Quality of Homeowner Mowing

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by MOturkey, Jul 5, 2006.

  1. MOturkey

    MOturkey LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,781

    I don't consider myself an expert in this field, but I try to take my time and mow with enough care so that the end result is a decent looking lawn. Since I got into the business, I find myself noticing properties I don't mow, particularly those done by the owner. I was just wondering what the quality of work done by the average homeowner is in your area. Around here IT SUCKS!

    I mow a 2 acre home property just up the road from my house. It is one of the nicer homes in the immediate area, but has basically no formal landscaping, so the turf is basically the focal point of the property. The house on the west is also a really nice home, the one on the east is an older, completely remodelled home.

    The place to the west actually has better grass than the place I mow, but the guy (a retired pilot) likes to let it get about 10-12 inches high before he mows. Since he mows with a larger Craftsman, it ends up looking like a hayfield with the windrows. He seldom trims around the end of the culvert under the driveway. I mow the other side, although it actually is on his property, because it is easier to just go all the way to his drive than to stop mowing in the ditch, so at least one side always looks OK. :)

    The guy on the other side mows more frequently, but I don't think he understands the concept of blade sharpening. I think the one he is using now is a little bent, also, so that the whole yard has those little ridges in it.

    Actually, all the places on both sides of these, with the exception of one, look like crap most of the time. One is a church. I suspect it is either the preacher or one of the parishioners who mows with a Toro Timecutter. Nothing wrong with that, but he only mows about every 3 weeks, so for the entire interim, you have windrowed grass cuttings lying on top of the growing grass. The one person who does a really neat job on his yard, mows with a 21, but cuts it way too short. His yard will be deader than a doornail shortly with the dry weather.

    One thing about it, this sure makes my work look good. :)
  2. tacoma200

    tacoma200 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,426

    There are alot of bad looking home owner yards here. But some of the comsumer mowers leave a pretty good cut. For some reason the folks here think it's not mowed unless it's about 2" high. Alot of them don't look bad but are about as low as a putting green. Of couse this lets weeds in but they dont care. Some of the home owner mowers do well at this low setting. If they mowed a strait line it wouldn't look bad. Some of my home owners I mow for you could talk to all day about leaving the grass 3.25 to 3.5 inches tall and how that would help keep the weeds down buy I would be better off talking to a brick wall as they say.
  3. NewbieNC

    NewbieNC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 67

    You're right!! Tell someone youre going to cut their grass at 3.5 and its like you've told them you were going to douse the lawn with gas and set it on fire. I dont get it!!! You HAVE to cut it longer so the grass can shade itself and not burn up. I dont get it!
  4. mike lane lawn care

    mike lane lawn care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,707

    my neighbor believe that it isn't a lawn unless the grass is less than 2" tall, and i try to tell him that when the heat and lack of rain that is summer comes, he will have one big **** colered lawn. he doesn't care.
  5. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,116

    The do-it-yourself approach to lawn maintenance is failure for four primary reasons:

    1.) If you cut too much grass, you scalp it. It also creates a LOT more work, like 3 or 4 times as much time, if the lawn is fertilized and watered and it has been too long since the last cut. Lawn mowing requires a REGULAR interval, otherwise, it grows too much between cuts. The home owner, even with good intentions of mowing once a week on the same day every week, will eventually screw it up.

    Suppose the home owner decides the regular mow day will be Wednesday. Every Wedenesday this home owner will mow the lawn after work. So what if he has to take the kids to the emergency room on Wednesday evening? Or what if he gets invited to happy hour on Wednesday? Or what if...the list goes on and on because he is human and mowing the lawn is not his job in life. So then, Thursday evening rolls around and another excuse pops up. Friday is date night with the wife. So Saturday comes along and after he's played 18 holes he's too tired. By Sunday night, he figure's he'll just let it go til Wednesday.

    So Wednesday, he starts mowing the lawn with 2 weeks of growth. He is bagging the clippings (God knows why) and he is literally stopping the machine every 90 seconds to dump the catcher. When he finally finishes, the lawn looks white and yellow because all the leaf blades were cut off and he cut stem this time (unavoidable with 2 weeks of growth).

    So next Wednesday rolls around and now he is starting to dread the experience after what happened last time. As a home owner, he hasn't figured out that the trick to getting done fast is a regular mowing interval.

    Adding even more problems, home owners realize that sometimes they are fine with EOW lawn mowing. But they fail to recognize the tremendous impacts of A) proximity to summer solstice B) rain C) fertilizers. A combination of all three of these elements, combined with a 14 or 21 day mow interval, is a nightmare.

    2.) If they are mowing the lawn themselves, chances are, they are too cheap to hire a professional chemical service too. This means that when they do fertilize, they over-fertilize. If it happens to be within 50 days of the summer solstice, and then they miss a weekly cut, and there is rain, they are in deep trouble. The experience of mowing the lawn after 14 or even 21 days in this situation creates a lot of dread for the next weekly cut, which is much more likely to be procrastinated.

    3.) They don't buy blade edgers and they try to get by with the cheapest equipment they can buy. So they are out there with an electric line trimmer trying to line trim the edges of the concrete. Because they are using the thinnest line known to man, they keep burning up their string. The automatic line bump with these machines is a myth and when the line runs out, they have to stop and turn the machine over to manually feed more line. This chore easily adds another 45 minutes to an hour to their lawn mowing experience. So the next time they mow the lawn, there is a tremendous chance the line trimming will go on the every other cut schedule. But because they are already on the EOW (if that) schedule for lawn mowing, the entire thing looks like schit when they finish.

    4.) When you use a small engine every day, you are constantly running clean, fresh fuel through it and keeping all the rings, etc. well lubed. When an engine sits for a long period of time without running, the fuel goes bad. When bad fuel is burned, excessive carbon deposits are built up. Additionally, when the home owner makes his final cut of the year in early October and doesn't mow again until next March, the seals can dry out. Then the engine won't start and the thing goes in the shop. Meanwhile the grass is still growing and pruducing more of a dreaded experience when he finally does cut the grass, which only leads to more procrastination.

    Summarized: Mowing invervals, if not followed, lead to longer mow times. Longer mow times lead to procrastination. Procrastination leads to longer mowing intervals. This is all compounded by not having the proper equipment and to compound that problem, the equipment they do have is not maintained properly.

    And that, my friends, is why the DIY approach to lawn maintenance is a failed experiment.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  6. mulcahy mowing

    mulcahy mowing LawnSite Senior Member
    from ma
    Messages: 721

    When you roll down one of the streets i mow on you can tell what lawns I cut and what lawns are cut by home owners. the difference is like night and day.:weightlifter:
  7. lawnmaniac883

    lawnmaniac883 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,613

    I would say 80 percent of ALL homeowners who cut their own grass only do it so the place doesnt turn into a jungle. They could care less about the lawn looking good they just grind it out and wait till the next month when they get to do the same thing. The other 10 percent cut theirs because it MUST be immaculate and because they dont trust any commercial guy out there to take care of their lawn for fear of damaging it // dull blades // scalping you get the picture. The last 10 percent cut their own grass because they take pride in their own work. It just wouldnt be the same for these people to watch a commercial guy to cut their lawn when they could do it themselves and get a feeling of self satisfaction.

    Some homeowners cut their lawns better than me with my Z. Of course if I had a push mower they would get it handed to them but...:rolleyes: that doesnt happen too often.
  8. DodgeTruckMan731

    DodgeTruckMan731 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 414

    Couldnt have said it better myself, although some homeowner kept up lawns are nice.
  9. tacoma200

    tacoma200 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,426

    DFW Area Landscaper, do you sell cars on the side? Quite a sales pitch.
  10. dvmcmrhp52

    dvmcmrhp52 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Pa.
    Messages: 4,205

    On the flip side I can certainly show you homeowner maintained lawns that would make a whole slew of lco's look shameful.

    It works both ways.........

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