While the arrival of summer heralds great rejoicing by outdoor enthusiasts around the country, warm-weather lawn care can be a bit of a daunting task. This is especially true if you are a first-time homeowner or novice landscaper. Fortunately, maintaining a healthy lawn isn’t challenging – heed this simple list of do’s and don’ts to keep your lawn looking fresh and green.

1. DO mow often, but DON’T mow too short.

Maintaining a healthy lawn requires mowing your lawn frequently (around once a week) to keep the ends healthy and to stimulate growth. Let it grow naturally and don’t cut it shorter than around half the stem length. Cutting grass too short shocks the plant and prevents it from growing properly.

Keep in mind that this length varies depending on the type of grass you are growing, so you should always consider the species of grass before determining how short to cut.

2. DO fertilize but DON’T necessarily use chemicals.

Fertilizing is important, as it helps feed your grass the nutrients it needs. You can start fertilizing around the time you start mowing your lawn. Try not to fertilize during the hottest days, as this can burn the grass.

Keep in mind that fertilizer doesn’t have to be a store bought, synthetic brew. Organic, all-natural fertilizers work just fine, as well as, mulched grass clippings and shredded leaves. Grass clippings work well to naturally replenish the soil, and are easy to disperse evenly on the lawn during and after mowing. Other organic fertilizers include manure, bone meal, and compost.

3. DO follow a regular watering schedule but DON’T overwater.

Your lawn needs regular watering. If you live in a dry area or if it’s a particularly dry season, make sure you are supplementing rainfall with your watering. Consider installing an irrigation system to ensure your plants are receiving adequate access to moisture. Water in the early morning between 6 and 10 am, as this gives your plants adequate time to absorb the moisture before it evaporates under the hot sun.

Water deeply, but infrequently-aim for a good soaking every two to three days. Conversely, try not to overwater. Watering too often can leave your lawn soggy and cause fungi to grow.

4. DO pay attention to the time of day but DON’T ever cut wet grass.

Try to mow your lawn in the afternoon. Before noon, your grass should still be damp from morning dew or watering. Cutting wet grass inhibits further growth, and also makes the lawn more susceptible to damage and soil compaction. Plus, wet grass will clog your mower blades and make the chore more tedious. Set aside time for regular lawn maintenance, and follow a strict schedule to avoid working your lawn at the wrong times.

5. DO plan ahead but DON’T feel like everything must be done at once.

Regardless if you are a first-time landowner or a seasoned expert, planning out your summer landscape and lawn care is crucial. Don’t attempt to tackle your landscaping plan haphazardly. Dedicate spaces to vegetables, lawn, perennials, and annuals, and then stick to your plan.

At the same time, you shouldn’t feel like you need to transform your front yard into a verdant oasis in just one season. Landscaping is not cheap, and while curb appeal and home value both increase as you improve the landscape, it can be cost-prohibitive to do it all at once. Add a new garden bed, seed a section of lawn, or plant new shrubs one at a time, and don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by the vast array of opportunities available to you. Taking care of your lawn shouldn’t be overwhelming, so take it easy and improve your lawn slowly, year by year.

  • Periodically check to make sure the lawn mower blades come to a complete stop within approximately five seconds after operating the blade disengagement control. If the blades do not stop within this time frame, take your machine to an authorized service dealer.
  • Check the lawn mower blade(s) and engine mounting bolts at frequent intervals for proper tightness. Also, visually inspect blade(s) for damage. Replace riding mower blade with the original manufacturers (OEM) blade only. Use of parts which do not meet specifications may lead to improper performance and compromise safety.
  • Keep all nuts, bolts and screws tight to be sure the equipment is in safe working conditions. The natural vibrating motion of your riding lawn mower can cause them to loosen throughout the season, so it’s important to check periodically before use.
  • Sharpen lawn mower blades frequently to maintain the health of your lawn. Brown grass tips may be an indicator it is time to sharpen or replace blades.
  • Add fuel stabilizer to fresh gasoline before adding it to your mower. Otherwise, the gas will begin to destabilize and leave deposits that gum up the engine. Stabilizer can extend the shelf-life of your gas pas 30 days and help keep the engine clean.
  • Watch for wear and damage on the grass catcher components, discharge cover and trail shield that could expose moving parts or allow objects to be thrown. Frequently check components and replace immediately with OEM parts only.

Zero turn mowers have been used by professional landscape contractors for many years to produce a manicured-looking lawn in the most efficient way possible.

Lawn Tractors vs. Zero Turns The term “zero turn” refers to the turning radius of the machine being zero inches, or a zero-degree turn radius. This means the zero turn mower can turn within its own footprint. When looking at a lawn tractor and a zero turn side-by-side, some of the differences are obvious. The zero turn mower does not use a traditional steering wheel or pedal brake and the seat is mounted in a lower position. The main difference between a zero turn mower and a steering wheel lawn tractor is in the controls. Each rear wheel has an independent wheel motor (one on the right and one on the left) that is controlled by the two steering handles.

1. Mowing Pattern

When all things are equal, a zero turn mower will allow you to cut a property more efficiently due to the ability to turn 180 degrees at the end of a mowing row. The wider turning radius of a tractor leaves strips of uncut grass that requires awkward maneuvering to reach. When mowing with a traditional lawn tractor, you need to drive over already cut areas, backing up to cut or taking multiple passes at the end of a mowing row. This awkward maneuvering can create an inefficient pattern of mowing, increasing the overall time it will take you to mow a property. The efficient cut pattern also helps you achieve that freshly-cut “striping” look of a professional job.

2. Reduce Mowing Time by up to 50%

Most facility managers who convert to a zero turn mower find they can cut their mowing time in half. Here are some of the time-saving features of zero turn technology:

Maneuver Around Obstacles: The maneuverability of zero turn mowers allows you to mow around trees, flower beds and other obstacles more easily than with a steering wheel vehicle such as a riding lawn tractor.

Drive at a Faster Speed: Zero turn mowers are designed to cut grass nearly twice as fast as traditional lawn tractors so your straight line mowing speed is improved. A typical lawn tractor cuts at a speed of 3-4 mph while a typical zero turn mower cuts at a speed of 5-8 mph.

Mow in a Single Pass: When you get to the end of your property and have to turn around and come back, you literally can spin 180 degrees and come straight back without having to back up and cut the strips of grass you would miss when making the turn with a lawn tractor.

Eliminate Follow-Up Trimming: With an unobstructed view of the cutting deck, zero turn mowers make it easy to cut very close to your trim edges – you can nearly eliminate the need to trim hard-to-reach areas with a push mower or a string trimmer.

3. Add Attachments for Versatility

There are a number of different attachments that add to the versatility of zero turn mowers. You can bag clippings, transport materials or even clear snow by using one of the many attachments designed for zero turn mowers. The most popular attachment is a bagging system for collecting grass clippings. There are many bagger options available for zero turn mowers including two- and three-bucket designs. Powered baggers have a belt-driven powered blower that forces grass into the bags. Commercial-quality baggers dump from seat using a lever to tilt the collector so you don’t have to get off the machine to dump clippings. All of these items attach to the rear of the machine on the frame. Some may require weight kits or mount kits to install. Zero turn mowers can accommodate a variety of rear attachments, including a dump cart, spreader, plug aerator, lawn dethatcher, roller or sprayer. Some zero turn mowers may require you to add a hitch for these attachments while others may come standard with a hitch.

In addition, some zero turn mowers can accommodate a front-mounted blade or even a snow blower or brush for clearing snow or debris. These attachments, in some cases, may require an adapter kit or weight kit. “Quick hitch” mechanisms may also be available for fast and easy changeover.

4. Easy to Drive

Without a steering wheel, a zero turn machine may look intimidating to drive but most operators become comfortable with the way it handles after just a few times using the equipment. Steering a zero turn mower is easy. In fact, it is not that different from steering a shopping cart. The key to driving in a straight line is to assure that the same amount of pressure is applied to each lever.

Most zero turn mowers do not have a foot-pedal brake. The steering handles of a zero turn mower control both the direction and the speed of the machine. As you push the handles forward, the speed of the mower will increase. So when you want to slow down or stop, you simply bring the handles back to neutral in their original position. Zero turn mowers are equipped with a parking/emergency brake.

5. How do zero turn mowers handle on slopes?

It is not recommended to operate a zero turn mower on slopes over 10 degrees. (As a reference point, most roads do not have slopes greater than 10 degrees. A 20 degree slope would be difficult even to stand on). Because zero turn mowers steer by traction of the rear wheels, a loss of traction could also reduce your ability to stop. When operating on slopes, a zero turn mower will not steer if you are sliding or skidding. There is no power to the front wheels of a zero-turn mower.

6. Cost Comparison

Zero turn mowers typically will cost more than a traditional lawn tractor. Part of the additional cost is due to the fact that there are two hydrostatic transmissions in a zero turn mower instead of one in a lawn tractor. Zero turn mowers usually have larger engines, larger decks, stronger frames and, overall, more steel in their construction compared to lawn tractors.

Although they may cost more, there are some long-term cost savings associated with zero turn mowers that are often overlooked. Because zero turn mowers can cut your mowing time in half, less gas is required to cut your lawn. Shorter run times also means less wear and tear on belts and pulleys resulting in longer machine life.

If your old lawn tractor is scheduled for an overhaul, now may be the time to invest in zero turn technology to help you maximize your lawn maintenance budget.