How to Mow a Lawn

How to Mow a Lawn

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 3 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 - 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Whether your home sits on an urban lot or a country estate, a lush, green carpet of lawn adds appeal to your property. There are several chores for lawn maintenance but the most important and time consuming is usually mowing. Learn some best practices that help keep the task efficient and hassle-free.

When to Mow a Lawn

Two principle factors determine when to start up the mower. The first is the type of grass that makes up your turf. Different varieties look and perform best at different heights. The second consideration is the climate where you live. Rainy, wet conditions in the spring and fall in northern climates translate to faster growth and more mowing. Southern regions usually need more frequent mowing during the summer months.

Regardless of where you are located, it's always best to cut when the grass is dry.

Best height for common lawn grasses in the U.S.
Kentucky Bluegrass 2-2 1/2" cool season
Bentgrass 1/2-1" cool season
Perennial Ryegrass 1-2" cool season
Fescue 2-3" cool season
Bermudagrass 1-1 1/2" warm season
Zoysiagrass 3/4-1" warm season
St. Augustinegrass 2-2 1/2" warm season
Buffalograss 2-3" warm season

Before Getting Started

If you have a large lawn or a lot of obstacles like swingsets, pools, or trees and shrubs, it's helpful to divide and conquer. You may need to adjust the cutting height for high traffic or shady areas. Roots and trees can be better protected from the mower blades by a layer of mulch. The job can also go more quickly if you tackle a large lawn in sections based on the terrain.

If your yard has a decent sized swatch of clear, fairly flat turf, you may even want to create a pattern on the lawn. Some homeowners opt for a diagonal or checkerboard look which is made by the imprint of the mower's tires.

Tip

If your last mowing turned out uneven or shaggy, it's time to sharpen the mower blades. Depending on grass type and density you may need to sharpen your blades three to four times each season. Mowing damages grass and a clean cut made with sharp blades helps the turf recover more easily.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Mower
  • Oil rag
  • Broom or air hose
  • Scraper

Materials

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Sturdy shoes

Instructions

  1. Walk the Mowing Area

    Check for obstacles. Toys, large sticks, and rocks can be hidden hazards that dull your cutting blades and create flying debris. Stopping and starting to pick up while mowing is time consuming and inefficient.

  2. Remove Debris From Mower Parts

    Make sure all parts of the mower, including fans and air filters, are clear of debris from prior mowings. Sweep off the mower deck with a broom or use an air hose to blow out leaves and grass clippings.

    Bag attachments work best starting out empty. Remove gummed up grass accumulated in the side discharge.

    If you are using a walk-behind mower, turn the unit on its side and use a scraper to remove grass build-up.

  3. Check Gear According to Mower Type

    Electric mowers don't require oil, but check the battery for a full charge. Inspect extension cords for damage before using plug-in electric units.

    Gas powered engines require oil and it's a good idea to check the level before each mowing. The job will also go more quickly if you don't need to stop to fill the gas tank, Top off when oil and gas are low.

  4. Adjust the Mowing Height

    If you need to change the cutting height from a previous setting, do that now. Riding mowers use panels or gears to set the height at different levels.

    Adjusting walk-behind mowers may require raising or lowering the unit's tires.

    Tip

    If your turf is more than 3 inches taller than the recommended growing height, it's better to mow in two separate cuttings leaving several days in between for the grass to recover. Set cutting height to take off the top 2 inches for the first pass. You can reset to normal cutting height for the second mowing.

  5. Allow the Unit to Warm Up

    With a gas engine the choke is often required for a cold start. Most walk-behind gas mowers also have a manual pump (the small bubble located on the deck) that you need to press several times to move gasoline into the engine. Your owner's manual should provide correct steps for a cold start.

    Let your mower warm up for a minute or two before engaging the gears and cutting blades. This allow the unit to reach a steady idle speed before pushing it to power up for mowing.

  6. Adjust Power for Mowing and Engage Blades

    Gas powered engines need to run at a specific rpm (revolutions per minute) in order to work efficiently during mowing. Check your manufacturers instructions for the correct rpm for your unit.

    Engage the cutting blades and begin.

  7. Overlap the Mowing Path

    Most mowers have a right side discharge, so run your mower placing the right side tires in the path made previously by the left side tires. This will give a more even cut.

  8. Avoid Windrowing

    Windrowing occurs when grass clippings accumulate and pile up on the lawn surface. Keep the side discharge aimed toward the outside of the mowing area. Clippings thrown into the uncut part of the lawn can clog your blades and strain your engine.

    When the grass is growing rapidly avoiding windrowing can be difficult on every part of the lawn. You can switch to mulching blades which give a finer cut but this isn't always effective. Alter your mowing pattern the next time to avoid more build-up in the same area. Eventually the clippings will disperse.

  9. Cool Down and Complete

    When you've finished, disengage your mowing blade and lower the rpm for your engine. This allows some of the generated heat to disperse before putting the unit away.

    Make sure the blades have ceased to rotate before stepping off your riding mower.

    Once the mower is turned off, It's okay to go ahead and sweep off grass and debris from the deck but avoid touching engine parts until the unit is completely cool.