Typically, if you own a single-family home, there is a lawn to maintain. The lawn care industry has several types of tools and equipment to support the health and appearance of residential lawns.
Maintaining Lawn Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment
While mowing lawns may seem an easy task, the reality is you are utilizing equipment with rapidly spinning blades and potential hazards in the yard. PPE is a necessary component in your lawn equipment list. Recommended PPE:
- Impact-resistant safety glasses or sunglasses: Mowing creates debris ejecting at high speeds from beneath the mower. Consider using high-impact resistant sunglasses that protect from debris and the Sun’s UV rays.
- Hearing protection: Consistent exposure to small engine noise is shown to impact hearing long-term. Younger individuals may not feel the effects of high-decibel exposure until later in life. Please note that music headphones are not typically designed as hearing protection.
- Boots: Protect your feet by wearing work boots.
- Proper clothing: Gloves, boots, long sleeves, and pants protect your body as mowers fling rocks and sticks. Avoid loose-fitting or baggy clothes as these can become tripping hazards or get caught in machinery.
- Face shields: Especially for string trimmers and when mowing where ricocheting objects are possible. Face shields provide basic protection and are not a substitute for safety glasses.
- Masks: Cover your mouth to protect your lungs especially during dry periods or when shredding leaves.
Many teens often are given the duty of mowing the lawn. Ensure they are given adequate safety and follow proper equipment operation guidelines. Professionals who find themselves mowing daily for several hours may want to take additional precautions to protect their health.
Common Lawn Care Equipment
Push mowers are the most commonly used piece of equipment for home lawn care. While we are seeing a shift from gas-powered to corded electric/battery-powered push mowers, most homeowners will still be using a rotary blade that spins underneath the mowing deck.
Tip: When using a push mower on slopes, avoid pushing up or down the slope. Always mow across the slope.
Riding mowers are typically used for larger yards and come in various styles from lawn tractors to zero-turn mowers. These larger mowers reduce mowing time and can be used for other yard care activities.
Tip: Riding mowers should be driven up and down slopes, and never across. This is the opposite of push mowers.
String trimmers and edgers
Trimmers and edgers are not always part of a homeowner’s lawn care equipment list, but are tools useful for putting a finishing touch on a mowed lawn. String trimmers can reach areas that regular mowers cannot and may be more suitable for trimming grass on steep slopes. Trimmers are often used around trees and are known to damage trunks that, if severe enough, can girdle and kill a tree. When string trimming around trees, especially young, thin-barked trees avoid making any contact with the trunk.
Tip: String trimmers fling lots of debris. The shield helps protect the operator (but is still no substitute for proper PPE), however, passersby like people or pets are at an increased risk of being hit by launched debris. Keep an eye out for nearby targets and pause string trimming when anyone gets close.
Specialized Lawn Care Equipment
Specialized equipment can increase the effectiveness of certain lawn care practices and make the job much easier. Match equipment to the task that needs to be done for best results.
It is unlikely and not very economical for most homeowners to purchase these tools. Often this equipment can be found at equipment rentals or hired out. When renting or purchasing any of these services, clearly communicate what you want done. Make sure you understand how to operate the machinery or what the company will do, all materials that will be used, and what the price will include.
Hollow-tine Core Aeration
Hollow-tine Core Aeration is an important and highly recommended practice for many lawns. This process is used to reduce soil compaction and thatch, improve surface drainage, increase soil oxygen, and improve conditions before overseeding. Core aerifiers insert hollow tines into the lawn and remove plugs of soil. The size of cores removed will depend on the machine used, soil moisture, and type of soil. Core spacing also varies with the specific machine being used. On average, holes should be 3-4 inches apart. Machines can be rented or aerifying services are available through lawn maintenance companies.
Core aerifying should be done when cool-season lawns are green and actively growing in the spring or fall. Early to mid-fall is an ideal time. Removing 15 to 20 cores per square foot of lawn is suggested; this usually requires more than one pass over the lawn. Make passes perpendicular to each other. Cores should remain on the surface and be allowed to air dry, later buffing the soil in and removing leftover debris. These cores act as topdressing which helps degrade thatch. Additional topdressing material could be added after core aerifying. This is especially important if overseeding is to be done. This is an excellent time to topdress with organic matter.
Tip: Hollow-tine aerators operate best when the soil is moist. Wait until after a rain or irrigate before aerating.
Spikes or solid tine aeration
Spikes or solid tine aeration are similar to core aerifiers in that they make holes in the soil. However, they use solid tines, and thus, do not remove cores. Solid tines or spikes are not an effective tool for reducing soil compaction.
Tip: Spikers can be effective on sandy soils where compaction is not as critical as on clay soils.
Dethatchers or vertical mowers
Dethatchers or vertical mowers have rotating blades arranged vertically that can cut into turf and soil. These machines can be used to remove thatch (dethatching). This equipment is fairly destructive to the lawn, so reseeding is suggested afterward. Vertical mowers can also roughen bare soil before overseeding areas.
Tip: A dethatcher with an attached seed hopper makes reseeding easier.
Slit-seeders are useful for lawn renovation projects. As the machine goes across the lawn, it opens the soil using a vertical disc and deposits seed directly into the soil opening. Most slit-seeders have a roller that helps firm the soil after seeding. Seed is metered at a predetermined rate; it's suggested to apply half the desired seeding rate in one direction and the other half on a second pass perpendicular to the first.
Since the seed is placed in direct contact with the soil, seeding success is usually high when using slit-seeders. In addition, existing grass and debris do not need to be completely removed before the overseeding process. Timing should be the same as for conventional lawn seeding, which ideally would be late August into early September. Many rental agencies carry slit-seeders and many lawn and landscape companies offer this as one of their services.
Tip: Existing lawn or vegetation can be sprayed with an herbicide and left to die while the slit seeder can deposit the seed safely under the soil where it will germinate with little risk of being impacted by the herbicide. Allowing for a more seamless transition to the new turf species.