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tree arch Remarkable Patterns in Grass
Mowing techniques for lawns, sports, and other landscapes

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If you’re a sports fan, it’s probably no news that incredible patterns can be made in large areas of grass. Perhaps you have even seen diamond, abstracts, checkerboards, baseballs, waves, and other designs on ball fields. So, how do they do that?

We’re going to offer a basic design here, for a large scale checkerboard that could be created across a large lawn of ballfield. However, if you plan to create something on this scale, we strongly recommend this resource:
Picture Perfect: Mowing Techniques for Lawns, Landscapes, and Sports. Author, David Mellor. 2001. Ann Arbor Press, Chelsea, MI.

In the book, David Mellor goes into detail about turfgrass establishment and fertilization, as well as how to’s for elaborate patterns, and perhaps most importantly, the equipment needed to create visible patterns in grass.

Ideally, a lawnmower with a roller on the back is used for this activity. The dark and light colors you see are caused by the grass being pressed down in one direction to achieve a lighter color, and then in the other direction to achieve a darker color. The roller is necessary to create this effect. You can improvise by mowing and following with a roller, but the best results will be achieved with some of the more expensive equipment used by professionals.

Don’t be discouraged, however. If you’re committed to trying one of the patterns suggested by Mellor, there may be a landscape contractor, groundskeeper, or sports turf manager in your community with the equipment needed. Perhaps this could be an ideal partnership, and one worth exploring!

In the meantime, here are the basics for producing a checkerboard pattern in grass, adapted from Picture Perfect, page 114.

  1. Begin the first pass by mowing at one side of the lawn. Mow parallel lines to create alternate light and dark stripes.
  2. Next, make a mowing stripe going the other way, in a perpendicular fashion, to the first set of lines. Continue just as you did in (1) by making alternate stripes in this direction.
  3. Lastly - and this is critical - add depth to the design by going back over every other stripe the first direction, the direction you followed in (1), of the pattern. This can be done with the blades off, and just using the roller. By skipping every other stripe, you’ll bend in only one kind of stripe (light or dark) to accentuate the checkerboard.