Keeping your lawnmower and your lawn, in tip-top shape

Fall and winter months generally mean less mowing is needed, so this is a great time to check and service your lawnmower.

For a longer mower deck life, clean the dirt and grass out from under your mower deck.
(Courtesy of Camila Guillen, UF/IFAS)

Our lawnmowers worked hard this summer — clipping grass between frequent rains.

Getting my lawnmower serviced is one thing on my fall to-do list.

And, it may be on your to-do list, too.

So, I talked with Bob Latimer, a master gardener volunteer, for some advice on how to keep a lawnmower in top shape.

He offers the following suggestions:

  • Maintain your mower according to the owner’s manual. (Check the manual that came with the mower, or look for a manual for that model online).
  • Be sure to buy the correct type of mower for your type of grass. For example, UF/IFAS recommends a reel mower for fine-textured Bermudagrass kept at less than 1-inch high.
  • Check the owner’s manual for the proper setting of the mower deck. Standard St. Augustinegrass cultivars and bahiagrass may need a higher mower deck to cut the thick blades.
  • Keep in mind that gas-powered, self-propelled mowers may be better for large lawns. Battery and electric mowers may be used for smaller lawns.
  • Check the engine oil before you start the mower and refill the engine oil as needed. Non-ethanol gas may be better for the lawnmower and the carburetor.
  • Only buy the amount of gas you need because storing gas in the gas tank may lead to poor running problems or non-starting issues.
  • Check the air filter, and clean or replace it as needed.
  • Inspect the gas tank for dirt, and clean as needed. Be aware that if your lawnmower doesn’t run well, it may be from dirt getting into the gas tank or carburetor.
  • Be sure to clean any dirt from around the gas tank before removing the gas cap. This helps prevents dirt from falling into the gas tank and getting into the carburetor.
  • For self-propelled mowers, locate a qualified service technician to lubricate the axle point that transfers power from the motor to the wheels.
  • Replace the spark plug per the owner’s manual.
  • After mowing, protect the life of your mower deck by washing the dirt and grass out from under it.

Now that your lawnmower is in tip-top shape, here are some tips to help you maintain your lawn.

Remember, mowing your yard at the right height is one of the easiest ways to keep your lawn healthy.

Standard cultivars of St. Augustinegrass, such as ‘Floratam’ and ‘Palmetto,’ should be mowed at 3.5 inches to 4 inches. Dwarf St. Augustinegrass cultivars, such as ‘Delmar’ and ‘Seville,’ should be mowed at 2 inches to 2.5 inches.

Bahiagrass prefers a mowing height of 3 inches to 4 inches, medium- to coarse-textured zoysiagrasses should be mowed at 2 inches to 2.5 inches, and fine-textured zoysiagrass may be maintained at heights below 1 inch. Bermudagrass grows best when kept at 0.5 inch to 1.5 inches.

Additional advice on lawn care can be found in the following reference, which was used for this column: Trenholm, L.E., J.B. Unruh, and J.L. Cisar. (2018). Mowing Your Florida Lawn. IFAS Publication Number ENH10. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For more information, email , or call (813) 744-5519, ext. 54145.

By Nicole Pinson

Nicole Pinson is the Urban Horticulture Agent in Hillsborough County. Bob Latimer, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County Master Gardener Volunteer, contributed to this column.

Published October 2, 2019

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