Lawn-striping is a decorative mowing method that results in alternating patterns of light and dark green in a freshly mowed lawn. The observed color difference is the result of bending the grass stems in a different direction in each stripe -- an effect usually achieved with a heavy roller called a striping kit. In many cases, though, you can achieve a similar result without such a kit.
Know Your Grass
When it comes to mowing patterns in your lawn, not all grasses are created equal. In general, warm-season grasses commonly found in southern states have tough stems that don't stay bent over after mowing, making them poor choices for lawn-striping. Cool-season grasses found in more northern areas have a less rigid structure and work much better for striping. To make a southern lawn more amenable to the practice, over-seed it with ryegrass.
Use the Proper Technique
Stripes in your lawn are a trick of the light. When you look at two strips of lawn, the sunlight that hits the tips of the grass leaves bent toward you does not reflect well off of the blades' small surface area. The light reflects much better off of the broad edges of the leaves bent away from you, so that strip looks lighter. To make the clearest stripes possible, mow one stripe in one direction and the adjacent stripe in the opposite direction. Don't roll the mower over areas you've already mowed.
Use a Reel Mower
Most mowers in use today are rotary mowers equipped with blades that rotate parallel to the ground to chop off the top of the grass. Hand-powered reel mowers equipped with a rotating cylinder of blades are much more effective at making stripes, making them the choice of most ground crews at ball fields and on fairways where optimum grass care and fancy striping are paramount. While using a reel mower is more labor-intensive than a rotary mower, it's also better for the grass and the environment.
Change the Stripes
Bending the grass in the same direction every time you mow is not good for the lawn. For best results, mow the stripes in different directions every time -- not only back and forth but also from side to side. Don't mow the grass too short; while reel mowers can mow shorter than rotary mowers, it's harder to bend short grass to make the stripes. If the stripe pattern is not obvious when you're finished, try leaving the grass 1/2-inch taller next time you mow.
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