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Maintenance Needs of Riding Versus Push Lawn Mowers

Like other machinery, lawnmowers need routine maintenance in order to operate efficiently, safely and effectively. Most lawnmowers only need occasional maintenance with a tune-up in the springtime before you mow for the first time, a midsummer tune-up, and a winterization tune-up in the late autumn. If you are thinking of buying a new lawnmower and are concerned about how much maintenance a riding versus push mower requires, here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

Oil Changes

Push mowers have a smaller oil tank capacity. They can hold up to 18 ounces, depending on the make and model. They need an oil change after about 50 hours of mowing time. Their smaller engines require a different type of oil compared to the larger engine of a riding mower. Be sure to review your owner's manual in order to select the correct type of oil. Riding mowers have oil tanks with a capacity of up to 64 ounces. Their oil should be changed after 100 hours of mowing time. If you do not reach 50 hours of mowing time with your push mower or 100 hours with your riding mower, change the oil once per year.

Clean the Lawnmower

After about 20 hours of mowing time, it is a good idea to clean the mower. This cleaning frequency is for both push and riding mowers. An ideal time to do the cleaning is when the gas tank is empty. Make sure the mower is cold. Clean it before a mowing session in order to avoid burns to your skin. Wear gloves when cleaning the mower. Remove debris from around the blades. Use a garden hose to rinse of caked dirt and debris. Scrub dirty areas with a soft-bristled brush and biodegradable detergent. Rinse the soap, and allow the mower to dry before using it.

Sharpen the Blades

Keeping the blades sharp ensures a cleaner cut. A ragged cut invites disease to your lawn. You should sharpen the blades after about 20 hours of mowing time. If your grass is particularly thick or you ride your mower over brushy areas, you may need to sharpen the blades more frequently. To prevent rusting of the mower's blades, use a long-handled brush to shake off the debris before you store the mower at the end of a mowing session.

Air Filter Maintenance

The air filter removes particles before they reach the combustion engine of the lawnmower. If you have an electric push mower, you do not have to perform this type of maintenance. For gas push mowers and all riding mowers, you should clean or replace the air filter after 50 hours of mowing time. This maintenance is more complicated, and you should refer to your owner's manual on how to disconnect the spark plugs. Some air filters need to be treated with oil before they are replaced. The owner's manual will explain if this is necessary.

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How Frequently to Mow Your Lawn

For many people, mowing the lawn is a boring chore that they would rather put off for as long as possible. However, infrequent mowing of the grass can lead to problems such as an invasion of weeds and poor root development. Too-frequent mowing can lead to thatch buildup, fungal diseases and an invasion of pests. Here are some tips on getting the frequency of mowing just right based on the type of grass, the season of the year and the growing conditions.

General Tips for the Mowing of All Grasses

No matter what type of grass grows in your lawn, you should allow newly planted grass seed to mature before you mow it. This practice affords ideal growth for the root system. Strong roots give the grass better resistance against drought and pests. Good development of grass roots also reduces the ability of weeds and pests to invade the lawn. Be sure to maintain the blades of your lawnmower. A clean, even cut reduces damage to the blades of grass. Cell wall damage of the grass could allow fungal and other diseases to affect the lawn's vigor.

Cool-Season Grasses

If your home is located in a place with cool-to-moderate summers, it is best to grow cool-season grasses. These grasses include ryegrass, rough bluegrass and tall fescue. For the best growth, these should be planted in the spring. These grasses grow quickly in cool to moderate weather. The plants mature by five to eight weeks after seeding, according to Bob Vila. Once the blades reach at least 4 inches in height, it is time for their first mowing. Cut no more than one-half of an inch off the height. During optimal growing conditions, the grass may need to be mowed once or twice per week.

Warm-Season Grasses

Warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, buffalo grass and centipede grass. They germinate after about two weeks and reach maturity about six to 11 weeks after seeding. These grasses have the fastest rate of growth in warm climates and in warm weather. The warm-season grasses can be mowed more frequently than cool-season grasses because they have an overall faster rate of growth during the summertime. Once the blades are about 3.5-inches tall, you can mow the lawn. Take no more than one-half inch off their height. In warm, humid locations, you may need to mow the lawn twice per week.

Mowing During Slower Growth Periods

Most locations will have a period of time during the autumn months of the year when the rate of grass growth decreases. For most places, this happens when the daytime temperatures drop to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When this happens, allow the grass to get taller between mowing. You can allow cool-season grass to reach 4.5 inches and warm-season grass to reach 4 inches before mowing in cool weather. This time of the year is also ideal for adding a long-acting fertilizer.