Advanced Lawn Care
April 15, 2004 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Is there a formula for figuring out the most efficient pattern to mow a lawn? Something that takes into account obstacles and elevation changes.
posted by grefo to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I'm sure you could put together a model for that, in theory, but I'd be shocked right out of my pants if there's actually a ready-to-go Lawn-mowing Efficiency Algorithm in common knowledge.

What sort of lawn are you talking about? What shape? What sort of elevation changes, and obstacles? What type of mowing equipment are you using? These would all be factors. And when 3D topology is a factor, things get funky.
posted by cortex at 3:22 PM on April 15, 2004

You should not mow your lawn the same way every time, you should alternate directions or you end up with patterns in the grass.

Despite that, my Grandfather used to mow lawns for a living and he taught me that you should always mow by starting around the edges of the lawn, creating a mown border around gardens etc and work around towards the middle in ever-decreasing circles (or squares, rectangles or whatever). When you come to obstacles such as trees, you should mow a border around them and then ignore them, or you end up turning the mower too much (ie don't keep going around the border you mowed, just go straight). If the lawn is very steep, however, mow it across the slope to avoid pushing the mower up the hill.

Not really a "formula" as such, but the closest I have seen or heard to one.
posted by dg at 3:40 PM on April 15, 2004

The "lawn mowing problem", even without allowing for the obstacles you describe, is apparently NP-hard. So finding an optimal solution will be exceedingly difficult, but with enough research and CPU cycles you can probably come up with an adequate near-optimal solution.

Or, you know, you could spend that energy landscaping the property to make mowing easier.
posted by Galvatron at 5:57 PM on April 15, 2004

I actually spent quite a bit of time during the summers of my years 12-15 thinking about how to mow lawns both efficiently and in an esthetically pleasing manner (that is, to get the "mow texture" right), and I am sort of pleased that I arrived independently at similar results to dg's grandfather.

I would say, though, that if you did it strictly the way dg was describing, you'd end up tracing a very complicated figure in loops of ever-decreasing size. You've got to mow around the edges of the yard--around obstacles like shrubs and garden gnomes and such--then sort of clean up the sides so that, by the second or third trip around the yard, you're mowing a basically perfect rectangular spiral.

This will decrease the total time, because (as in rally racing!) you lose speed in the turns. You want to go as straight as possible, as often as possible.

On second thought, maybe I'm not the guy to give you advice on speed-mowing, since when I mowed lawns for comic book money way back when, it took me much longer than it should have. I'm something of a perfectionist when it comes to mowing -- but it ended up paying off, because they would always give me more than anybody else, since it came out looking so much nicer.
posted by Hildago at 6:45 PM on April 15, 2004

What dg said. Change things around. Not only is itbetter for the grass, it makes mowing less of a mind-numbing experience too ;) (For the record I love mowing the lawn, and especially since we got a cordless electric)
posted by terrapin at 7:55 AM on April 16, 2004

Speaking of mowing- I'm fairly engine-incompetent - and my gas lawn mower is acting up, anyone have any links to sites that might give me a good overview of troubleshooting a lawnmower engine?
posted by TuxHeDoh at 10:10 AM on April 16, 2004

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