I Hate Mowing the Lawn Part 1: Learning Curves and Decorative Obstacles

When I first bought my property, I was faced with the daunting task of mowing 3 plus acres of lawn every week.  At my last house in the suburbs, I had maybe a tenth of an acre to tend, and that still took over an hour a week.  I was not looking forward to my new duties.

The previous owner had a typical riding mower, and had originally offered to sell it to me with the house.  I politely declined because I wanted something with more power and more versatility.  I went with THIS:

I hum The A-Team theme whenever I drive it.

Mower, Loader, and soon tons of other fun attachments.

So, off I went to mow my lawn.  Thanks to the slope, the septic and leech field, and various trees and other obstacles, I clocked in around 6 hours my first time out.  That included time on the tractor, time with the push mower, and weed whacking.  Pretty awful.

Some of the things that were adding a ton of time to my weekly task were unavoidable.  I wasn’t about to take a 2000 lb. tractor over the top of my septic tank.  At first, I didn’t even want to drive it over my leech field.  I later found a schematic that rated the pipes in my leach field at a 1500 lb. crush.  Comfortably over the weight of each axle of my tractor, even with the front loader and the 60 inch mowing deck fitted.

I was able to gain even more time by cutting across the slope on the main part of my lawn.  This allowed me to mow the bulk of the lawn in high gear rather than only low or low uphill/high downhill.  Naturally, you want to avoid situations that put you at risk for rolling the tractor over, so use your head.  I recommend that you use your seatbelt and ROPS at all times when mowing.

After I got the hang of things using the above tricks, I was down to about 4 hours a week.  Getting better, but still way too much time just to keep the grass down.  This got me thinking more about landscape design, so I set my sights on these:

Too bad mowing and weed whacking around them takes at least 30 minutes...

Even though they add character to the lawn, these boulders add time to mowing.

Luckily, I got a call from my mom at the end of the summer.  She wanted to know if I would like any Siberian Irises.  She had about 30-40 that she had split and wanted to find a home for.  This got the wheels turning in my head,  and this is what I came up with:

Materials:

  • Hearty perennial plants that don’t require much/any upkeep and can be divided.

Tools:

  • D Handle Fork.
  • Round nose shovel.
  • Landscape rake.
  • Tractor with front end loader. (optional, but this will save you a backache)

If you don’t have a tractor, you’ll want a wheelbarrow or garden cart to move the sod you remove.

I began by cutting a bed between each of the rocks.  The thinking here is that I’ll be able to make one pass with the tractor on either side of the rocks and clean up with the weed whacker.  I estimate this will save me 20-30 minutes a week on the lawn.

I was able to cut most of the sod using the front end loader on my tractor.  However, about half of the rocks were too close together for the bucket, so I had to remove the sod by working under it with the D handle fork and rolling it up.  After the beds were cut, I loaded the sod into the front loader and piled it near the planned site of my compost heap for later use.

Since I was completing this project in the evening after work, there was a slim chance that I’d be able to get it done in one day.  Even though the Irises are hearty, if the root systems dry out, they won’t last long.  To prevent this, I dug a trench in one of the planters and placed my reserve stock of Irises in there.  Keeping the trench watered daily would keep the plants in decent shape until I could put them in their proper beds.  Pay no attention to the dismembered foam deer on the right side of the above picture.

When planting beds like these, odd numbers are best.  I try for 3-5 Irises in each bed, and continue on until they’re all planted.  Next, I  make sure to give a good amount of water to each plant.  Finally, I trim the foliage, since the Irises are done growing for the year.

After this modification to the lawn, I’m right around 3 hours and 30 minutes of mowing a week.  My long term goal is to get the entire lawn under 3 hours.  This way, I’ll be able to get the entire lawn mowed in an evening after work.  There are still some tweaks to the lawn that will need to be done to reach this.  The next one I think I will make is transplanting these:

With these apple trees moved, I’ll get another few minutes by not having to weed whack around them.  I’ll also be able to extend the beds between the rocks so that no weed whacking is needed at all!

Overall, this project took 6 hours total.  I divided it into 2 hours a day for 3 days after work.

See you next time!

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