Anybody who’s invested time and money into their garden will know how important lawn stripes can be. If they’re done right, lawn stripes can make a garden into something really special without much extra effort, but they can also ruin a perfect design if they’re poorly done. It takes a lot of skill to pull the lawn stripe look off properly, so it’s no surprise that some people hold lawn stripe contests to challenge each other for the #1 spot.
But what are these competitions? How are they judged? And how can you be sure that your grass will be good enough for the judges? It’s difficult to know how to approach them if you’ve never been a competitor before, and it’s always a little scary to try and guess the rules or judgment criteria without any past experience. However, once you know what you’re supposed to be doing, competing in a lawn stripe competition (or any other kind of gardening competition) will actually seem surprisingly easy.
How Do They Work?
Like a lot of gardening competitions and tournaments, it’s not as simple as getting your stripes into neat rows. A lot of different elements can be judged: these can be anything from the health and color of the grass to the way it holds up against bad weather and heavy rain. You’ll have to make sure that every inch of your lawn is as healthy and nice-looking as possible since small mistakes will still have an impact on your overall result.
Different competitions will have different rules and regulations, so you might be banned from using certain techniques or tools for gardens that could give you an unfair edge. Remember, gardening is a passion for a lot of people, so ‘cheating’ in ways that make their effort seems wasted is usually looked down upon. Just like sports competitions ban steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, gardening judges might also expect your work to be completely natural, so it’s essential to know the rules before you start using chemicals or fertilizers.
But let’s say you’re joining a lawn stripe competition: how do you actually create a garden that’s worth the judges’ time? After all, it’s not always clear what they’re looking for and what kind of garden they’ll be looking for. In most cases, neatness and clarity is everything – a unique style can be a huge bonus, but it means nothing if your garden still looks like a mess, and there’s only so far you’ll be able to push particular ideas before they start to get in the way.
Making Lawn Stripes
Lawn stripes look simple from a distance, but they can be challenging to pull off properly if you don’t really understand how they work. At first glance, it seems like the grass is cut at a different height, but that’s actually not the case – the only difference between the alternating rows is the way the grass is facing.
When grass is bent towards you, it’ll look darker than grass bending away from you due to the way the light reflects back at you. It’s not actually a different color if you view it from above, but the lower you get, the more noticeable the color difference becomes.
To get this kind of effect, you’ll need to cut your lawn in a back-and-forth pattern while putting emphasis on pushing the grass down. The upside of this is that the stripes will look different from both sides, which can be useful for some impressive optical illusions if you’re good enough to use them in a unique way.
This can be tricky, though. Cutting the grass too short will lessen the effect, so you’ll need a mower that’s low enough to push it forward without trimming off too much. Some people prefer to use separate rolling tools designed specifically for this purpose since they create stripes without altering the length of the grass.
Regardless of how you do it, you’ll need to go in an alternating pattern length-ways across your garden. Ideally, you’ll also want to make sure that each row is about the same size if possible since this looks much neater.
Making More Patterns
If you’re not happy with basic stripes, there are a few other extra patterns you can make that don’t look as simple. For example, you can create a zig-zag pattern or a set of diagonal strips as long as you take some measurements, or even do extra stripes parallel to the originals.
If you’ve got trees or other objects that stick out in your garden, you can try making a circular border around them, or even create a grass partition around the outside of your lawn to make everything look contained. If you’re confident in your mowing skills, you might be able to create curved rows or stripes instead of having to stick with structured lines.
Since lawn stripes are easy to create, you can always adjust them if you make a mistake. This is actually extremely useful for obstacles that disrupt your pattern – rather than having to move them and mow the grass underneath you can simply go around them and correct it on your way back. If you’re using a reel mower, you might run the risk of cutting away too much grass if you repeat the same stripe, so try to avoid this unless it’s necessary.
Preparing your Garden Properly
Before you actually start mowing your lawn into stripes, you’ll need to be well-prepared. While it’s easy to correct mistakes you make with the rows themselves, your grass is a different story, and it can be hard to cover up any sections that are damaged or over-trimmed.
Make sure you’ve removed anything that could affect the end results of your mowing – weeds, flowers, moss and any other kind of plant that doesn’t blend in with the grass properly. It’s also essential to remove stones and rocks: if your mower gets damaged halfway through making your stripes, you’ll end up with an uneven-looking lawn.
It’s a good idea to sketch out a plan for how you’ll make the stripes since it’s easy to waste a lot of time and effort if you’re not thinking ahead. If you’re not great at drawing a proper sketch or plan, at least try to take some general measurements – the width of your mower compared to the width of your garden, for example. This will tell you how many rows you’ll need to make, which can stop you from accidentally doubling back when you don’t need to.
Lawns with irregular or curved shapes will benefit massively from this since they’re not as easy to judge just by looking at them. You might under-or-overestimate how many passes you’ll need to do, which can easily lead to mistakes and awkward stripe spacing.
What kind of Mower Will do I Need?
The tricky part of making stripes is using the right kind of mower. As mentioned earlier, a lot of people prefer to use rollers since they don’t run the risk of re-cutting your grass, but they also take a lot longer to use. It’s easy to end up putting yourself in a situation where a small garden will take twice as long to prepare, or perhaps even more if you make a mistake that needs to be corrected.
Some mowers have rear rollers that work in the same way, and these can save a lot of time, but make it harder to correct mistakes. If it’s too heavy, and the ground is slightly too wet, it can also lead to the grass getting stuck down in a way that looks worse than a regular lawn. Finding a balance between cutting power, rolling strength, and weight is extremely important for tools like this.
It’s also possible to set up your own DIY flattener if you have the right tools on hand. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – mounting something flat to the back of your mower can be a great temporary solution, and makes it much easier to judge how much weight you’re putting on your grass.
Should I Enter a Lawn Stripes Competition?
Lawns stripe competitions, as well as gardening competitions in general, are centered around a hobby rather than a single action or skill. If you’re just looking to earn easy money (or fame, if there’s no money-related prize), it’s probably a bad idea to try and push for victory in a competition like this.
That’s not to say that it’s off-limits to first-time competitors, but hobbies are all about your personal enjoyment and how it translates into the things you create. A certain amount of skill is involved, but that’s not all it comes down to, and you can’t win first place by following a cookie-cutter step-by-step guide. Even if you get each stripe to the perfect color and size, you can still be beaten by somebody who’s done something unique with whatever they have available.
However, if you’re really passionate about your lawn and want to try and win something for your efforts, then it’s a good idea to just go for it and try your best. Even if you come away empty-handed, you’ll still be able to see examples of winning lawns and gardens to incorporate into your own designs and styles. Maybe you’ll learn about a certain mistake you keep making or a new technique that you’d never heard of before, and these can be great learning experiences for gardeners of any age or skill level.
Plus, if you do win, you’ll have a reason to be proud of your lawn and the effort it took to arrange it. Gardening can be a difficult job, and winning a competition is no small feat, so there’s nothing wrong with using it as a boost to your confidence.