.
To keep your pattern in good shape, mow grass between 2 and 4 inches high, and don’t cut more than a third of the blade. This will allow the longer blades to bend easily and remain in that position. The sunlight will reflect the blade surface and allow you to see the effect of the striping technique.