Best Lawn Mowing Practices

Home | Greenhouse | Pest Control | Garden Construction

166. Does it hurt anything to cut my grass in the same direction every time I mow my yard?

Mowing the grass in the same direction all the time tends to cause tracks, matting, and streaking. It is best to cut the grass from different directions. Mow back and forth across your lawn from the east and the west. The next time you mow, cut the grass in a north and south direction.

167. How often should I mow my lawn?

The more often a lawn is mowed, the better it will appear. The scheduling of mowing cannot be done on a weekly or even a daily routine. It should be determined by the growing rate of your grass.

A good rule to follow is not to cut off more than one half of the leaf blade at any one mowing. (See fig. 6—1.)

Figure 6—1. Optimum height of grass after cutting.

168. Should a lawn be mowed at the same height all year?

If you are willing to take the time to adjust your mower, you should cut the grass a little longer in the summer and shorter in the spring and fall. If any area is used for play by children or is under heavy shade, then mow the grass longer than normal. For a formal area in a sunny spot of your lawn, you can cut the grass a little shorter for the manicured look.

169. How soon will I have to begin mowing after the new grass comes up in my lawn?

This will vary for different grasses, but you should begin mowing as soon as there is sufficient growth. Let the rule on not removing more than one half of the leaf per cutting act as a guide to the first mowing.

170. Does the type of grass have anything to do with the height of cut?

Yes. To maintain a dense turf cover, mow the grass at the height it will do best. If the grass is allowed to grow too long or if it is cut too short, you will not get the expected results. (See Table 6—1.)

TABLE 6-1: Mowing Heights of Various Lawn Grasses

Bermudagrass (common)

Bermudagrass (hybrid)



Kentucky bluegrass (common)

Kentucky bluegrass (improved)

Red fescue


St. Augustinegrass

Tall fescue


1—1 ½”




2—2 ½”


¾ - 1”


2—2 ½”

2—2 ½”



¾ - 1½ ”

* When the weather turns hot, it is a good idea to raise the height of cut of all grasses by at least ½ inch.

171. Is it necessary to remove the clippings from my lawn after each mowing?

If the clippings are heavy, they should be removed so that the grass is not smothered and a heavy thatch does not develop. If the grass is cut often, it is not necessary to remove the clippings; normal decay and earthworm activity will dispose of the clippings. Under these circumstances you might want to de-thatch your lawn every year or two.

172. Should I leave my grass long or cut it short before the first winter snows?

Leaving the grass long is a poor practice. It can become matted over the winter and smother the grass. Long, matted grass is more susceptible to disease in the spring than is a short-cut lawn. By mowing the grass short, you allow the spring sunshine to warm up the ground quickly, thus allowing the grass to begin growing earlier in the spring.

173. What causes the tips of the grass in my lawn to turn a whitish color a few days after mowing?

This is caused by a dull mower that is tearing the blades of grass rather than cutting them smoothly. This tearing action bruises and kills the grass blades at the point of removal and causes the plant cells to (lie, resulting in a white, frayed appearance.

Worn or improperly sharpened mower blades cause:

1. loss of power,

2. excessive vibration,

3. improper ‘lift” of grass as it is cut,

4. poor discharge of cut grass, and

5. clogging of mower housing.

174. Is a reel or a rotary mower best for mowing my lawn?

This is a matter of personal opinion and what you want from a lawn mower. A reel mower is more difficult to sharpen and keep adjusted than a rotary mower. The rotary mower cuts off stemmy plants, whereas a reel mower will usually roll over them without cutting them off. The reel mower, if properly adjusted and sharpened, generally does a better job of cutting the grass and gives a more manicured look to a lawn after a mowing. The rotary mower is more dangerous to use because of its tendency to sling foreign objects, such as rocks, wire, and sticks.

Special Mower-Winterizing Instructions

  • Tune-up the engine.
  • Sharpen and balance the blade.
  • Check and clean the fuel system.
  • Check and clean the electric system.
  • Change the oil.
  • Lubricate before storing for the winter.

175. Are there any special factors to be taken into account when deciding on whether to buy a reel or a rotary mower?

Probably the most important thing for you to consider is your own mechanical ability. Reel mowers are much more complicated and require fine adjustments. If you are not mechanically inclined, these adjustments can be difficult. If you are a good mechanic and like to tinker around with equipment, then a reel mower might be just the thing for you.

176. What are some simple maintenance practices a homeowner should perform on his lawn mower?

The following maintenance practices will insure your lawn mower of a longer service life to you:

1. Check the oil frequently and add or change it as required.

2. Sharpen the mower blade(s) frequently.

3. Check the air filter for cleanliness.

4. Wash the mower off with water after each use. (Avoid getting water on the hot engine head.)

5. Store the mower inside a shelter when it is not being used.

6. Touch up the mower with paint when necessary.

177. I understand there are chemical growth retardants that will slow the growth of grass. Could I spray these chemicals on my lawn so I wouldn’t have to mow so often?

It is true that these growth retardants will slow the growth rate of a grass plant, but it is not advisable for the homeowner to use them. As the grass is retarded (actually weakened), the weeds are not affected and will take advantage of the weakened grass. Often when the grass is not growing normally, there is a tendency to forget about watering, which again encourages weed establishment in a lawn.

178. When is the best time to mow a lawn?

The best time to mow a lawn is (luring the late afternoon or early evening when the grass is dry and the heat and humidity are not too high. The cooler part of the day is easier on the person mowing the lawn.

179. While I’m working on the undercarriage of a mower, is there any way to insure that the engine will not kick-over and cause the blade to turn?

Every year people lose fingers by being careless when working on lawn mowers. These accidents could be avoided if simple safety precautions were taken. Always turn the lawn mower to the off position, even though the machine is not running, and then disconnect the spark-plug wire. Be sure the disconnected wire cannot accidentally come into contact with the spark plug. Following this procedure greatly reduces the possibility of an accident.

Fifteen Lawn-Mower Safety Tips That Could Save a Life

1. Read the owner’s manual so you can understand how to operate t mower.

2. Do not allow children to play in the yard while you are mowing.

3. Never fill the gas tank in enclosed areas such as garages or sheds.

4. Children should not be allowed to operate the mower unless they are old enough to have been instructed on how to operate it. A lecture on lawn-mower safety should be included in the instructions.

5. Pick up all foreign objects (rocks, boards, twigs, toys) from the lawn before mowing.

6. Always turn the engine off when adjustments need to be made.

7. Never pull a lawn mower; always push it.

8. Do not walk away from the law mower with the engine still running.

9. Avoid storing gas and oil in unmarked containers, especially pop bottles.

10. Daydreaming is dangerous; do not do it while mowing your lawn.

11. Do not start the engine in a building.

12. Gas should never be added while the engine is running or hot. Fill the tank before starting each time.

13. Wear shoes and long pants or slacks when mowing.

14. Stay clear of the discharge chute when mowing.

15. Disconnect the spark plug when working on a lawn mower.

180. What are some suggestions for maintaining my lawn mower in tiptop condition?

1. Keep the gas free of foreign objects (grease, dirt, grass, etc.).

2. Never leave the gas tank empty after mowing because this allows condensation to occur. Once water gets into the gas system, the internal parts of the engine can become rusted, thus reducing the life of your mower.

3. Clean the air breather often. Insufficient air will cause the mower to run roughly if the breather is clogged with dirt and grass clippings.

4. Check the oil often and change it when it is dirty.

5. Clean the matted grass from the undercarriage often.

6. Check the engine mounts frequently. If the nuts have come loose, the engine vibration can literally shake your mower to pieces.

181. Is it true that shorter-than-usual mowing in the spring will cause the lawn to green-up more quickly?

During the winter months the older grass leaves will die and turn brown. In the spring the new growth will be found at the base of the old leaves. By lowering the height of cut on your mower, you can remove all the older brown leaves, thus allowing the spring growth to emerge more quickly. Be sure to catch the clippings because of the excessive amount of grass being cut at this lower height. After the lawn has been mowed once at this lower cut, return the mower to the normal height of cut.

182. How can tree damage caused by lawn mowers be reduced?

The best way is by simply being careful when mowing around trees, especially trees with a diameter of less than four inches. Usually the bark is very tender and can easily be peeled off when hit by a lawn mower. If you want to improve the beauty of your lawn and at the same time protect your trees, dig out a small circular area around your tree. Be sure to keep the weeds out by spading the soil often. If desired, the soil could be removed from around the tree and a mulch (bark or rock) put in four inches deep.

183. What can I do to reduce the amount of time required to mow my lawn?

The mowing of a lawn usually requires extra time because of a lack of planning when the lawn was put in. To reduce the amount of time it takes to mow, you can (a) put blacktop or concrete strips against all walls and under fences, (b) keep the grass surfaces even with the patio and driveway, (c) leave open areas of grass that are easy to mow, (d) install grass barriers to reduce hand trimming along flower beds, (e) use g-round cover on very steep banks, (f) keep open areas of lawn free of obstacles, and (g) space trees and shrubs far enough apart so the mower will be able to get through. 184. I like to mow my grass short. Is this all right?

One advantage to mowing your grass short is that it causes the grass to tiller profusely; that is, send out new shoots from the base of the plant. However, continuous short flowing weakens the grass plants, causing shallow roots and thus inviting disease and weed problems. To overcome these problems, you need to fertilize and water more frequently and possibly spray occasionally for disease and insects. If continued short mowing is to be practiced, then a reseeding program will also need to be initiated. The low-growing bluegrasses are ideal if you live in regions 1, 2, and 3 (see this map)

185. What is the main reason for mowing a lawn?

The primary reason is to produce an even-looking, attractive lawn that compliments your home. People often judge the home owner by the appearance of the lawn.

186. I have heard that the longer the grass is cut, the better it can withstand the heat on hot days. Is it true? And if so, why?

Yes. Longer grass will help shade the soil, thus cooling it and the microclimate (the small area where the grass plant lives). Because the soil is cooler, the grass can better survive hot weather.

187. Should I buy a self-propelled or a push-type power lawn mower?

If you have a lawn with a lot of open spaces, or if the lawn is hilly or rough, then you should consider a self-propelled lawn mower. If the lawn is large enough, you might prefer a riding mower. Both the rider mower or the self-propelled mower will reduce the amount of work involved in mowing your lawn. If your yard is small, with a lot of shrubs and trees to mow around, then the push-type power mower would be a better choice for you. This type of mower is also less expensive to buy and easier to maintain.

188. What size lawn should I have before I consider buying a riding mower?

Usually a lawn smaller than 1/3 of an acre (14,520 square feet) can easily be mowed using a push-type power mower. If your health will not allow you to walk that much, then buy a riding mower or hire someone to do the job for you. Whenever a lawn is larger than 1/3 of an acre, a riding mower should be considered, allowing the grass to be mowed in a shorter length of time. Often the riding mower has several accessories (leaf pickup attachments, snow blade, trailer) that could be of special interest to you.

189. What safety features should I look for in a lawn mower when I am buying one?

There should be a foot guard on the back of the walk mower so your foot can’t slip under the mower. Controls should be within easy reach so you can turn off the engine quickly. A deflector bar at the discharge shoot is necessary to keep flying objects from being hurtled out and hurting someone. Always check the safety features before buying to insure the mower is safe to operate.

190. What, besides safety features, should I look for in a lawn mower?

1. The ease with which a mower can be started is important. An electric starter or crank starter makes this task a pleasure. 2. Consider the width of cut. The narrower it is, the longer it will take you to mow your lawn. Most push mowers are 19 to 21 inches wide. . The mower should have easy cutting height adjustments. 4. Check the wheel bearings; plastic ones wear out quickly. 5. Do not overlook the maintenance features of the mower. Be sure you can handle the repairs yourself; maintenance costs can be expensive if done in a lawn mower repair shop. 6. One final point: check how quietly it runs. Noise pollution today is bad enough without increasing it with a noisy lawn mower.

Facts to Contemplate About Lawn Mowers

1. Approximately 45 million dedicated homeowners mow their grass every week.

2. Some industrial experts estimate there is one mower for every five people in the United States.

3. Rotary mowers account for 8o percent of the mower sales.

4. The cutting blade of a rotary mower spins at a speed of over 195 mph when cutting grass.

5. There are approximately 125,000 lawn-mower-related accidents each year.

6. Rocks or any debris picked up and slung by mowers can reach speeds equal to the velocity of a bullet.

7. Close to 100 different companies in the United States manufacture all mowing equipment used by the homeowner.

191. I have heard you should always take a leisurely walk around the yard before mowing. What does this accomplish?

Besides giving you a little more exercise, it can reduce the possibility of an accident when you are mowing. While taking the leisurely walk, look over your lawn for foreign objects (toys, balls, rocks, wire, sticks, etc.) and remove any you find. This reduces the chances that the mower will pick up the object and hurl it through tile air.

192. I have been told to wear golf shoes while mowing my yard. Is there any advantage to doing this?

There is no real advantage to wearing golf shoes while mowing a lawn. The reason people give for the suggestion is that the spikes will help improve your lawn by penetrating the grass and aerifying tile soil. (See question number 328) This is not very likely to happen, since the spikes on the shoes are not long enough to penetrate the grass, let alone the soil. One exception to this would be if your lawn is so sparse that the soil can easily be seen; then the spikes could penetrate the soil. However, under these conditions, the benefit of the spiking would be overshadowed by the soil compaction caused by walking on the lawn. If your lawn is this sparse, then something else needs to be done to it other than wearing golf shoes when you are mowing.

193. Does it hurt anything to mow when the grass is wet?

Mowing when the grass is wet will not harm the grass, but it can make the job difficult and do some damage to the lawn mower. The wet grass will cause the mower to clog up much more easily than dry grass, and wet grass tends to stick to the undercarriage of your mower and make it more difficult for the engine to run at its best. If you must mow a wet lawn, do reduce the width of the swath you cut.

194. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of an electric mower?

Some of the advantages are:

1. silent running, 2. starts easily, 3. no exhaust, 4. motor seldom breaks down, and 5. no gas or oil to buy.

Three main disadvantages are:

1. electric cord required, 2. electrical outlets are needed conveniently located outside, and 3. trees, shrubs, and buildings cause problems with the electrical cord.

195. If the electric lawn mowers have so many advantages, why do you see more gasoline-powered mowers?

The primary reason is that gasoline models are self-contained units that can go almost any place you want. The mobility of an electric mower is greatly restricted by the length of your extension cord.

196. Does the height I mow my grass have any effect on how often I should water my lawn?

Yes. The higher the grass is allowed to grow, the more shade it will provide to protect the soil reservoir from the heat of the sun. The shade helps to keep the soil cool during the day, and this reduces the water lost from the soil reservoir by evaporation. The grass blades will also absorb some of the sun’s rays as well as reflect the sun’s rays away from the soil, helping to keep the soil cool. The prevention of water evaporation from the soil by mowing the grass at a high setting will decrease the amount of watering you will need to do. A grass that is mowed at a high setting will produce a root system that penetrates the soil deeper than a grass mowed at a low setting. The deeper root system has a larger soil reservoir to draw from than a shallow-rooted grass. Mowing your grass at a higher setting then allows your grass to go longer between water ings.

197. How does mowing a lawn help control leafy weeds?

Most broadleaf weeds produce new growth from the top part of the plant. In mowing you remove the growing points; this weakens the weedy plant and places it under a stress. The grass can then crowd the weakened weeds out of your lawn. Do not mow the grass too short, or low-growing weeds (chickweed, knotweed, spurge) will be able to compete with the grass.

198. Why doesn’t mowing have the same affect on grasses as it does on broadleaf weeds?

The growing points (crown) of grasses are located close to the ground so the mower is always cutting off the older portion of the grass blades. Since the growing points are never removed, new growth can be produced to replace the leaf blades mowed off each week. This is similar to the way your hair grows after you have had it cut.

199. What does the term scalping mean, and how does it damage a lawn?

The term scalping refers to a mower set so low it cuts just above the ground level. The damage done varies from putting a stress on the plant because of the reduced leaf surface to completely killing the plant by cutting off the growing point (crown) of the grass plant. Scalping a lawn should be avoided.

200. How is the best way to mow the bank in my front yard, up and down or sideways along the bank?

When mowing a slope with a walk mower, always mow side ways with the slope. This reduces the chance of an accident. Riding mowers can tip over easily on a slope, so you should always mow up or down when using this type of mower on a slope.

201. How can I check my mower to be sure it is cutting at the correct height?

The easiest way to determine the height of cut your mower is set at is to place it on a flat surface (sidewalk) and measure the distance from this surface to the lowest point on the cutting blade. Remember to disconnect the spark-plug wire before you start.

Prev: Watering Your Lawn
Next: Weeds and Their Control

Top of page     HOME