Servicing a lawn mower makes it more efficient, helps it last longer and gives the lawn a better cut. .

The temperature is up, the grass and weeds are growing so its time to get the lawn mower out and get mowing.

Before that mower cuts the first blade, there are some things that should be done to help improve the condition and efficiency of the mower.

The first steps for lawn mower maintenance should have happened last fall before the mower was put away for the season. A fuel additive should be used to help keep the carburetor in good shape and help make the mower easier to start in the spring, said Bill Skaggs, owner of Skaggs Ace Hardware.

While its too late to do that for this season, there are some practical things that will help improve lawn mower performance.

Changing the oil will help make the mower run smoother and protect the engine. Cleaning the oil filter helps improve the air flow to the engine and makes it run more efficiently. Check the blade for wear and if its dull, get it sharpened. This provides for a sharper cut and that leads to a healthier lawn.

Cleaning underneath the deck will help improve mower efficiency especially if its a mulching type mower that depends on air movement around baffles to work efficiently. Putting the mulch back into the lawn returns nitrogen to the lawn from the clippings.

All these things take a little time but, in the long run, will keep the lawn mower working for a long time.

"Preventative maintenance is the key to lawn mower life," Skaggs said.

Before mowing, take some time to inspect the lawn and remove any foreign objects. A lot of trees lost twigs and branches from the ice storm so look closely around trees and remove all tree debris.

While a lawn mower blade is tough, hitting a rock or piece of metal or tree branch can dull the blade or even bend it if the item is hard enough. Stumps are also an issue for mower blades and care must be taken not to hit them.

Most mowers don't discharge to the side anymore but small pieces of metal or wood can get picked up and thrown out from under the mower deck and can cause injury so take to time to look and clean.

Before doing the first mowing of the season, lower the deck to its lowest position and scalp the lawn to help clear up the dead grass on the lawn. This is especially beneficial for Bermuda grass, Skaggs said.

Edging the lawn is also beneficial for a couple of reasons. It helps water get into the edge of the lawn and makes it look nicer.

Watering the lawn at the right time helps it look and grow its best. The www.scotts.com site recommends watering about an inch a week from either rain or a watering system. Frequent watering causes shallow roots to grow and make vulnerable to drought. It's also good to water early in the day to avoid evaporation. Grass grows deep and healthy roots on deep but infrequent watering.

Lawns also benefit from a four-step fertilization program with applications in the spring, early and late summer and fall, Skaggs said.

@GaleR_Tribune