Most people think of lawn mowing as an entertaining way to kill an afternoon away from your real job. This is a fine idea, of course, but it really shows how little people think about how deadly serious and important it is that they mow their lawn properly.

First of all, your lawn is going to be picked apart and critiqued by literally dozens of neighbors and passers-by. That’s a lot of public opinion, so you’d better get it right. Your reputation as an upstanding citizen in your community may be at risk. Like many things in life, preparation is the key. If you have a bad mowing plan, you won’t have a good lawn to look at afterwards.

To begin with, always have gas. It may seem simple, but far too many times a mowing day’s rhythm and beauty is thrown askew by an emergency trip to the gas station when your mower clunks to a dry stop.

Next, take a walk. Not only is it a good way to clear your mind for the task at hand, but walking the lawn quickly lets you check for dangerous debris. Large limbs, rocks or trash might block your path, disrupt your pattern or (even worse) damage your mower blades or gear.

Walking the lawn also lets you see the lay of the land, to see which direction or pattern may work best for this particular mowing. Prevailing wind or weather may dictate a north/south pattern. A wet lawn may make you want to cut down on lots of turning and stress caused by tires on soft ground. All of these things are important considerations.

Your last bit of prep work involves trimming. It is always good to trim ahead of time, so that all of the little nooks and crannies of the yard are taken care of before the bigger mower comes through. Nobody wants to do the big job of mowing and then have to go back and do the detail work, so its best to get the detail stuff out of the way.

Trimming first also lets you assess weather patterns (will it rain soon?) and peek over at your neighbor’s yards to cheat and see what they did. Finally, relax as you ride or push your mower, keep a steady pace and take your time. Mowing should be a peaceful and enjoyable experience with a finished product you can be proud of.