Mowing the lawn seems like an easy task. It’s kind of like vacuuming: You just hit all the spots and its done right? Yes and no. If you have a formula and method to your madness, you can actually end up with a lusher, green lawn with fewer weeds.
The first thing to be aware of is what height to keep your grass. Most lawn mowers have several different height settings to choose from. Mowers like the Black and Decker CM2040 cut up to 4” high, while others like the Greenworks 25302 mow as low as 1 3/8”. The height you should keep your grass depends on the type of grass you have. Find out what type of grass you have growing in your lawn, then you can adjust the cutting height accordingly.
|Grass Type||Ideal Mowing Height|
|Bent Grass||0.25" - 1"|
|Hybrid Bermuda Grass||0.5" - 1"|
|Common Bermuda Grass||0.75" - 1.5"|
|Bahia Grass||2" - 3"|
|Blue Grama||2" - 3"|
|Buffalo Grass||2" - 3"|
|Centipede Grass||1" - 2"|
|Fine Fescue||1.5" - 2.5"|
|Tall Fescue||2" - 3"|
|Kentucky Bluegrass||1.75" - 2.5"|
|Annual & Perennial Ryegrass||1.5" - 2"|
|Zoysia Grass||1" - 2"|
1/3 RuleDon’t remove more than 1/3 of the total height of the grass at one time. Mowing more than this can cause injury to the crown, which is where nutrients are stored and new growth generates. If your grass has gotten really long, mow it on the highest setting. Go back a few days later at a lower height. Continue until the height is right where you want it.
Have New Grass?It takes 3-4 weeks for new grass to establish itself after it germinates. Those new little shoots are tender and can be easily damaged. Wait until the new grass is ¾ – 1” taller than the ideal mowing height before mowing for the first time.
- Fertilize according to the type of grass you have and package directions.
- When hot and dry weather slows down the growth rate of your cool-season grass, reduce your mowing frequency and raise the mowing height.
- Consider composting your grass clippings.
- Use a mulching mower to return those nutrients to the soil instead of bagging your clippings.
- If you have grass in shaded areas, like under trees, leave it a little higher. Remember it has to compete with those tree roots for nutrients and water.
- If your mulching leaves big clumps on the lawn, go over them with a rake so they don’t prevent the grass underneath from growing.
- Always mow in the forward position.
- Vary your mowing patterns each time. Otherwise, grass will tend to lean in the direction you mow all the time. Alternating your patterns helps it grow upright.
- Keep your mower blades sharp for the best cut.
- Don’t mow in the hottest part of the day: It puts more stress on you and the grass.
- Mow only when the grass is dry. It will be less likely to clump and puts less stress on your mower.
- If you have slopes to mow, go across them instead of up or down to avoid the mower tipping.
Disposing of Grass ClippingsDon’t send your grass clippings to the town dump: It’s even illegal in some areas. Instead, use a mulching mower and leave them on the lawn or toss them onto the compost pile. Grass clippings are high in nitrogen and are valuable as an organic fertilizer.
Protect your TreesBanging against bark or tree trunks with a mower can cause damage to the plant. Instead, leave a three-foot wide ring around the tree and cover it with mulch like bark or compost. Keep it a few inches away from the tree trunk for healthiest results.
Tips to Keep Your Mower in Great Shape
- Always check oil and gas levels before mowing. If you have a cordless mower, make sure the batteries are fully charged. If you’re using an electric mower, make sure to check the cord for any signs of wear or fraying.
- If your mower has a key, take it out when not in use for safety.
- Never carry passengers on a riding mower.
- Always keep your feet and hands away from the moving parts.
- Let your mower cool down before refueling.
- Take a walk through your yard before starting and remove any sticks, rocks or other large debris.
- Make sure you’ve read your mower’s manual to answer any questions you may have.
- Perform any pre or post-season maintenance according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
The Best Way to Mow
You can mow stripes, diamonds, circles or just about any pattern into your lawn, but if you just want the grass cut, the best way is to go in straight lines back and forth, overlapping each pass. You can use an electric, gas or even a cordless mower as long as they have enough power to handle the job. When you’re done, make a pass along fences or driveways. Then, use a trimmer to get any bits the lawnmower missed. Make sure to aerate and fertilize your lawn as needed.
The Bottom Line
Your grass will look so much better and be so much healthier if you cut it at the correct setting with nice sharp blades. Mulch or compost the clippings to return nutrients to the soil so your lawn grows nice and thick.
If you’ve let your yard go or it’s been raining too much to get the mowing done, cut it at the highest setting the first time around. Then, go back in a few days and do it again. It’s better to mow more often than to take off too much at once. Never remove more than 1/3 of the blade height in one pass.
If you vary the patterns of your mowing, you’ll keep the soil from getting compacted, and your grass will stand up taller. It might also help you from getting bored with the same old task each time.
Always mow when the grass is dry to avoid damaging the grass and overtaxing your lawn mower.
With these helpful tips, you’re well on your way to maintaining a clean, healthy and green lawn that will be a showplace in your neighborhood as well as a great place for the kids to play!