How to Cut Tall Grass – Top 6 Things to Keep in Mind

Been away for a bit and come back to find that your yard has turned into a jungle?

No problem! I’m here to tell you how to cut tall grass in a way that will promote the health of your lawn.

Keep reading for to find out everything you need to know about how to cut tall grass.


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Quick Tips For Cutting Long Grass

  • Make sure your trimmer is tuned and your mower blades are nice and sharp.
  • Wear the appropriate protective gear including long pants and shirt sleeves, gloves, enclosed shoes, safety glasses or goggles and ear protection. You don’t know what might be hidden in the long grass that might come flying out at you!
  • Give your machinery a rest to cool down in order to prevent overheating if the weather is warm.
  • Don’t cut it all at once. Ideally, you don’t want to take more than one-third of the total height off in the first cut as this will stress out the plant. You can come back and cut it again once you’ve given it a chance to recover from the first cutting.
  • Cut when the grass is completely dry. This makes it easier to make a straight, clean cut.

How to Cut Really Tall Grass Step by Step

Let’s look at the process in a little more detail.

tall overgrown grass

The first step is to clear the area that you want to cut of hidden items and debris like kids’ toys, garden tools, rocks and sticks.

After this, make sure that you and your equipment are in good working order. Make sure blades are sharp, engines are tuned, fuel tanks are full, and your body is appropriately enclosed in protective clothing. (If you’re not sure how to make sure that your lawnmower maintenance is up to date, have a read of this article.)

Start the cutting. Remember, you’re only going to remove a maximum of one-third of the total grass height in the first cut. This means that a regular lawnmower is probably not the best tool for the job as its highest setting probably isn’t high enough.

You’d be better off using a hand tool like a scythe, or a trimmer/weed eater, so that you can more easily control the height. Gradually cut the grass to two-thirds of its original height (so if it was 3 feet tall, you’re going to remove 1 foot and leave 2).

gardener holding a trimmer

Don’t try and cut large clumps all at once or your machine may clog. The ‘gradual’ part is key here. Are you in need of a trimmer? There are a whole lot of trimmers on the market but this article gives a good comparison between two of the biggest brands – Stihl and Husqvarna which is a good place to start.

Water deeply and leave for a week to recover.

Attack the next section, cutting the total height to around 6 inches, or a height that is manageable for your lawnmower to finish the job. Follow the same process as step 3, unless your grass is already short enough that you could use your lawnmower on its highest setting now.

In which case – do that! It’s easier and your grass will all be the same height. Don’t have a lawnmower yet? There are also a whole load of different lawn mowers on the market! This article compares the different kinds which is a helpful place to start. And if you’re on a budget, there are some great cheap options too.

If you used a trimmer to reduce the height to 6 inches, it would be best practice to wait a few more days before coming back with the lawnmower and doing the final cut to your desired height. But, no one is going to judge you for doing it all in one day if you’re pushed for time.

With all this in mind, are you wondering whether there is more to grass cutting than you realized? For example, did you know that not removing more than a third of the total height is a rule that stands for all lawn lengths, not just when it comes to overgrown grass cutting?

trimmering grass in sunlight

If you’d like to brush up on your lawn mowing skills, have a read of these lawn mowing tips.

Are you mowing a large area? Your best bet is probably going to be a commercial zero-turn mower. Find out all about them here.


What is the best tool for cutting really long grass?

For cutting grass that is too tall for a lawnmower, the best tools are either scythes or weed eaters/trimmers.

How long is too long to cut grass?

There is no such thing as too long! Unless you mean too long for your lawnmower to handle, in which case you’re probably looking at anywhere from 6 inches to a foot. But, if you’re cutting the grass this long with a mower then you’re going to have to take it very slowly to avoid clogging and overheating, and likely need to tip the mower up to cut from above in places which is not a safe practice and definitely not recommended.

How do you cut tall thick grass?

The best way to cut tall, thick grass is slowly and gradually with a weed eater or trimmer.

Should I leave grass clippings on the lawn?

This depends on how long and thick your lawn was before you cut it. If you were only cutting a little bit off the top of the grass then leaving the clippings on the lawn to break down naturally is an excellent idea. If there are so many that they start to clump then this won’t look good so you may prefer to remove them.

If you’re looking for more ideas on what to do with grass clippings then have a read of this article.

Is it ok to let your grass grow long?

Depending on what you mean by long, then yes. It is definitely ok to let your lawn grow long. Ideally, you want to avoid letting it get longer than your lawnmower can comfortably handle so that you don’t create more work for yourself when it comes time to mow.

But, longer grass is actually healthy, more robust, and better for the environment. If it is summer, then it’s especially good to leave your grass to grow a little longer so that its roots can reach deeper to access more water.

Michigan state university estimates that 3.5 – 4 inches are the optimum height for healthy grass that has a better shot at out-competing weeds than shorter lawns.

What happens if you never mow your lawn?

Aside from looking wild and unruly and likely annoying your neighbors, not much. Cutting grass to a height of a few inches is a very cultural thing that has no benefit for the natural environment and insects that might make a lawn their home.

There seems to be this ingrained fear that an uncut lawn will continue to grow further and further out of control. But this isn’t entirely true. All of the species present will eventually reach their full height and enter a kind of homeostasis. You just have to decide whether that full height is not to your liking. The insects will definitely like it!


Hopefully, by now you understand how to cut tall grass.

It’s a multi-step process that should ideally be spread out over a few weeks if you really want to protect the health of your lawn. But if things are really desperate, you can do it in a day, just know that it might take a bit of time for the lawn to start looking good again at its new, shorter height.

Did you find these steps useful? Did they work for you? I’d love to hear about your experience mowing tall grass. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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