How to Mow – 14 Essential Lawn Mowing Tips for Your Yard


Lawn care is one of the most tricky aspects of gardening.

There’s a fine balance to be had and a strict regime to follow if you want to achieve the most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood.

In this article, we’re focussing on lawn mowing, with the ultimate guide to doing it right, packed with essential lawn mowing tips to make your neighbors green with envy.

It’s just one part of getting your lawn looking immaculate.

Nobody said perfection was easy.

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The Best Tips for Mowing Lawns – Too Long, Didn’t Read

Gardening takes time, life gets in the way. If you’re in a hurry, for your convenience I’ve listed the top lawn mowing tips right here:

  • Use the right mower.
  • Keep the blade sharp.
  • Clear the yard of debris.
  • Dethatch.
  • Identify the type of grass.
  • Mow at the right time.
  • Don’t cut too low.
  • Don’t mow when the grass is wet.
  • Develop a good technique.
  • Mulch the clippings.
  • Fix the edges.
  • Consider finishing with a reel mower.
  • Clean up.
  • Keep on top of lawnmower maintenance.

14 Lawn Mowing Tips for a Professional Looking Green Grass

Choosing the Right Mower

gardener mows the lawn with trimmer near to lawn mower tractor

One of the most important lawn mowing tips is that you have to choose the best equipment for the job. Lawncare equipment has developed a lot in the last couple of years, so you will have plenty of options to choose from.

Doing the research will help you narrow the list down.

First, you need to determine the size of your yard and the type of terrain you are working with. If you have a smaller yard, push lawnmowers are excellent because they will give you an even cut.

Not to forget these machines are quiet and cordless. Riding lawnmowers are more suitable for larger spaces. And if you’re lucky enough to have a particularly huge garden, I would suggest checking out these commercial zero-turn lawnmowers instead.

Most lawns are not completely flat, but if you are dealing with bumpy terrain, riding lawnmowers can conquer them easily.

Rolling hills may look spectacular, but maintaining them can be a lot of work. Once again, a good riding lawn mower for hills can help you out with this problem.

But you don’t have to spend outrageously when it comes to a grass cutting machine. It’s a common misconception that you need an expensive, top-of-the-line model to achieve professional results.

With the right application, it’s possible to have a stunning finish even with one of these cheap lawnmowers – so long as you follow the lawn mowing tips and tricks in our guide.

Sharpening Lawnmower Blades

Any lawn care expert will tell you that a dull mower blade will ruin your turf faster than a hoard of invasive pests.

Hacking at the grass blades with anything less than a keen edge can take divots and chunks out of the ground, and it’s guaranteed to leave you with an uneven cut and an unhealthy lawn.

In spite of this tip being commonplace, homeowners often forget to sharpen lawnmower blades.

Which is astounding considering just how much of an instant impact this single piece of advice can have on the look and feel of your lawn.

Check out this article and find the best lawnmower blade sharpener for your machine.

If you’re using a gas-powered mower, remember to take out the spark plug before removing the blade.

You also need to ensure the lawnmower blade is balanced – otherwise, you could damage your mower and the turf.

But if you’re not comfortable sharpening the blade by yourself – or you simply want a more professional finish – you can always take it to a local sharpening service and have it done by an expert.

Finally, if you think the blade is beyond repair, check out this article on the best lawnmower blades on the market and pick yourself up a new one.

Clear the Yard

You’d be amazed at how many people completely forget this essential step, fire up the mower and just blast over all kinds of yard waste and debris.

It’s not good for your lawn, and it’s certainly not good for your lawnmower.

Get out there with a wheelbarrow (or one of these awesome lawn tractor dump carts if you have a larger property) and clean that (sometimes literal) crap up.

Branches, sticks, leaves, stones, yard waste, dog poo, kid’s toys, dead animals… the list is long for what can lay strewn across your lawn and cause you problems when trying to mow.

Get rid of it before even attempting your first cutting pass. Your lawn will thank you – and so will your mower.

Dethatching

man dethatching lawn at backyard

Yes, I’m including this as part of the mowing process, because it can seriously make a difference to the overall look, feel, and health of your lawn.

Thatch is the name given to a buildup of dead grass and material that can choke existing grass and prevent it from thriving.

As such, removing this debris is a very good idea.

The good news is – you don’t have to do it every time you mow. In fact, that would be detrimental to the lawn and would eventually rake it bare.

Dethatching is best done in the early spring or in the fall, around about the time you’re thinking of overseeding, and/or mowing for the first/last time.

It involves using a rake or dethatching machine/tool to scrape up this dead material and remove it from the surface of your lawn. You can see some examples of such devices if you read this article.

This will help boost grass growth, assist in preventing weeds, and keeps yard material from clogging up your mower. It’s a triple win.

Check out this article for more benefits of dethatching your lawn, and if you want even more tips on how to make your grass thicker and fuller – follow that link.

Identify Your Grass Type

beautiful house with green grass front-yard lawn

Now we’re getting serious.

In order to achieve the best possible cut on your lawn – you should identify your grass type, so you know the length in which you need to cut it, as well as how long you should wait between cuts.

First, you should pay attention to which region you’re in – if you have warm season grass, or cool season grass.

It’s not rocket science – south hot, north cold. Like in Game of Thrones.

Check out the video below for more grass-identifying information, which will provide more help when it comes to achieving the perfect mow for your conditions.

Bear in mind you don’t have to do this, and so long as you have a rough idea of how to treat the grass in your region you should be fine.

It’s just for anyone who wants to go that one step further and get their lawn care down to an exact science.

When to Mow

Most homeowners make the mistake of simply mowing their lawn because it’s the weekend, or whenever they have a day off, but this regular, monotonous schedule can actually damage your grass.

Instead, you should pay attention to your grass type as mentioned above, the conditions, the season, and how long the grass actually is.

After you’ve checked your grass type, the best way to know when to cut it is to wait until it has passed its optimum cutting length.

Then, if we’re going by the 1/3 off rule, and you never trim more than 1/3 of the grass blades during a single mow session, you’ll have an idea how long you need to wait before getting the machine out of the shed.

When it comes to the best time of day to mow, you should be aiming to go out around mid-morning – after the early dew has evaporated.

In the early evening is the second best time, somewhere between five and six o’clock.

Don’t mow your lawn during the hottest part of the day as this can damage the grass as it’s already under a great deal of stress during this time. And so will you be under that blazing sun.

The key thing to remember is that you should never mow to set schedule. Be patient, steady your hand, and wait until the grass is at its optimum length for cutting.

This is especially true if you’ve just put down new seed, or you’re overseeding an existing lawn. Give the little guys time to get established before you go lopping their heads off.

And for more information on overseeding, check out this article on how to kick-start your lawn after winter.

Don’t Mow Low

gas powered push lawnmower in gardening

It’s true that most homeowners don’t really care that much about the condition of their lawns.

It grows, they cut it short, the cycle continues.

I get it – people lead busy lives, and they don’t want to be constantly out in the garden worrying about the length of their grass.

So they scalp it as low as possible, in order to maximize the length of time before it needs to be cut again.

However, this is bad practice if you’re looking to achieve the best possible finish. In fact, it’s the number one lawn care mistake, and you can follow that link for 14 more.

Instead, you should be looking at only taking 1/3 of the grass blade off each time, and fixing your mower at the highest possible setting for the type of grass you have (see the tip above).

I can hear the groans at the back – yes, this does mean you need to mow sooner and more often – but it’s going to be well worth it when you see the improved condition and health of your lawn.

The science behind this is that longer blades of grass have more chance of developing a strong root system if given the chance to grow.

They have more time to get properly established in the soil, and drink up deeper water and nutrients, instead of spending all that time simply trying to grow again after getting scalped.

In turn, this helps them crowd out weeds, as taller grass blades shade the soil, preventing undesirable plants from taking hold.

Just remember to suit the height of the cut to the type of grass you have – and you’ll be enjoying a lush green carpet in no time.*

*Actually it takes a while and a lot of patience – I just wanted to finish that sentence off.

Don’t Mow Wet

wheel of a lawnmower after mowing wet grass

One of the cardinal “don’t” rules of lawn mowing is to never cut wet grass. It can result in a seriously botchy job, like Edward Scissorhands on acid.

Furthermore, not only is it a nightmare to clean up, but it can ruin your mower and clog it up real good.

And the terrors of mowing wet grass don’t stop there – as it can be extremely dangerous operating outdoor power equipment with high speed blades on slippery surfaces. Just ask Accident and Emergency.

So, always mow dry, after the morning dew, and not right after a rain shower. Wait as long as you can to give the grass a chance to dry out.

Unless, of course, you absolutely have to mow wet, in which case I highly advise you to read this article before you do.

And as it’s still essential that your lawn receives enough moisture to thrive and survive, I would suggest heading over to check out this piece on how best to water your lawn.

Pattern and Technique

perfectly striped freshly mowed garden lawn

We all dream of having that perfect striped lawn, one that the groundskeeper of a sporting stadium would be proud of.

And you don’t have to be a professional to achieve it. With the right equipment and mowing pattern, you can get this desirable look with a bit of patience and practice.

Even if you’re not interested in stripes, it’s important to have a consistent mowing technique.

Mowing should be done in a back and forth pattern, and at a steady pace. Too fast, and you’ll miss areas, too slow and your mower might get clogged up with material.

Aim to overlap each pass by an inch or two – to ensure you cover the whole lawn. I like to use the mower wheels as a guide, but you can also use the edge of the cutting deck.

But here’s the pro-tip – every time you mow, go in a different direction than the pattern you did on the previous cut.

Not only will this keep things interesting for you, and you’ll get to really know your garden, but your grass will stand tall, and the turf won’t develop wheel ruts from the same lawnmower pass each time.

For extra tips and tricks, see this article on how to achieve a ballpark striped lawn. Sure, it mentions baseball, but it could be just about any sport where a lush turf is admired by spectators and players alike.

Mulch Yes – Bag No

mowing and mulching the grass with a lawn mower at early fall

Ahhh the endless debate about what to do with the grass clippings. Should you mulch, bag, or even side discharge the now deceased little fellows?

The short answer, is you should leave them on the lawn – and there are many benefits to converting to this practice.

As you’re only taking a third off the top (providing you’re adhering to our lawn care advice), you’re not actually going to have that giant bag of clippings you so fear left heaped on your lawn.

These small clips will break down quickly, and introduce much-needed nutrients back into the soil.

The trick is to make sure you’re cutting little and often – otherwise you risk smothering the ground with material which can ruin your lawn and encourage weeds.

So, do away with the bag and set your mower up for mulching – at the very least you’ll be significantly reducing the amount of yard waste, as well as the constant trips to the ever-increasing giant compost monster in the corner.

If you still need more encouragement to give this a go, check out this article on the top six benefits of mulching grass.

Edging

Finishing the edges after a lawn mowing session is the bane of many homeowners – especially if you’ve no defined borders and/or lots of obstacles in the way.

Where possible, you should run the wheels of your mower over a concrete edge or patio at the border of your lawn – thus eliminating the need to go over it with a string trimmer or grass shears.

If that’s not possible – or you still need to give it a tidy up, take a look at this review on the best grass shears on the market – and use such a tool to give the edges a nice neat trim.

Consider using a half-moon edger to create a defined edge to your lawn if you don’t already have one. It might be hard work to begin with, but you’ll reap the benefits when you come to cut the grass again.

Alternatively, if you don’t fancy breaking your back, you can always use one of these gas-powered edgers to all but do the work for you.

And read this article on a trimmer versus an edger – to find out which one is right for you.

Finish with a Reel Mower

reel lawnmower in grass

If you’re reely into lawn care, consider using a reel mower to provide the final finish. (Pun fully intended.)

Many lawn care pros swear by their push reel mowers to give the grass that extra sharp look, for the most beautiful cut possible.

They’re also ideal if you have any hard to reach areas, hilly terrain, and for negotiating obstacles. And they’re a great backup mower if your main machine happens to pack in.

Remember to use a steady pace, and you should achieve a precise, final trim you can be proud of.

Clean Up After Yourself

It’s a simple step, but one that is often overlooked (especially by the kids).

Clean up after yourself.

Put the tools away, make sure nothing is left on the lawn (other than the mulched clippings), and don’t leave your yard in a mess.

Not only is this good for your own psyche, but your lawn will be free to grow and thrive as it’s not being denied water, sun, and other nutrients thanks to something you left out there.

Continued Lawnmower Maintenance

lawn with a yellow zero-turn lawn mower

You will almost certainly find that 80% of lawn problems are because of issues with the lawnmower itself, and 95% of statistics are made up on the spot.

Joking aside, a lawnmower in less than ideal condition is going to cause you all kinds of bother in your quest to achieve that coveted beautiful turf.

As such, it’s important to give your mower a regular look over – and not just once a year. This is especially true if you’re using it often or more than usual.

Check out this article on lawnmower maintenance – which can be done at any time, and covers all types of machines.

At the very least, your blades should be sharp, your deck clean, and your fuel and oil fresh and checked regularly – if using a gas-powered mower.

Summary

Cutting the grass incorrectly can have serious consequences for the condition of your lawn.

But with our list of the best lawn mowing tips, you’ll soon be on your way to a professional finish that will shine like a beacon of green health in the neighborhood.

Let me know if you have any grass cutting tips and tricks you’d like to share with the community – especially if there’s anything I might have missed.

Happy mowing!

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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