Love it or loathe it, everyone knows that cutting the grass is one of the most important aspects of caring for a lawn.
However, there’s more to the science of cutting grass than simply pushing the mower up and down – so here are our top 15 tips for lawn grass cutting to help you learn how to do it right.
For a preview of some of the stuff we’re going to be talking about, you can also check out this video before reading on.
Lawn Grass Cutting Tips
1. Always follow the ‘one-third’ rule
The first golden rule of lawn mowing is to never take more than a third off the length of the grass at any one time – any more than this and you will weaken it and make it prone to disease.
This doesn’t mean you can’t cut your grass short – it just means that if you let it get out of hand, you’ll need to reduce the length in stages.
Take off a third now, leave it to recover for a week and then take off another third. By repeating this process, you will gradually reduce the length of your lawn without placing it under unnecessary stress and making it vulnerable to disease and pests.
2. Keep your blades sharp
The second golden rule of mowing is to always use sharp blades. If you let your blades become blunt, they will tear the grass rather than cutting it. This damages the blades, weakening the plants and leaving them more susceptible to disease and other issues.
By always using sharp blades, you ensure a clean cut every time, allowing your lawn to recover from the shock of being cut much more quickly.
3. Service your mower regularly
As well ensuring the blades are always sharp, you should make sure you service your mower regularly. Give your machine a tune-up at the start of each growing season, once in mid-spring and once in early autumn, for optimum performance.
You should also clean it out after each use to make sure no grass clippings become stuck inside.
Looking after your mower correctly will make cutting the lawn easier for you and less stressful for your grass.
4. Don’t mow to a schedule
Although it might be tempting to mow your lawn according to a rigid schedule, this is not the best plan – because grass won’t grow according to your schedule.
Grass grows at different rates depending on sunlight, rainfall, time of year and many other factors, so insisting on cutting it at the same time each week won’t be helpful.
Rather than setting aside, say, Saturday afternoons for lawn mowing, take cues from the grass itself and mow when required.
If your grass is growing fast during late spring or early autumn, you may need to cut it once a week – but at other times, once every two weeks or less can be plenty.
At best, cutting according to a schedule will only give you unnecessary extra work to do – and at worst, it will damage your lawn since you will be cutting it too short when it is not ready to be cut.
5. Mow at the right time of day
Similarly, understand about the best times of day to mow and time your grass cutting accordingly.
Generally speaking, the best time of the day to mow the lawn is in the late morning. This is because the dew from the night will have already evaporated, and the grass will have plenty of time to recover before the dew falls again in the evening.
It will also have time to recover before the hottest part of the day at around noon.
Another option is to mow in mid-afternoon, for similar reasons. You will avoid the heat of the midday sun, and the grass will have longer to recover before the evening dew arrives.
Mowing first thing in the morning or just before nightfall will leave your lawn more susceptible to diseases that will take advantage of the grass’s weakened state and the damp conditions to move in.
That said, you should adapt to the conditions of the day. For example, if rain has fallen overnight, you might prefer to wait until the afternoon to mow because the grass will still be wet in late morning.
Similarly, if hot weather is not forecast, it is fine to mow around midday since the sun won’t be powerful enough to damage your lawn.
In sum, understand when the best times of day to mow are – but also understand why. This way, you can be guided by the conditions rather than a strict need to mow at a predetermined hour of the day.
6. Don’t mow wet lawn
Whenever you mow your lawn, you should avoid mowing when it is wet. As we have already seen, wet lawn is more susceptible to pests and diseases, and wet grass can also clog your mower.
This is turn will make the mower less efficient and will damage your lawn as you cut it.
Furthermore, mowing while your lawn is wet may cause ruts in the soil and may lead to compaction – so avoid it!
7. Adjust the height to the conditions
Learn how to adjust the height of your mower according to the conditions.
For example, set your mower to a higher setting at the start and at the end of the mowing season to give your grass more chance to recover during periods when it isn’t growing as fast.
Raising the height of the blades is also a good idea during hot, dry weather. This is because grass blades contain moisture, so allowing your grass to remain a little longer will help it survive periods of water stress more easily – and will help it retain a lush green colour.
Leaving longer blades will also allow the grass to concentrate on sending down deeper, stronger roots since it won’t have to put all its energy into regrowing the blades you’ve just cut off.
Here’s an interesting video discussing the merits of cutting grass short or leaving it long.
8. Leave clippings on lawn
When cutting the lawn, by leaving the clippings on the lawn, you can allow the nutrients to return to the soil and benefit your grass further. Grass clippings break down quickly, so there shouldn’t be any problem leaving this process to take place naturally.
However, if there are too many clippings, this can be a bad idea since it will smother and kill the grass before the clippings break down. In this case, it’s better to collect the clippings and add them to your compost heap instead.
9. Vary your mowing pattern and direction
Vary the direction of your mowing from time to time. This will help you avoid compaction and will also prevent ruts from developing in your lawn where the wheels of your mower roll. Changing direction once a month is a good guide to follow.
If you want to learn about how to create stripes in your lawn, this video will teach you how to do it!
10. Overlap with your previous pass
Always overlap each pass so that the wheels of your mower don’t follow the same lines. This will help you avoid creating ruts in your lawn or causing the soil to become compacted.
It will also make it easier to cut the grass with each pass, and you will find there is less need to go back over spots your mower has missed.
11. Mow slopes sideways
If you need to mow grass on a slope, always mow from side to side rather than up and down. This will help you keep better control of the mower, and you will find the job much less hard work than if you try to push your mower up and down a hill.
12. Don’t slip off the edges
When mowing near the edges of your lawn, make sure the wheels don’t slip off the edges or you will scalp your lawn, leaving it weakened and looking ugly.
13. Trim the verges after
After mowing the lawn, take time to trim the verges manually. This will give your lawn a far more professional manicured appearance.
14. Clear the area of debris before mowing
Always make sure the lawn is clear of any debris like children’s toys, garden tools, sticks and so on before you start.
If you don’t, you risk running them over – which will damage not only the item you run over but potentially your expensive lawnmower too.
This is especially important when grass is long, for example, just before the first cut of the spring.
15. Leave a ‘wild corner’
Consider leaving a corner of your lawn to grow wild. When done properly, this can create an attractive effect that contrasts strikingly with the more manicured parts of your garden and can also create a valuable habitat for animals like hedgehogs.
If you decide to cut your ‘wild corner’, just make sure there are no animals hiding in there before you attack it with your mower!
Follow our tips for lawn-mowing success
As you can see, there’s more to mowing the lawn than you might first imagine, but if you follow the tips in our guide, you will find that your lawn will soon be looking lusher, greener and healthier than ever before!