Texas Living

Help Teens Take Precautions When Doing Lawn Work

By James Mayfield 5.26.14

For many homeowners, a well-kept lawn evokes a sense of pride. People spend countless hours on their hands and knees digging and trimming, edging and pruning, watering and planting — all on a quest for that “Yard of the Month” that will make neighbors green with envy and grass that will have every child on the block sinking their bare feet into.

To help maintain a beautiful green space, families frequently enlist the help of a teenage son or daughter, whether they slip them a few bucks for their efforts or make it part of their regular chores. However, lawn work presents some dangers that teens should be aware of before carving their grassy paths.

Map it out

Take a moment to walk the yard with your teenager and explain any obstacles to avoid or areas that could be particularly tricky. Remove any toys, water hoses, and other large items that could be run over. Also, point out where your power lines are located, and if applicable, where water sprinkler heads are buried.

Uninvited guests

If you’ve lived in Texas for a while, you’re probably all too familiar with the annoyance of — and the painful bite of — fire ants. Fire ant mounds pop up quickly and spread rapidly. Colonies or mounds can hold up to 200,000 ants that build underground tunnel systems, which can stretch up to 25 feet from the mound. So, before your teen performs the first cut of the season, think about treating your lawn with some fire ant/wasp/bug bait.

Sun, sun, sun

It’s not unusual in Texas to have several 100-degree days in a row during summer. Make sure your junior landscaper has plenty of water and replenishes his or her fluids frequently. It’s also best to mow the lawn when it is dry, generally in the late afternoon and evening.

Protection

Speaking of sun, have your teenager wear sunscreen, and possibly a head covering, to avoid sunburn. It’s also recommended that they wear protective eyewear, or shatter-resistant sunglasses, in case a piece of debris flies out from under the mower. Even though it sounds like a tough proposition in sweltering heat, it’s also a good idea for your teen to wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes to protect them from the possibility of being struck by anything the blades may fling.

Blade length

Have the teen stick to the 1/3 rule about the length of the grass. That is, never cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade in a single mow, and keep grass to approximately 3” tall. Cutting too low can create brown patches in your lawn and damage roots. Teach your child how to raise and lower the blade of the mower safely and properly.

Keep it clean

Have the teen bag the clippings. It not only avoids large ugly clumps of grass around your yard, but also prevents them from turning into tinder in a small amount of time under a blazing hot sun.

Finally, since it can be a jungle out there, have a glass of cool lemonade waiting for your teen when he or she is done. It not only helps cool them off, but shows how much you appreciate their help in creating a lawn your whole family can be proud of.