Mowing lawns is a time-consuming, tedious job that often seems thankless. No sooner have you mowed your lawn than you find that it’s grown and needs mowing again … especially in summer. That’s why maintaining golf course fairways is such an intense job, entailing mowing three times a week in summer.
If you’re finding it tough to keep your lawn mowed short and looking constantly neat and tidy, relax. It’s not practical to try and emulate golf course fairways! It’s also better for lawn health to mow high. By using the highest setting on your mower and mowing less often, you will promote a healthy root system. It will also result in a low-maintenance lawn.
What You Need to Mow Your Lawn
You don’t need much to mow your lawn. You will, of course, need a lawn mower and, depending on the type of mower, either the fuel, battery, or electricity to run it.
Most people opt for electric, battery-powered, or mowers that are fueled with gasoline. If you’ve got a large property with lots of grass to cut, you may prefer a riding (or ride-on) mower.
If you’re happy to use good, old “sweat power,” you can use an old-fashioned manual, walk-behind reel mower if you like. But they really are hard work.
Some people use electric or cordless trimmers (or weed whackers) to cut grass. These are ideal for edging and hard-to-reach areas, but they are impractical for maintaining anything but a tiny garden lawn.
You should wear appropriate clothing when you mow grass, including closed shoes, long pants, and sleeves to protect your skin.
You’ll see garden service workers wearing face shields for eye protection. It’s sensible because bits of grass can shoot up into your eyes. Ear protection will shield your ears from the constant buzzing noises that mowers and trimmers make.
Ultimately, remember to follow all safety precautions when operating a lawn mower and always use caution.
Easy Steps on How to Mow Your Lawn
The first step you’ll need to take before you mow the lawn is to be sure you know how your mower works. Then all you need to do is mow it the right way following proper mowing practices.
Make sure you keep the mower blade sharp. It stands to reason that nice, sharp blades will produce a clean cut.
It will also reduce the risk of damaging the blades of grass and reduce the chances of fungal diseases. Also, be sure to keep your lawn mower well-maintained and clean to ensure efficient operation and a longer lifespan.
Only mow the lawn when it is dry. Wet grass can clump up on the blade and damage your lawn mower. At the same time, avoid mowing your lawn when it’s excessively hot and dry.
Move in a different direction each time you mow. This approach will avoid creating tracks and will promote even growth.
If you are able to, mow at right angles every second time you mow. According to Sam Bauer, this helps to prevent soil compaction and constant scalping.
The average garden is likely to have all kinds of obstacles, including trees, rocks, and garden beds. Mow around these to avoid damaging your mower.
This is where a weed whacker or trimmer can be especially useful. Alternatively, if you have enthusiasm and energy, you can cut around these obstacles with hand shears.
There’s an ongoing debate about whether to leave grass clippings on your lawn or remove them. A growing number of people believe that it’s best to leave clippings on the lawn because they provide a natural fertilizer.
As they decompose, they improve the quality of the soil and help to minimize rainwater runoff. Research proves that lawn clippings left on lawns will also improve carbon sequestration.
Best time of year to mow
Both the season and current weather conditions determine when mowing and how mow schedules should look like. It stands to reason that you should base your mowing schedules for lawn mowing on growth patterns.
So, in peak growth periods in spring, you’re likely to have to mow weekly or even more often. When conditions are very dry, and the grass isn’t actively growing, it’s usually best not to mow.
But, generally, it’s advisable to continue lawn mowing until your grass stops growing.
This will usually be during the fall, towards the end of October. But it can vary in different parts of the country. So, you’ll mow grass in your garden from spring until sometime in the fall.
Sam Bauer, an educator at the University of Minnesota Extension believes that if you maintain grass height before winter, this will minimize diseases. But if the grass is too long in winter, it can encourage the activity of voles and other rodents.
Grass Height Recommendations
You should never mow your lawn to a height of fewer than 3 inches. Dave Smitley of the Michigan State University Extension warns that mowing it lower than will be stressful to your lawn.
His advice is to use the highest setting on your lawn mower. This usually produces a cutting height of 3.25-4 inches.
Smitley says that mowing at this height out-competes weeds and controls grubs. Your lawn will look as good as it would if moved at 2.5 inches, but you’ll need fewer pesticides and/or herbicides.
In fact, he says that if you mow high, apply a modest amount of fertilizer, and water well when conditions are dry, you may never need pesticides or herbicides. And you’ll have a really healthy garden lawn.
A caveat is that a 4-inch cut tends to result in grass blades laying over each other. There’s nothing wrong with this, but some people think it looks ugly.
If you’re worried about this, Smitley suggests mowing with a lawn mower setting of 3-3.5 inches.
Sam Bauer agrees. He emphasizes the one-third rule. We mention this in our post that discusses the pros and cons of leaving or collecting grass clippings off the lawn.
If you mow too short, it’s like scalping the grass, which stresses the plants. Additionally, when you mow short, weed seeds get exposed to more sunlight, increasing the chance of germination.
On the other hand, when the grass is taller, the soil stays cooler and the grass tends to shade out weed seeds. It also enables the grass to grow longer roots and reach more nutrients in the soil.
Lawn Mowing for Different Types of Grass
The type of grass you have planted can also make a difference to lawn care and how high or low you can safely set your mower for height. Generally, you can mow warm-season grasses like Bermuda and zoysia at 1.5-2.5 inches.
According to the University of Missouri Extension horticulturists, mowing these grass types at a lower setting in the spring reduces thatch accumulation and increases the green-up rate after winter dormancy.
The lowest you should mow cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fescue, is to a height of 2.5 to 3.5 inches. In Missouri, they have a successful Don’t Bag It lawn care program that promotes returning clippings to the lawn. They say using a tall setting is a good method for easily accumulating clippings on the lawn.
Useful Mowing Tips
Here are some useful lawn-mowing tips to remember:
- It’s best to set your lawn mower at its highest setting.
- If you aren’t already setting your mower high, increase the mowing height by an inch in mid-summer.
- Mow often but don’t remove more than a third of the leaf blade in a single mowing.
- Don’t mow too low as it can stress the grass and make your lawn more susceptible to disease.
- It’s important to maintain a consistent mowing height and not allow the grass to get too long before mowing.
- Keep your mower blades razor-sharp.
- Regularly vary the mower pattern you use.
- Let your grass clippings lie on the lawn. They’re a low-cost fertilizer you shouldn’t waste.
From this article, you’ll see that the important issue is not only how to mow your lawn. It is equally important to know when to mow your lawn.
While the one-third rule goes a long way to ensuring that lawns look good and are healthy, different grass types have different demands. Some types tolerate being cut lower than others.
Generally, if you follow the advice of horticulturists who have studied lawns, you’ll stick to mowing high. It makes perfect sense because it helps grass develop deeper roots and fight off disease and predators.
Add fertilizer in moderate quantities and make sure you keep your lawn well watered. You might just end up competing with those golf course fairways after all!