Tips From the Pros at Fenway Park: Striping Your Lawn at Home

When people look at your home, you want them to admire your commitment to making it look so good. Stand out by mowing stripes in your yard, like you see in the major leagues. Baseball field groundskeepers across the country are very precise when they manicure their lawns, and fans in the stands and at home delight in the magic.

fenway lawn
Image Credit: Flickr

But it’s not magic. It’s optics and geometry. And it’s actually quite easy.

The Basic Concept

This process doesn’t involve using paint; it’s about bending grass. You know how, when you run your fingers across velvet or velour, in one direction it will lay light and the other will be dark? Same thing with grass. When mowing away from you and heavily bending it, you’ll see lighter grass because there is more surface for the light the reflect off of; when mowing toward you, light only has a small tip to reflect, and it will appear dark. Look at it as if you are changing the map of the grass: It’s about mowing in a different direction to change reflection.

How do you bend the grass? Special rollers are attached to to the back bottom of mowers. The groundskeeper will mow in opposing directions so light reflects on the blades, and contrast happens.

On the Field

Dave Mellor, director of grounds at Fenway Park (aka the “godfather of striping”), told the Wall Street Journal that creating patterns on the field are all about imagination. To him, no matter if it’s a classic checkerboard or the Red Sox logo, it’s all about having fun. How different is striping from stadium to stadium? It’s the same basic concept, just different minds working on different designs.

Do It at Home

It doesn’t require professional equipment—you can do it at home. The rollers on your lawn mower are often the same or similar to the rollers on the professional ones, so you can get similar patterns. Mellor says homeowners should mow grass between 2.5 and 3.5 inches in height, because the extra grass blade is going to shade the roots and won’t dry out as quickly. He encourages people to mow high and mow often, so they are not cutting off more than a half-inch at a time.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

Either buy one online, at a lawn care store or make your own using a piece of PVC pipe filled with concrete and connect it to the handle. It’ll help with pattern design and improve curbside appeal.

How do you keep straight lines? At Fenway, they will often map out the more difficult designs like the socks; but for homeowners, use the side of the driveway or pick a point in the distance like a window or crack and mow toward it.

Best Mower for the Job

The best piece of equipment for the job is a zero-turn mower, as it turns around on its own axis through individual, hydraulic wheel drive. Since you are essentially trying not to show turns with yard stripes, this feature is ideal. However, it’s not necessary as some of the greatest ballparks are still mowed with old school reel mowers and a striper (roller) attached to the back of them for weight. You want the grass to really lay down in order to see the contrast.