Mowing: Learn To Mitigate These 5 Common Obstacles

Whether it's a building, a boulder or uneven ground, obstacles can stand in the way of effective mowing. Here are the tools and techniques to help you.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

On a hobby farm, mowing takes some skill, as you can encounter complex terrain ranging from uneven ground to large obstacles, such as trees and fences. Fortunately, the right tools—as well as a few techniques for handling tricky spots—will help you deal effectively and efficiently with these troublesome mowing spots. Here are some tips and strategies for handling them successfully.

1. Sloping & Uneven Ground

Sloping and uneven ground can present a couple of issues, not the least of which is the mower operator’s safety. You should never drive a tractor straight across sloping ground due to the risk of tipping over; instead, drive straight up or down the slope, or, preferably, skip that area entirely if the slope is too steep. Uneven ground also makes it difficult to mow grass at an even height and increases the risk of your mowing blades cutting into the ground. Raising the mower deck and cutting the grass taller can help alleviate these problems.

2. Trees

Trees growing in the yard can present a couple of challenges when mowing. Low branches can be difficult to mow underneath, and you can either cut them off—assuming the tree is large enough to tolerate a pruning—or use a string trimmer or mower, as well.

It’s also wise to stay a few feet away from the trunk when mowing, as careless mowing can easily damage the bark or exposed roots, creating openings for disease to enter the tree. For trimming the grass that’s closer to the trunk, consider using a string trimmer that will allow more precise control. In any case, the grass immediately surrounding the trunk should be trimmed by hand, especially in the case of younger trees with smaller trunks; it doesn’t take much at all to damage their bark.

3. Rocks & Boulders

Rocks and boulders that protrude from the ground can be handled in much the same way as trees, while keeping in mind that they can easily disappear underneath tall grass. Marking the location of each one before mowing—use a stake, a piece of wood or something colorful—will ensure that you give each one a wide berth with your riding mower; afterward, you can trim right up against and around the boulders using a string trimmer. Better yet, remove the rocks and boulders if possible and if they’re not a necessary part of your landscape.

4. Fences

Fences, particularly fences for livestock pastures, present a twofold dilemma. Depending on the fence type, it may be possible to use a string trimmer to mow underneath the lowest wire or board, but this isn’t as easy with fence types that come all the way to the ground, such as mesh wire. In addition, dried grass clippings should not be eaten by livestock such as horses, so when mowing around pasture fences, it’s important to rake up the clippings and dispose of them to prevent your animals from ingesting them. If you’re using a riding mower with a discharge chute on one side of the deck, keep the discharge chute opposite of the fence so that grass clippings are expelled away from it. However, you should still check to ensure that clippings didn’t wind up on the field side of the fence.

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You can also invest in a specialized fence mowing implement for your tractor; one model mounts on the three-point hitch and is designed to automatically shift out of the way when it encounters a fencepost, allowing you to mow the grass under fences with very little effort.

5. Buildings

Buildings usually have a short strip of grass next to their sides that remains right against the wall and isn’t easy to mow fairly close to. A handheld string trimmer can clean up these edges, though caution must be taken to avoid damaging the siding and paint, if the building is painted. I prefer to use a hand-pushed string trimmer mower, which gives you much finer control over how close you come to the building.

This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Hobby Farms magazine.

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