Mowing Lawn Tips: Information For Mowing Your Lawn Correctly

Mowing Lawn Tips: Information For Mowing Your Lawn Correctly

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Mowing is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition for homeowners. You may think mowing your lawn is a sweaty, back-breaking chore or maybe you consider it an opportunity for healthy exercise as you commune with nature. Either way, mowing lawns properly is a requirement for healthy, vibrant turf.

Lawn Mowing Information

Mowing lawns properly is important in maintaining ongoing health. Mow your lawn when the grass is dry. Diseases spread readily on damp turf and the wet grass can clog your mower. However, don’t mow during the hottest part of the day. Intense heat isn’t healthy for your lawn or you.

Mow in a different direction each time to promote even, upright growth. Otherwise, the grass will lean towards the direction in which you mow.

Leave the clippings so they can return valuable nutrients to the lawn. If you mow regularly, the short clippings decompose quickly and won’t damage your lawn. However, if you wait too long between mowing, or if the grass is damp, you may need to rake lightly, as a deep layer of clippings can smother the lawn. If the clippings form rows or clumps, rake them lightly to distribute them evenly.

How Often Should Grass be Mowed?

There is no set time for mowing the lawn, but most lawns will require mowing at least once a week during late spring and early summer. To keep your lawn healthy, don’t remove more than one-third of the height at each mowing. Removing more can affect healthy root growth, which means the lawn will need more water during warm, dry months.

Cutting the lawn too close can also increase your lawn’s vulnerability to pests and weeds. As a general rule of thumb, a length of about 2 ½ inches (6 cm.), increasing to 3 inches (8 cm.) during the summer, looks good and promotes deep, healthy roots.

Mowing Lawn Tips

  • Don’t mow your lawn in early spring. Instead, wait until the grass shows signs of wilt in late spring or early summer. Mowing too early creates shallow, weak roots that can’t withstand summer heat. This is often the reason grass turns brown in summer.
  • Sharpen your blades at least twice every year. Lawns cut with dull blades don’t look as neat and the tips of the grass may turn brown. Ragged edges require more water and increase risk of disease.
  • Set your mower slightly higher under trees where the grass competes with tree roots for available nutrients and moisture.
  • Grass goes dormant and grows very little during hot, dry weather. Your lawn will be healthier if you don’t mow it frequently during periods of drought.

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Read more about General Lawn Care

Best Management Practices for Your Lawn

Easy steps to a beautiful, Florida-Friendly lawn.

Everyone enjoys the look of a nice healthy lawn. Not only do lawns increase the value of a property, they also cool the air, combat glare and noise, and reduce soil erosion. Perhaps most importantly, a healthy lawn actively filters and traps sediments and pollutants that could otherwise contaminate ground and/or surface water.

So how do you get the best possible lawn for your grass species? Follow the simple tips in this fact sheet and your Florida lawn will reward you by resisting diseases and insects, requiring less watering and mowing, and looking great—even during droughts!

How to Mow a Lawn: Rows or Spirals?

When it comes to the question of how to most efficiently mow the lawn, arguments inevitably come down to two main approaches: You either mow in rows, or spirals. With the help of a famous puzzle maker, a few lawn-mowing experts and some simple mathematical calculations, we answer the question once and for all, which one is the better technique?

The first factor to consider is distance, and this one is easily ruled out by the first law of mowing a lawn: Don't go over the same patch twice. This given knocks out many well-meaning, but clearly inefficient routes on an unimpeded patch of lawn. (Note: For argument's sake, we compared techniques on an empty square plot—fancy garden mazes, orchards or sheds are surely part of the picture for most mowing, but in order to answer such a broad, important question as rows or spirals, we must make like the great philosophers and lay our argument down on a theoretically perfect plane.)

Now that we're down to a fixed square footage—and distance—of lawn to mow, we can focus on turns. If you have a push or zero-turn mower, you can skip straight to the next paragraph, but if you're using a riding mower, stick with us here and tackle the problem of turning distance. If you look at your every day, run-of-the-mill John Deere riding mower, you have anywhere from 15 to 22 inches of travel before you can make a 180-degree turn. Assuming the same number of turns, the way that this play will affect the outcome of your efficiency will depend on how tight your turns need to be. If your turn is as tight as the tractor is long, minus 15 to 22 inches, you're going to be left with patches—uncut grass that will force you to break the first rule of lawn mowing. In the battle between spirals and rows, this is only a hindrance for a spiral that is not perfectly plotted. For the careful mower, then, rows and spirals remain tied so far on any type of mower.

Now, onto the big question: Which technique requires more turns? As it turns out, neither. The following illustrations by master puzzler Scott Kim shows that on a square 16-foot by 16-foot lawn, both the spiral and row techniques take a total of 30 turns 14 left and 16 right for the rows, and 30 right turns for the spiral. One could argue that to mow in rows, there are half as many turns—when you get to the end of a row you make two 90-degree turns, which you could also count as a single 180-degree turn. Still, the total number of angular degrees you turn is in either case the same.

How to mow the lawn: 14 things to consider before the first grass cut of the year

Get your first mow of the year right – a little prep beforehand goes a long way

Once spring arrives, some of us will be looking to mow the lawn and start getting ready for the first grass cut of the year. This means dusting off the lawnmower and gardening tools to prepare for the season ahead. But what important thing should we consider before mowing the lawn for the first time that year?

Our garden lawns play an important part in our al fresco summer enjoyment – they host parties, provide a space to play, relax and read, and offer our borders and flora a plain backdrop from which they can shine. Therefore, it's crucial we get the first grass cut of the year just right to set our lawns up for a summer of use. Here are some practical tips from Flymo and Country Living on how to mow the lawn for the first time this year.

When should you mow the lawn for the first time that year?

In 2021, 'First Cut Sunday' – a term coined by Flymo as a good date to cut your lawn for the first time since winter – falls on Sunday 28th March. However, due to current lockdown restrictions and some early spring weather, it's likely lots of Brits will have mowed their lawns already.

With pandemic restrictions easing on Monday 29th March to allow up to six people or two households to meet outside, including in private gardens, people want to get their gardens in tip-top shape for hosting outdoors. Read our guide on everything you need to host a perfect rule of six garden gathering, from lights to fire pits.

1. Don't mow all of your lawn

Choose the part you'd like to be neat and tidy but then let the rest stay a little messy. This is much better for wildlife and will encourage habitats to flourish throughout summer. You could even plant some wildflower seeds here and make it a real visual feature of your garden (Cornfield seed collection, BUY NOW).

"Don't mow all of your lawn. Find a corner of your garden where you can allow it to become, dare I say it, a little bit unkempt," implored Chris Packham during an interview with Country Living about spring gardening. "That long grass will provide food for butterflies and other invertebrates and shelter for other animals – maybe even something as exciting as a hedgehog."

2. Consider a mow path

In the spirit of helping wildlife, do you need a whole area to be mown or could a pathway leading through your wildflowers be enough? Remember that a rich garden ecosystem can keep pests under control naturally.

3. Have a pre-cut tidy

After months of being starved of sunshine, your garden may look a little neglected. It's important, before your first grass cut of the year, to take time to clear any mess around the area you wish to mow, including dead sticks, leaves and any rubbish that may have gathered.

Check to see what is hiding in the garden the likes of stones and thick branches may have made their way into the overgrown lawn and if the lawnmower catches these, it can damage the mower blade. Keeping the mower blade sharp is vital as the damage a dull blade can cause could be detrimental to the grass.

Don't get rid of what you've collected. Add it to your wilder are as natural debris makes great habitats for wildlife.

4. Check for nesting animals

Check the area you are about to mow for any animals that might have made it their home during winter. Hedgehogs can often be found in piles of grass and leaves. If you do find a habitat, consider mowing a different part of the lawn instead and leaving it be.

5. Don't leave it too late

Although the difference in climate can vary depending on where you are in the country, research has shown that the first two weeks in April are the most popular time to dig the lawnmower out for the first grass cut of the year.

Lawn Mowing Information - Tips For Mowing Lawns Properly - garden

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Lawn Mowing Tips

The two most important aspects of mowing are proper mowing height and proper mowing frequency.

Mowing Height

  • Selecting the correct mowing height depends primarily upon the species of grass in the lawn. Most Ohio lawn grasses should be kept in the range of 2-3 inches tall. Mowing to keep the grass at its best growing height will increase lawn density and attractiveness and reduce lawn care problems.
  • Higher mowing heights favor deeper grassroots, greater roots, and an overall healthier grass plant. Grasses cut at a low mowing height can not sustain the photosynthesis rate necessary to produce enough food to maintain a healthy plant. The short mowing height weakens the grass and increases its susceptibility to weed invasion, disease, and injury from drought and summer heat.
  • It is a good idea to raise the cutting height in the summer months by an additional ½ inch to provide more shade to the lower portion of the grass plant. It also increases the leaf area available for food production.

Mowing Frequency

  • No matter what kind of grass you have, there is a simple “rule of thumb” to follow when mowing. Never remove more than one-third of the leaf surface each time you mow . So if you have a lawn of Bluegrass, which is best kept at 2 inches, the best time to mow is when it reaches a height of 3 inches.

Removing more than one-third of the leaf surface at one time results in an open, stemmy appearance of the lawn, weakens the grass plant, reduces root growth and leaves significant clipping debris on the lawn surface.

  • Mowing will usually be required more often in the spring and fall with a frequency of at least once a week.
  • Other Mowing Considerations

    • Keep the lawnmower blades sharp! A dull blade will cause injury to the grass plant and produce stress, which in turn increases the possibility of insect and disease problems.

  • When you use the “rule of thumb,” you don’t have to collect the grass clippings. They decompose quickly and put nutrients back into the soil. It’s a built-in fertilizer program every time you mow! Contrary to popular belief, the grass clippings do not create thatch, and by leaving the clippings on the lawn, they are kept out of landfills, another environmental benefit!
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    Lawn Mowing Information - Tips For Mowing Lawns Properly - garden

    One of the greatest wastes we see in this country every day comes from our own lawns. How many of us collect our lawn clippings every time we mow our lawns and throw them into the bin? Most of us? Many of us? Whatever the answer is we can say that it’s too many of us. So just what is the problem with throwing lawn clippings into the bin, and how are we supposed to dispose of our lawn clippings if not in the bin?

    Lawn clippings are obviously 100% bio-degradable, and they are full of Nitrogen too, a major nutrient that all lawns and plants require to survive and for their health. Being organic natural material, lawn clippings will also break down completely to feed our soils.

    The truth is that most of us are wasting a highly valuable resource every time we mow our lawns, as we’ve been trained over generations to think of lawn clippings as trash, when in fact they are treasure. So how can we utilise this treasure for our own benefit on our own properties, for our own lawn’s health?

    Mulch mowing. And in fact mulch mowing is so good for our lawn’s health that we should all being mowing our lawns this way as default practice in Australia, putting away our lawn mower catchers for good.

    Main image information // a mulch mowed Buffalo lawn that comes up perfectly

    Mulch Lawn Mowing

    Mulch mowing is done either with a dedicated mulching lawn mower, or when we insert the mulching plug into the rear chute of our lawn mower. Almost every rotary lawn mower sold today will come with a mulching plug, so if we have a modern lawn mower then we have a mulching plug to use, and we can mulch mow our lawns.

    A mulching mower or mower with a mulching plug inserted will force lawn clippings to circulate more times through the mower blades than if we just caught the clippings in the catcher. This process will then finely chop up the lawn clippings and leave them on top of the lawn, and many of these particles will be deposited into the thatch layer by the fan force of the spinning blades.

    We then mow the lawn as per usual, with no changes needed.

    Why Mulch Mowing Works

    Over the life of the lawn, we will be constantly trickle feeding the lawn with natural Nitrogen for its health, as well as feeding the lawn soil with a constant supply of organic matter which will break down continuously over years to keep improving the lawn soil by leaps and bounds.

    Mulch mowing is the single biggest ongoing lawn improvement we can give to our lawns over the life of our lawns, and it doesn’t cost us a cent.

    Nitrogen is of course the major nutrient in fertilisers, and with mulch mowing we are giving our lawns a continuous trickle feed of Nitrogen from its own lawn clippings, at zero cost to us.

    Mulch mowing is so beneficial to our lawns and lawn soils, that this should be standard practice for all lawn mowing in this country, excluding only a few exceptions.

    Is Mulch Mowing Messy

    Mulch mowing a lawn can often not even appear as though mulch mowing has been done, it really does depend on how often we are mowing our lawns, how much lawn leaf is being mulched at each mowing, and the type of lawn mower being used, as different brands and models of lawn mowers will all produce varying results.

    The only time we may get a more messy finish to our lawns when mulch mowing is when we have left the lawn to grow too long in-between cuts, and there are just too many lawn clippings being forced through the mower blades at once, and too many clippings being left on the lawn.

    For a regularly mowed lawn though, little to no difference should be visible after cutting, if we do see some clippings on the lawn after mowing, then these should break down and dissipate within a few days.

    Though in reality, we all in this modern world have grown into a new wrong set of thinking when it comes to our lawns and gardens, that every millimetre has to be perfect and exact and preened and manicured. Many of us need to break these thinking habits, and understand once more that our gardens are living and breathing organisms, imperfect by nature, and it is in these imperfections in nature that we find that that is how nature really was designed to work all along, to be imperfect, to decay, not to be preened, not to be cleaned, but to entirely self sustain itself.

    Obviously we may find that the paths around the lawn may be a little messy if we mulch mow, but a quick sweep with the broom or grabbing an inexpensive blower at the hardware store will quickly clean this up.

    A mulching plug inserted into the back of the lawn mower

    Mulch Mowing With Self Propelled Lawn Mowers

    This sub-section is only relevant to those of us with self propelled lawn mowers which have gearboxes that give us options to change the travel speed of the mower.

    If we are mulch mowing lawns with a self propelled lawn mower, then it can be wise to decrease the travel speed of the mower on such lawns. For example, if we normally mow at number 3 travel speed, then we would reduce the speed to number 2 when mulch mowing.

    We slow down the travel speed of the mower so that the grass clippings can go through the blades more often before being deposited back into the lawn sward. The lawn clippings are then chopped up more finely, leaving a cleaner finish to the lawn after mowing is completed.

    Exceptions To Mulch Mowing

    Mulch mowing will not be suitable at all times or for all lawns.

    To mulch mow, we really do need to be mowing our lawns regularly for the very best results.

    Lawns which have been sprayed with weed killers or pesticides should have clippings caught and thrown into the bin for about a month after spraying.

    We can mulch mow our lawns after fertilising a week or so prior, and it is highly recommended to mulch mow lawns that have been fertilised with slow release fertilisers, as catching while mowing lawns which still have little granules of fertiliser in the thatch layer, will result in us vacuuming up that fertiliser only to throw it into the bin.

    Lawns that grow quickly like old style common Kikuyu, or lawns which have grown quite a lot since the last lawn mowing, should also not be mulch mowed, but the clippings caught. Firstly the lawn will be quite the mess after mowing an overgrown lawn, and secondly there will be just too many lawn clippings which have not been finely chopped up, all sitting on top of the lawn at once, and these will take far too long to decompose, and may cause us other lawn problems.

    Lawns with weeds that are in seed should not be mulch mowed, as all we’d be doing is redepositing more weed seeds into our soils, making more weeds.

    Buffalo lawns may possibly be a problem in some circumstances, but mostly they too should be absolutely fine to mulch mow too. The only reason we may find a problem with mulch mowing Buffalo grass is if the thatch layer is already quite thick and raised, and that we may create a quite unsightly lawn while also thickening up the thatch layer further should we mulch mow. Buffalo growing in partial shade should not be a problem due to less thatch, while full sun growing Buffalo lawns do thatch up more and may be a problem for mulch mowing. Only you can decide what is best practice for your own Buffalo lawn, dependent on how it’s growing.

    It must be said that if we have lawns close to a home entrance and if we have children or pets who play on that lawn, that we could expect little pieces of lawn clippings to make their way into our house also. In these circumstances we may wish to choose to mulch mow some areas of lawn such as verges and front yards, and to catch the clippings in the backyard, if the lawn in the backyard is close by to a house entrance.


    We may find that if we have a healthy lawn that the mulched clippings we produce from mulch mowing may accumulate on our lawns over time. Whereby too many clippings from a healthy lawn are being produced, even if we mow regularly to match the growth rates of the turf. What’s happening here is that the mulched clippings are too many and are taking too long to decompose. We then start noticing a problem of these clippings just accumulating.

    In these rare cases it would be wise to stop mulch mowing for a period of time, a month to 3 months depending on how the lawn sward is looking and how it is disposing of the excess clippings. And if this is to be a regular problem for us due to lawn type, growth rates, decomposition rates of the clippings etc, we would then adjust our mulch mowing to perhaps taking turns to mulch mow and then catch on the next mowing, and to throw the caught clippings into the garden beds instead. That way we’re reducing the amount of mulched clippings on our lawns, allowing enough time for decomposition, as well as feeding our garden beds too.

    Watch the video: Mowing Tips For Beginners