by Cody Zimmerman
Major league baseball fields always look immaculate, with their canvases of stripes, lines and logos How do they do it? Do they cut the grass at different lengths or use varying colors of grass sod to create the geometrical shapes? Nope.
They bend the grass. That’s it, good old light reflection. You can do it in your own yard.
Here’s a brief lesson in the science of optics (the behavior of light): Light travels in a straight line but only in a uniform medium. The direction of the blade will determine if you have dark or light stripes. When blades are bent in the opposite direction from your line of sight, they will appear lighter because the entire length of the blade is reflected. In contrast, light hitting just the tips of grass appear darker.
When light reflects on grass bending in different directions, you get a pattern. If the geometrics coordinate and are groomed properly, you can easily create the feel of a baseball stadium in one afternoon. You’ll be the talk of the neighborhood and possibly, the talk of the town.
While you only need a lawnmower and roller for the pattern making, an edger and leaf blower will polish the final look and help with upkeep.
Don’t try to put stripes into a messy looking lawn. For the best accuracy, map out the plan on paper, then in the yard so you don’t mow off track. Place guides along the path of your design.
For team play, gather your fellow groundskeepers (sons, brothers, buddies) for assistance with design ideas and labor.
How to Bend the Grass
Generally, a baseball field groundskeeper will attach a striper to the back of his mower (aka a roller). Old-school reel mowers are often used, because they have a lawn roller already attached. The mower blades cut the grass and the roller bends the remaining blades, helping the light reflect. In one direction, they use the roller—in the other direction, they don’t = stripes!
Want your contrast more intense? Flatten the blades farther. This is when grass length comes into play, because the longer the blade, the farther it can bend. Hence, more light reflection. Also, spray with a hose or sprinkler for the ultimate shine.
Your push mower doesn’t have a roller? No problem. While that little strip on the back of your lawnmower is supposed guard against rocks and bend the grass, without weight, it’s no good for striping. Ideally, purchase a roller kit for your lawnmower from a legitimate company. If that’s not in the budget, ArtOfManliness.com has a few recommendations to create a roller on the fly:
- Carefully duct tape some small dumbbells to the back flap to increase the weight
- Cut a few holes into a heavy welcome mat and attach chain to the mat at the bottom of the mower
- Make your own mower roller with PVC pipe, sand and brackets.
Be absolutely sure you have the mower outside and off before making these brief modifications.
- Basic stripes
With striping, you can accentuate certain parts of your yard or divert the neighbors’ eyes from weeds. Direct attention to a fountain or flower bed, or add striping simply because you love baseball. Bright idea alert: Grab family and friends and start up a game in your new yard.
Cody is a stay at home dad who loves to garden. He looks forward to writing about parenting and wellness after his kids have gone to bed.