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Published Oct. 4, 2005

Joe Poston has two mowers in his garage.

Both are in fine working order and Poston loves them both.

The older one is 22 years old. He bought it Aug. 2, 1973, at the Tyrone Sears store, a few blocks from his house.

The newer one was a Father's Day gift from his wife, Barbara. Poston picked it out May 16, 1995 _ at the Tyrone Sears store.

They didn't need to buy the new one; Old Faithful was still chugging along, same as ever. But Barbara decided it was time for Joe to have a self-propelled mower, now that he's 60.

Poston is delighted with his new toy. He calls it "the Rolls-Royce of mowers." But he has no intention of scrapping the old one.

"I'm gonna keep Grandpa," he says. "I may start a mower museum."

Poston, a details kind of guy, can tell you exactly how much he paid for each mower ($189 and $299, both on sale) and what their engine specs are (Eager-1 3 horsepower and "Gold" Briggs & Stratton 5.5 horsepower).

And he's more than happy to share his secrets of how to keep a mower going for more than 20 years.

"Lawns are not my bag, but I do have my own method," he says modestly.

To demonstrate, Poston rolls both machines out on his driveway.

"First off, I put new oil in two or three times a year," he says. Poston uses the cheapest oil he can find, usually 40 weight. Whenever he changes the oil, he also cleans the filter.

A sharp blade is important.

"Ya gotta sharpen your blade every month," he advises. He has his own grinder to do the job at home and "my wrench is always set at 5/16th inch" to take the blade off.

Every February, Poston goes through a preseason maintenance check-up. The mower gets a new spark plug, fresh oil, cleaned filter and oiled wheels.

Another Poston secret is that he never lets gasoline sit in the mower's tank.

"It eats away at the metal," he says. "So you need to put fresh gas in there every time you mow."

For the old mower, Poston used a tin can to measure out the exact amount of gas that he knew would run the machine through his whole yard, and no further.

The rest of the Poston Method involves specific lawn care tips.

He never waters his Bahia grass and he doesn't mow it until it's 6 to 8 inches high. In his opinion, buzz-cut lawns may be neat-looking but they're not nearly as healthy.

"The neighbors don't seem to mind," he says.

Around Thanksgiving each year, after he cuts the grass for the last time that season, Poston spreads a mixture of Bahia seed and 6-6-6 fertilizer.

"I'll use maybe a 10- or 15-pound bag of seed and a 15-pound bag of fertilizer."

The germinating seed, he says, helps aerate the ground and gives vigorous growth in the spring.

Poston has his own pattern of mowing, too: the Archimedean spiral.

"It's the shortest way around the yard, mathematically speaking," he says. "Instead of walking back and forth, you go around the perimeter and then work your way in toward the center in concentric circles."

Because a spiral is round and Poston's yard is not, he admits he's actually mowing in a hexagonal Archimedean spiral.


Well, you can't argue with 22 years of success.

The Poston Method

To keep your mower healthy, follow these tips:

Change oil/clean filter 2 to 3 times a year.

Sharpen blade/oil wheels once a month.

New spark plug every year.

Fresh gas every time you mow.

Don't cut grass too short.

Mow in concentric circles, not back and forth.

Fertilize and reseed (if desired) in fall.