At first glance, mowing the lawn seems like a straightforward task: Fire up the mower, push it back and forth across the grass, and call it a day.
You might be surprised then, to learn that mowing the lawn properly actually requires a bit of finesse — and it’s not just about keeping the grass short and the HOA happy. Mowing the lawn is vital to keeping the grass healthy, and if you do it incorrectly, you could be inadvertently causing damage and keeping it from its full potential.
The good news is that it’s actually not difficult to properly cut the grass, and it’s likely you only need to make a few adjustments to your technique to see a big difference.
If you have a neighbor whose lawn always looks great, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have hired a professional lawn service (although that can certainly help.) It’s more likely that they have figured out the secrets of healthy grass.
One of those secrets is mowing, or more specifically, not cutting the grass too short. While many homeowners prefer to keep their grass on the shorter side, it’s actually better for the grass to keep it a bit longer. Most lawn experts recommend keeping the grass at a minimum height of 2.5 to three inches, which in some cases might be as much as an inch or more than usual.
Keeping the grass a bit higher does more than just give you more time between mows. It’s actually significantly better for the plants themselves. Taller grass has more surface area, which increases photosynthesis and in turn, increases the health of the plant. The individual plants grow stronger, have deeper and stronger root systems, and look greener and healthier. Not only does this mean that your lawn is less susceptible to damage from environmental threats, it also reduces the need to invest time and money in more lawn care because healthy grass needs less fertilizer, aeration, and overseeding.
Longer grass also helps keep weeds at bay. Weeds pop up when the seeds, which are naturally carried by the wind, animals, shoes, or water, have the chance to germinate. This happens when the seeds land in areas that get sunlight and water — in other words, places that aren’t protected by the blades of grass. Keeping the grass a bit higher shades the turf so weeds don’t have the chance to take hold.
Finally, keeping your grass a bit higher reduces the need for water. Although you’ll still need to water the lawn to keep it healthy, longer blades hold moisture longer than shorter ones. This means that if you do experience a dry spell, or even a drought that leads to water restrictions, your lawn won’t show the effects as quickly, and will bounce back faster when the drought ends.
Proper lawn mowing requires more than setting the blades to the right height. Your mowing pattern, frequency, and the sharpness of the blades matter too.
Always keep your mower blades sharp so they cut the blades cleanly. Dull blades will only bend or tear the grass. This weakens the plants and leaves them vulnerable to disease. At the very least, they’ll look yellow and pale as they heal from the damage. A nice sharp cut keeps the grass healthy and prevents the traumatic injuries that kill the plants. If you mow your own grass, plan to have the blades sharpened at the beginning of the season, and then every 6-8 weeks after that.
Mowing at the right time is also important. Avoid mowing in the early morning hours when the grass is still wet with dew, as this can increase the risk of fungal growth. Instead, mow between 8 and 10 am, or in the late afternoon. These are the ideal times because the grass will be dry, and the sun isn’t directly overhead. It’s always better to mow when the temperatures are cooler, as the grass is less likely to burn in the hot sun.
When you mow, vary the pattern as well. If you mow in the same direction every time, the grass will compensate by only growing in that direction. Take care to use a variety of mowing patterns so the grass grows tall and straight. This helps prevent bare patches and thin areas, and keeps the grass healthy and lush.
The correct technique for lawn mowing isn’t difficult. It might just require a few tweaks to your routine. But making those changes will pay off in the form of a healthy, thick, green lawn that’s the envy of the neighborhood.