How To Stripe a Lawn, According to a Stadium Groundskeeper
Stripe a lawn like a pro. Create your own field of dreams and make a big-league impression with these professional lawn-striping tips. Play ball!
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A perfectly striped baseball field holds promise. The first glimpse of a bright green field beneath a blue sky on Opening Day is magical. That memory carries fans and players through the season’s slumps, streaks and everything in between.
Professional groundskeepers keep that magic alive all season, and it’s a lot of work. We asked Marcus Campbell, director of field operations with baseball’s Class AAA St. Paul Saints, how his crew keeps its award-winning home field in top shape.
“Two of us are here from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on game days,” says Campbell. Four work during the day to take care of all the sod that needs attention, and six more come in for games to handle the tarp during the rain delays. Also, they mow.
What if fans wanted to recreate the look of a professionally-striped baseball field in their front or back yard? Could they do it?
“Absolutely,” says Campbell. Striping a lawn is no different than striping a baseball field, he says. You just need a mower and a way to flatten the grass blades.
Equipment Needed To Create Lawn Stripes
You can stripe a lawn with your regular mower. But for a big-league look, get or make a striping kit.
Here’s all you need:
- Lawn mower — push, riding, reel or rotary;
- Lawn striping kit or lawn roller — rent, buy or DIY;
- Sand or water to fill the roller.
Striping kits or lawn rollers attach to your mower behind the cutting blades, flattening the grass after it’s cut. Each pass of the mower and roller bends the grass in the opposite direction from the grass in the pass next to it.
“Striping is visible because sunlight hits the grass blades at different angles,” says Campbell. With each pass of the mower, you’re bending the grass blades toward or away from the light source.
Looking to stripe on the cheap? DIY a striping kit with stuff you have in your garage. Try a 2×4, weighted piece of pipe, even an old rubber mat — anything that can flatten grass and be safely attached behind your mower is a potential striping kit. Just be careful on the turns so you don’t run over any DIY attachments.
How To Stripe a Lawn
Start with grass that’s pretty long (three to four inches). Don’t cut off more than a one-third of the length.
“Longer, cool-season grasses like fescue work better than short, warm-season grass like Bermuda,” says Campbell. Bermuda just doesn’t bend as well. “That’s why you don’t see dramatic striping in Southern ball fields,” he says.
Also, cut grass when it’s dry. It’s better for grass health, says Campbell. Cutting wet grass promotes fungal disease, and it’s harder to get an even cut when water weighs down the grass blades.
Follow these steps to make stripes like the pros:
- Decide where you want to start. Making your first pass next to a driveway or sidewalk gives you a nice straight line to follow for subsequent passes. Or make a run around the perimeter of your yard and go parallel to either side. Starting in a corner and making diagonal lines is an option, too.
- Make your first parallel pass, looking out in front of you to follow the previous stripe. At the end of the row, turn toward your next pass, lift up the front wheels and turn. Bring down the mower right next to the previous pass. If you can run up on a sidewalk to turn, even better.
- Mow around obstacles like trees and flowerbeds by turning into the un-mowed lawn, never back into your already-cut and striped side. Meet up with the previous pass on the other side of the obstacle and continue.
- Continue making parallel passes until you’ve finished the lawn.
- Go around the perimeter to cover any turn marks, if desired.
- Change up the direction every week or two so your whole lawn gets some sunshine and fresh air.
Once you’ve mastered parallel lines, mix it up a bit. Create a checkerboard by striping your lawn again at a 90-degree angle to the first stripes. Or create a diagonal effect with a 45-degree offset. Circles could be in your future as well — start in the middle and work outward for those.
If you really want the best stripes on your block, use a reel mower, says Campbell. That’s what the pros use to get those well-defined ballpark stripes.
“Reel mowers, like the ones from the 1940s with the rotating blades, make the best stripes,” says Campbell, who uses a power reel mower at CHS Field. Well-maintained reels are extremely sharp and cut the grass like scissors. Rotary mowers, by contrast, forcefully rip the grass, dulling the effect of the sunlight on the blades.
As for his lawn? Does a professional groundskeeper stripe his lawn at home?
“Nope,” Campbell says. “This stadium is my home.”