Lawn Mower Maintenance

Here some advice on lawn mower maintenance. I realize this might be pretty simple stuff for some people, but I hope those who might be intimidated by mechanical things will find some help. Despite thinking that a new spark plug would fix my horsepower problem, that didn't do it so I'll be taking it to a small engine repair shop. The mower is about ten years old, so I might be at the far end of its life cycle.

I've been surprised in my research to see the recommendations for sharpening your mower blade. I read an article that suggested you do it after every three or four times you mow. Most articles recommend every month or two. I must admit that I used to change my blade once a summer at most. I think I'll start keeping two on hand so that I can take the dull one in for sharpening and have it ready when the other one goes bad. That's the plan anyway. More likely, I'll get a bunch of dings in the blade and realize I forgot to take the replacement in for a sharpening.

Here's a link to an article on how to sharpen a mower blade yourself. I remember doing this in Shop class at Bowman (N.D.) High School. Having a blade balancer to check to make sure the blade is still balanced makes the job easier and could save you from ruining your engine. If you aren't that handy one of my sponsors, Hardware Hank in East Grand Forks, sharpens blades. I don't think they charge all too much. A new blade will set you back $12 to $20 or so.


Lawn Update: How am I doing?

Steve was back this week to see how the lawn is doing. I was getting discouraged by a few problems with the lawn; mostly notably the lack of growth of the re-seeded areas. There are also a few weeds creeping into the grass again. Hear what he had to say in this video:


Lawnmower Help

I'm looking for some help from readers. My lawnmower has a problem and I'm not sure what's up. Here's what happened. I was about half-way through mowing the backyard when my mower just idled down. It didn't die, but it suddenly lacked horsepower. There's no problem with the throttle cable or the throttle assembly as near as I can tell.

It quickly dawned on me that I haven't changed the spark plug in at least two seasons, so I did that. Even thought the old one looked bad, the new one didn't solve the problem. My particular Briggs and Stratton engine doesn't have a fuel filter as near as I can tell. I'm wondering if it might be bad gas.

Any suggestions out there?

The Alternative to Watering

Here's this week's Turf Tip on letting your lawn go dormant during the hot days of July and August. Basically, cool-season lawns are pretty drought-resistant and will go into a state of dormancy if they don't get enough water. This stage is characterized by browning of the foliage and slowed growth. Pay particular attention to the warning about going "dormant, but not dead."

Our friends over at the University of Minnesota also suggest that you "avoid play or traffic on dormant lawns." Read their take here. There's also information as part of the Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series or SULIS on a practice called "syringing." I'd never heard of that, but it's appropriate to this topic because it involves trying to save your lawn from heat stress by giving it a daily light application of water to wet the leaves of the grass. Also some good information on watering.


Watering Tips

Here's this week's tip on watering. If you know people that water every day, you can tell them that not only are the spending a lot of money on their water bill, but they are not doing their lawn any favors. Find out how frequently you should water and how much water you should be putting on.

As far as when to water, experts say early morning is best. During the day, you'll lose some of the water to evaporation before it can soak in. At night, the water sits on the blades without evaporating which can lead to disease problems.

Next week, we'll be talking about how to let your grass go dormant during the hottest parts of the summer. Even if this is your plan, you might still have to water your lawn.