Michael Hart, Oklahoma - A Stirling Job!
My name is Michael Hart. I am a 68 year old retired engineer that has been married almost 47 years to the love of my life Carol, with one daughter and several grandchildren. My wife and I own our home in an Edmond, Oklahoma Subdivision called Kimberly Crossing, a few miles north of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Most Edmond subdivisions are designed, built and maintained independently. Ours and others, have common property roads, parks, walking trails, streams, etc. I have previously managed a large hospital complex that included all buildings, grounds (mowing), roads, and utilities. Recently, I managed our Kimberly Crossing HOA (Home Owners Association) Subdivision grounds.
How did you get into lawncare/where did your passion come from?
I started a lawn care business in grade school to supplement my small allowance. I levelled, prepared, seeded, and mowed lawns to purchase equipment. My passion came from free exercise, seeing the results of my effort in my own yard, enjoying a peaceful outdoor home dinner with my wife, friends, relatives, meeting neighbours, and making friends with those interested in similar results.
Tell me a bit about your lawn- what grass type do you have? What have you done to it to get it looking as good as it does?
I primarily have a sterile seed hybrid Bermuda warm season grass for my sunny areas that is often found in southern lawns (gardens). In shady areas, I have some Tall Fescue that likes 2” or taller cut heights. Our southern Bermuda is typically started by laying hybrid sod directly on top of roughly smoothed un-compacted southern red clay. My contractor prepared base yard was typical to most- rough and unfinished. Bermuda roots deeply and spreads quickly in the form of stolens on the surface and more desirable rhizomes from underneath. Most of my clippings are bagged, to minimize clippings readily adhering to shoes and significantly reduce thatch build-up.
For the last four years, I have mowed my 4700 Sq. Yd. yard (and additional adjacent common property) by hand with a manual powered reel (cylinder) mower as a form of outdoor exercise that is much more enjoyable than the gym. I use repurposed fine textured red clay (found washed up near our stream) mixed with some topsoil to level my yard. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Iron, and pH are adjusted from tests completed at yearly (at low cost), through a cooperative extension service. Testing and precision chemical adjustments are rarely completed by most average homeowners. My moisture is optimally maintained via natural rain supplemented with irrigation. The frequency of adding water is determined by my golf course quality soil moisture meter. Still, my lawn is a work in progress.
How are you getting on with your Stirling?
The overall balance of my previous greens mower weight to lightness of the Stirling allows me to quickly and easily mow with the drive disengaged, to within a few millimetres of delicate objects, such as my wooden fence. The Stirling lightness (over my previous greens reel) with smooth rollers, allows me to mow easier and faster without disengaging the drive during turns.
The Stirling no tools handlebar angle (and height) adjustment allows me to mow very close to obstructions and in corners. I even find myself optimizing the handlebar angle during mowing! The high reel (cylinder) speed cuts 2” Bermuda seed heads that used to require my rotary mower. In typical homeowner applications, my Stirling behaves as a sports car compared to a pickup truck of my previous greens mower. My home needs are better matched with the Stirling, than my previous greens mower designed for a large open golf course. With more Stirling experience, I find less and less need to pull out my manual reel mower for tight corners and 2” cuts of Tall Fescue.
Tell me a bit about what you do with your grass type eg scalping and how the Stirling will help you
Dormant Bermuda is typically left to winter at 38 to 50 mm tall, to provide insulation for underlying roots, etc. The process known as spring ‘scalping’, is to remove last year’s now tan insulation (mostly dead grass blades and stalks), when the grass is at around 30% green up and temperatures are expected to remain above freezing. The target scalp goal is to cut at half the planned summer grass height at or near dirt level, so that any remaining tan grass and stalks are hidden by and don’t shade new growth. This optimal target scalp height is rarely known or practised, due to rotary mower lowest cut height limitations of 19 mm or often higher. This spring, I removed 864 gallons of tan grass to 19 mm with my Honda HRX rotary mower.
My Stirling would have enabled me to mow my dormant grass even lower to 10 mm, avoid below dirt level cuts into grass root bases, darken the resulting overall new growth colour, and improve striping contrast.
If you look at the image below taken 6/2/22 of my front yard you can see the abundant light coloured undesirable seed head stalks (that grow at 2-3X of grass height), that will persist for a few more weeks.