I post this every summer, and now that the heat is here, it has some relevant safety information as well.
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Number one, & I can't stress this enough. Before you mow, pick up every little piece of trash you can find, & while you're at it, pick up any sticks that will damage the blade. Twigs can be left, sticks need picked up. If you let the kids mow the yard, you might as well get out there & make sure they pick up the trash & sticks first. Because you know kids, they could care less. They aren't smart enough to know that it's easier to pick up one piece of trash than after it's cut into pieces, & you don't want your yard turned into a landfill now do you?
The reason you should pick up sticks is that when the blade becomes unbalanced due to nicks from sticks, it wears out your engine twice as fast. I still have a mower from the 90's, that starts on the first pull, half the time. I kid you not. Now if you like buying $500 mowers, then let your kids have at it.
Where your lawn meets the road or a paved alley, always mow like the discharge chute is facing away from the street. It's against code to blow grass into the street. Even when it's in mulching mode, it still has a tendency to blow more grass into the street, simply because the direction the blade is turning.
A neat little trick for when your grass gets too tall, because you got behind on the mowing, is to raise the front wheels one notch higher than the back ones. It really does work. It's like cutting the grass twice. First at a higher level, then at a lower level. In fact, I just leave mine like that all the time. You do have to make sure you keep it full of oil though. The grass may not look quite as good, but you can't hardly tell the difference.
Another great tip is you don't need to mow the front & back yards on the same day. Especially when it's hot. It's not worth having a stroke. There's also such a thing as a red neck air conditioner that works well too. You just get a medium sized bath towel, saturate it with water, & throw it over your head & shoulders. Works like a charm.
Last years drought taught me a good lesson. No more cutting the grass as low as the mower will go. My grass was starting to fry. I know a lot of people cut the grass as low as they can, thinking it won't grow back as fast, but the experts say that's a really bad idea. The thicker the grass, the more protection the ground gets from the scorching sun. Think about that, next time you are having to water your lawn. I normally don't water the yard until late July or August. I swear I see people watering their yard when it just rained yesterday. What a waste of water. Save it for the drought months.