How to Mow a Lawn the Right Way
Lawn Mowing Tips
For most homeowners, mowing the lawn has become a ritual that you don't think much about, just like shaving or making your bed.
You probably have a set way of how you mow your lawn, and you never stray from it. However, lawn mowing can be tricky for beginners, who might have just bought a house for the first time, or when using a brand new mower for the first time.
We’ll cover several lawn mowing tips that will teach you how to mow a lawn the right way. It may mean breaking some of your old habits, but your lawn will thank you for it.
Wear Safe Clothing
You’ve probably seen the person who wears sandals while mowing the lawn. We hope you’re not like them. It’s a surefire way to injure your foot or lose a toe because you have less protection from the blade.
Be smart about the clothing you wear when mowing the lawn. Closed-toed shoes without long laces and close-fitting clothing help minimize the chance of any part of you getting drawn under the blade. Eye protection is also important. If you’ve ever had glass clippings fly into your eye, you know how painful it can be. Wear sunglasses or safety glasses.
Read our Lawn Mower Safety Guide for a complete overview of how to cut grass safely.
Check the Lawn for Obstacles
Knowing how to cut grass properly goes beyond the physical act of mowing. Before you yank that pull cord, you should check your yard for debris, obstructions, animal nests, and anything else that could impede your mowing, damage your mower, or hurt your conscience.
I know someone who accidentally mowed over a rabbit nest he didn’t see. The result was a rabbit who grew up with one ear. Rocks, pebbles, standing water, and other impediments can destroy your mower if you run over them. My mom was always sure to remind me to watch out for stones. She always used to show me the scar she got when she was little when a neighbor's mower shot a stone across the yard. So, please, always do a little recon of your yard before mowing.
Mow Less, Mow Taller
Many homeowners have this idea that grass needs to get a crew cut each time to look nice. But your lawn doesn’t need to look like a PGA championship golf course; in fact, it shouldn’t.
Cutting grass too short can damage its blades and result in brown spots on your lawn. It can also render the landscape defenseless against weeds.
So, how short should I cut my grass? The general rule of thumb is to not take off more than one-third of the blade height during any single cut. Naturally, this is also closely related to how often you mow your lawn. Usually, you should mow once per week unless the grass is growing really fast, in which case you may need to mow more often if you're following the one-third rule.
Vary Your Mowing Pattern
Our next lawn mowing tip involves your mowing pattern. You probably have a set direction for mowing. Maybe you mow in a square pattern starting from the right-bottom corner of the lawn. Or, maybe you mow up and down your lawn starting from north to south.
Those kinds of habits can be hard to break, but it’s better for your lawn that you mow differently each time. Always moving in the same direction will cause the grass to lean one way and may result in permanent ruts forming. Spice up your mowing by trying a new pattern or two!
Lawn enthusiasts will appreciate our lawn striping guide for some great ideas on how to mow stripes without ruining their field.
Although you should vary your mowing patterns, you should never mow backward. If you have a push mower with a power drive and try mowing backward without releasing the clutch, you could damage the mower. Even if you’re not using a self-propelled, mowing backward causes problems with grass discharge and leads to an irregular cut that neighbors will notice on your lawn.
Most importantly, walking backward could be a safety risk. If you trip and fall back for whatever reason, you may pull the mower onto yourself and get hurt. That’s why you should always mow in a forward direction unless you really need to maneuver away from something.
Be Careful on Hills
Learning how to mow a hill is tough. In fact, some hills are just too steep to mow. If your hill has more than 15 degrees of slope, then you shouldn't mow it. You could try calling a mowing company because the best mowers for steep hills are slope mowers that usually only professionals own.
For smaller hills, the way you mow them is different depending on whether you’re using a riding mower or push mower. To prevent riding mowers from tipping over to one side, you should mow up and down a hill instead of side-to-side.
With a push mower, you should mow side-to-side instead of up and down to prevent the mower from sliding backward on you should you accidentally fall.
Mulch Grass Clippings
The old way of dealing with grass clippings was to bag and throw them out. That is no longer recommended by many lawn experts, who instead advise leaving the clippings where they lie so they can decompose and add nutrients back into the soil.
Most modern mowers are capable of mulching, but you can purchase a mulching kit add-on or special mulching blades if need be. Mow over the clippings until they are roughly one-tenth of their original size.
Mulching your grass clippings instead of throwing them out can help rejuvenate your soil and save you money on yard waste bags. It also prevents your bag from emitting that rotten grass smell into your garage if you didn’t clean it well enough.
Know When to Mow Your Lawn
We’ve all had that annoying neighbor who wakes us up with a lawnmower at 7 am on a Saturday. Mowing early in the morning isn’t just rude, it can also damage your mower. So, how early should you mow your lawn?
Grass is usually damp in the morning because of dew. In general, mowing wet grass is a bad idea because it can clump up inside your mower and make it difficult to mow. That’s why you should wait at least until mid-morning when the grass has dried.
Late afternoon is a better time to mow because it’s not as hot. Heatstroke is something to watch out for during summer, so definitely avoid mowing during the hottest parts of the day.
Watch Those Edges
For starters, trying to trim the edges with a mower is a fruitless effort that you don't want to waste time doing. But, if the two surfaces are level, you should be safe to mow over the edge.
However, if the adjoining surface is higher than the grass, you should raise the mower blade to avoid damaging it on the surface. Likewise, if the grass is higher than the adjoining surface, you should raise the deck to avoid scalping the lawn. You can avoid these annoyances by getting yourself a good string trimmer or lawn edger.
Keep Your Blade Sharp
Have you ever tried to cut something (paper, string, etc.) with dull scissors? Notice that instead of giving a clean cut, the dull scissors barely tear through the object you are cutting.
The same thing happens with mower blades. When sharpened, the blades cleanly cut through the grass. If the blades are dull, however, they’ll slowly tear through the grass and rip it open, exposing it to various fungi and diseases.
That’s why you should sharpen or replace your mower blades after roughly every 25 hours of use. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, you can take your mower into a shop for professional blade maintenance.
A Better Lawn Awaits
Learning how to mow the right way will keep you safe and your lawn looking beautiful. We hope these lawn mowing tips changed your perspective on cutting grass and help you mow better than ever before.
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