How to Stripe a Lawn

By Janine Soriano, Master of Science in Forestry, government environment researcher

Looking for a way to make your lawn more attractive? Look into striping. It is a mowing technique that adds a decorative effect to the turfgrass and can make the yard a work of art with infinite possibilities. Not only can it make the lawn look beautiful, but it also boosts recreational value as well. Most athletic fields hire experts to do striping months before major events, but it’s possible to imitate those professional effects in your home yourself with the fundamentals below.

The essentials

Stripes are achieved by bending the grass in different directions. As the sunlight reflects grass, the top surface of the grass creates a darker color while the underside exudes a lighter shade. This effect is evident at certain times of the day as the sun goes from east to west direction. But before striping a lawn, the homeowner should consider some important points. Like other landscaping activities, careful planning is required such as choosing the type of grass, assessing lawn conditions and a regular mowing schedule. Cool-season grasses like fescues and bluegrass are perfect for this. In case your existing turfgrass is Bermuda, striping is still possible but would require more effort bending it to the desired effect. Usually, Bermuda can be mixed with Ryegrass and Zoysia via overseeding but it would need extra mowing frequency. Note that the lawn would need fertilization to make it greener or if it’s too acidic, liming would be needed to keep pH neutral. The mowing height is also adjusted by about half an inch from the usual height to make bending grass tips easier.

Mowers and rollers

Investing in the right kind of mower and blades contributes a lot to the final striping result. It is possible to stripe using reel and rotary mowers but it takes time and experimentation with the right rollers and accessories. The most common types used in striping lawns are riding and zero-turn mowers. In terms of appearance, riding mowers resemble farm tractors and are better suited for use on plain turf. If there are trees, shrubs, or some obstructions, it is recommended to use the zero-turn type which can rotate up to 180 degrees. Most modern units have two throttles that maneuver rotation and speed. Using this type can make mowing faster but it takes practice when mowing downhill or uphill. Mowers have their advantages and disadvantages when making different striping patterns. Using zero-turn mowers have the edge in creating diagonals, circular and stripes. Aside from mowers, rollers must be installed so that the grass stays folded for longer. It is always best to talk with mower machine shops and experts to find the best rollers for your lawn.

Techniques

Before striping, the homeowner must first carefully plan out the design to be applied. To create a gradient effect, the grass is mowed with a 0.5 inch height difference between strips. The longer the grass, the greener the color of the stripes. In addition to alternating green and light green patterns, mowing can also create diagonal, checkered and zigzag patterns. Plain striping can be as easy as drawing your mower forward and backward, but make sure that the mowing direction is straight so that no skewed lines are formed. If you are working in a large area, fix your eyes on a certain landmark as a guide. Whenever a stripe is finished, make a Y turn to start another row. This creates less disturbance compared to irregular turns. To create checkered stripes, mow the boundaries of the entire lawn first. Make a stripe on one row followed by a Y turn on every succeeding row such that stripes are created using opposite directions. When all vertical stripes are completed, do the horizontal ones in alternating directions. The process is repeated for diagonal stripes by starting in a diagonal direction.