Just as there’s more to a haircut than hair and scissors, there’s more to mowing the lawn than grass and a lawn mower. Depending on the size of your lawn, you might need to use a particular type of mower to get the job done effectively and efficiently. How short or long to cut the grass depends on the kind of grass you’re growing. Finally, how you cut the grass can affect the way it grows back and its overall health.
Knowing the proper way to mow your grass can help you decide if it’s a job worth tackling on your own or if you’re better off hiring a team of landscaping and lawn care pros to handle the task for you.
The Proper Way to Mow Grass
It might surprise you to learn that there is a right way and a wrong way to mow the lawn. The wrong way to mow a lawn means cutting off too much grass at once, mowing at the wrong time of day or trying to mow your lawn right after a rainstorm. These lawn mowing tips will help you get everything right.
Get the Height Right
You don’t want to trim the grass too short or too close to the soil for a variety of reasons. Reason one is that if you cut the grass too short, you risk damaging the crown. The crown is the area that produces new shoots of grass. If you accidentally cut it off, the grass will suffer.
Another reason not to cut your lawn too short is that doing so gives weeds a chance to move in and take over. When the lawn is thick and dense, there’s less space for weed seeds to germinate. Any seeds that do take root will be quickly choked out by the surrounding grass. But when the grass is short and sparse, the weed seeds have an increased chance of germinating and more room to grow and thrive.
Finally, cutting the grass too short can make it less likely to thrive. When you trim the lawn too close to the soil, the grass has to put a lot of energy into growing new blades of grass. When you cut the grass at the proper height, it can focus on strengthening its roots. In the long run, grass with stronger roots is more likely to thrive.
So, what is the right height for your lawn? It all depends on the type of grass you’re growing. Some grasses can be cut shorter than others. Additionally, the conditions your lawn faces influence the correct height for cutting. If your lawn is shaded or if your area is experiencing a drought, it’s better to cut the grass higher than you would otherwise.
Here’s a round-up of the correct cutting heights for several popular grass varieties:
- Bentgrass: The type of grass most commonly used on golf courses, bentgrass has a recommended cutting height between 1/4 and 1 inch. The grass grows and spreads by the production of stolons, or underground runners, which is one reason it can be cut so low.
- Bermuda grass: Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass found throughout the southern part of the U.S. It’s another low-growing grass, with a mowing height between 3/4 and 1 1/2 inches.
- Zoysia grass: Usually found across the middle part of the U.S., Zoysia grass is a slow grower with a mowing height between 1 and 2 inches.
- Centipede grass: Centipede grass also spreads via a network of stolons. A moisture-loving grass, it does best in hot, humid areas of the country. It has a mowing height of 1 to 2 inches.
- Kentucky bluegrass: Kentucky bluegrass grows well in cooler areas, such as the northern part of the U.S. It has a mowing height of 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 inches.
- Tall Fescue: A cool season grass with a high tolerance for heat, Tall Fescue is often grown on athletic fields since it can take a lot of wear and tear. It grows in clumps and has a mowing height of 2 to 3 inches.
- Ryegrass: Ryegrass is another a cool season grass commonly used on lawns in the northern part of the U.S. It might be mixed with Kentucky bluegrass or Fescue. It has a growing height of 1 1/2 to 2 inches.
- St. Augustine grass: Like Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass is commonly used on golf courses in the south. It has a mowing height of up to 2 1/2 inches.
When mowing the grass, you don’t have to break out a ruler to make sure you’re not cutting the grass too short. A good rule of thumb to follow is never to cut more than one-third of the height off of the grass. That’s true even if you’ve let the lawn go for a while and it’s a bit overgrown. You don’t want to cut too much off at once, no matter how tall the grass is.
Get the Timing Right
You don’t want to be out mowing the lawn in the middle of a hot, sunny, summer’s day. Your lawn doesn’t want that either. The best time of day to mow the lawn, for the sake of both the person mowing and the grass itself, is in the late afternoon or early evening when the weather has had a chance to cool down a bit, and the sun isn’t nearly so intense.
You might think that early morning before the day has had a chance to heat up would be a good time to mow. But the grass is often wet with dew early in the day, which can present its own set of problems.
Another thing to remember when it comes to timing is that it’s better to mow your lawn when it needs to be mowed rather than to mow it based on your schedule. For example, it’s not necessarily best to mow the lawn every Tuesday at 5 p.m., as the lawn might not need mowing every Tuesday. Instead, get a sense of how quickly the grass grows and set a mowing schedule based on the speed of growth.
Never Mow Wet Grass
It’s generally a good idea to wait for the lawn to dry after it rains before you mow it. There are a few reasons why you should avoid mowing a wet lawn.
First, it’s usually difficult to get a good cut when the blades of grass are wet. The blades of grass might be weighed down by the water, or they might be more likely to stick together, leading to an uneven cut.
Depending on the condition of your lawn mower, it can take much longer to mow a wet lawn than a dry one. The wet grass is likely to cling to the blades so that you need to pause more frequently to clear them away. You might find that you need to go over the same area multiple times to get a good cut when the grass is wet.
Mowing a wet lawn isn’t just inconvenient. It can also be dangerous. Wet grass can be slippery, so it can be riskier to use a push mower after it rains, as there’s the chance that you might slip and fall on the grass. If you’re using an electric mower on wet grass, there’s also the risk of electric shock.
Types of Mowers
Now that you’ve got the basics of mowing the lawn down, the next thing to consider is the type of lawn mower to use. Many types of lawn mowers exist, but not all of them are appropriate for commercial lawn care. If you were to cut the grass on a large athletic field or golf course using just a manual push mower, you’d be working all day and would still most likely not get the job done.
Here’s a rundown of the different types of lawn mowers and the situations they are best suited for:
- Manual reel mower: Best for tiny lawns or small areas only, manual reel mowers don’t have a motor or need gasoline. As the person using the mower pushes it, the blades spin, cutting the grass.
- Push mower: A push mower is typically gas or electric powered and is usually around 22 inches wide. Since they are powered by a motor or engine, push mowers take a bit less effort to use compared to a manual reel mower. But a human still has to be behind the mower, pushing it along. They’re usually recommended for lawns 1/4 acre or smaller.
- Self-propelled mower: Similar in many ways to a push mower, a self-propelled mower can drive itself forward, easing some of the burden on the person doing the mowing. They’re best suited for small lawns and work better on flat areas than on hilly or sloped lawns.
- Ride-on lawn mower: Ride-on mowers or tractors can cut more quickly than push mowers, meaning they can make short work of a large lawn. They are often around twice the width of the typical push mower, meaning they cut more grass in half the time. They also require less effort to use, since the person mowing gets to sit down.
- Zero-turn tractors: A zero-turn tractor has a lot in common with a typical ride-on lawn mower, the major difference being that the ride-on tractor’s steering wheel is replaced with two levers for steering. It can take a bit of effort to figure out how best to steer and control a zero-turn tractor, but once a person gets the hang of operating the machine, the tractor is usually as good, if not better, for mowing large lawns. Zero-turn tractors move quickly and cut a wide area of grass at once.
Lawn Mowing Techniques and Patterns
Never mow your lawn the same way twice. That can sound extreme, but mowing your lawn in the same pattern over and over again can affect how the grass grows. It can start to bend in one direction towards where the blades typically come from, creating what looks like bald patches in your lawn. Varying the mowing pattern you use helps to avoid that issue and keeps the grass growing upright.
When it comes to the technique or pattern to follow when mowing the lawn, there is some debate over which one is best. The truth is, it depends on what look you’re going for. If you want stripes, you’ll want to move in one direction vertically or horizontally across the lawn, then mow in the opposite direction in a line that’s parallel to where you started mowing.
To mow in a spiral pattern, start in the middle of the lawn, driving the mower in a tight circle. It’s often easier to use a zero-turn tractor or a push mower when creating a spiral, as a standard ride-on mower usually has too large of a turning radius.
Mowing Tricks You Need To Know
These tricks and tips will help you have a more enjoyable experience when it’s time to cut the grass.
- Maintain your mower: Dull blades don’t do as good of a job cutting the grass as you’d like them to. Cutting with dull blades also increases the chance of injury to the grass. Get the blades of the mower sharpened on a regular basis.
- Fuel up: If your mower is gas-powered, fill up the tank before you start mowing. A full tank is less likely to run out in the middle of your lawn. Plus, it’s usually recommended that you don’t try to fill up a hot mower.
- Clear the lawn before you mow: Check to make sure there aren’t any toys, sporting equipment or other objects that you could potentially run over with the mower.
- Go longer in the summer or the shade: If you are growing cool season grass, give it a break in the summer by cutting it a little higher. The hot weather is going to be stressful for the grass. You don’t want to make the stress worse by cutting it too short. Grass in shady areas should also be kept higher since it has to compete with tree roots for nutrients and room.
- Leave new grass alone: Freshly sown grass needs time to get established before you cut it. Give it about a month, or wait to mow until it’s about an inch taller than the usual cutting height.
Lawn Care Tips After You Mow
Should you leave the grass clippings on the lawn or bag them up after mowing? As long as the clippings are on the short side, it’s usually best to leave them in place. The grass pieces break down and provide nutrition and nitrogen to the lawn. If you do bag up your grass clippings, try to compost them or use them as mulch somewhere else.
Get Professional Lawn Care From Strategic Grounds Management
There’s a lot that goes into lawn care and getting a commercial lawn that looks amazing. If you don’t have the time or inclination to mow your business’ lawn on your own, Strategic Grounds Management can help. We provide ground care and landscaping services to businesses across the country. To learn more about how we can help solve your lawn care needs, contact us today.