7 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Mowing Their Lawn - Backyard Boss
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7 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Mowing Their Lawn

Mowing a lawn is a standard lawn care practice and it looks easy—just buy a mower and push it across the grass when it looks unruly, right? But you might be surprised to learn there’s a science behind the task. It requires more thought than turning on a machine, though the machine you use and how you care for it matters too!

Review these seven common mistakes most people probably make when mowing their lawns.


A stretch of short grass
Image credits: Jason Dent via Unsplash

A short blade of grass is one that struggles to gather energy from the sun and therefore won’t be able to develop a robust root system. With short roots, grass is likely to struggle in the summer heat, unable to absorb moisture and nutrients below the surface level of soil. Grass will naturally become brittle and malnourished as a result.

You also increase your chances of creating empty spaces for weeds to grow when grass is too short or too weak. Weeds may lead to more frequent use of herbicide.

The recommended height for grass is 3 to 4 inches in the hotter months between spring and fall. Once fall strikes and heat dissipates, you can mow your grass below 3 inches. Adjust your lawn mower accordingly, so the blades are at the desired height.


A tuft of tall grass
Image credits: Lily C. via Unsplash

Believe it or not, grass can experience shock when too much of it is chopped off at a time. The rule of thumb is to mow your grass when it grows 1/3 taller than the preferred height, as based on the 1/3 rule. For example, if you want your grass to be 3 inches, hold off on mowing until it has grown an extra inch and is about 4 inches tall.

In addition to stressing the grass out, mowing when the grass is disproportionately tall means having to bring out the rake or mulcher to either remove clippings or shorten them. Tall grass clippings should not be left on the lawn unless correctly mulched. Longer clippings are prone to clumping together and holding too much moisture, thus promoting disease and making lawn care harder.


A field of well-maintained grass
Image credits: Jorien Loman via Unsplash

Unless the grass clippings are longer than an inch, thanks to infrequent lawn maintenance, there is no need to remove or torch them in any way after mowing.

Short grass clippings break down easily and provide the soil with nutrients like nitrogen. The remaining grass clippings, granted they aren’t too long or overpopulated, are useful as free fertilizer for your grass and can stay or be blown off paved surfaces onto your lawn.


Blades of grass covered in water droplets
Image credits: Nikolay Zakharov via Unsplash

Long or excessive clippings can clump upon the next rainfall and affect the health of your grass. But, it won’t matter how short grass clippings are if you mow your lawn when it’s wet.

Even if you follow the 1/3 rule, mowing directly after it rains could spell problems. Wet clippings of any length are prone to clumping on your lawn or inside your mower, putting your grass at risk of disease and unnecessary stress on your machine. Wait until the grass is dry.


A man mows a large lawn on a riding lawn mower
Image credits: Carnaby Gilany via Unsplash

If you mow vertically up and down during the first mowing session, then consider mowing horizontally the next time, then at right angles the following time. Mowing in the same direction with no variation during every mowing event doesn’t cut the grass so much as flattens it.

Changing directions ensures the grass stays upright and grows straight, while also better distributing the grass clippings that fertilize your lawns and reducing soil compaction for overall easier lawn care.


A riding lawn mower sits unoccupied between a tree and a red barn
Image credits: Erik Mclean via Unsplash

Overall, reel mowers cut more efficiently than rotary mowers. Reel mowers rely on scissor-like actions for clean shearing of grass blades, whereas rotary mowers come equipped with a large rotating blade that constantly slices grass as it spins.

Both are fine choices; however, reel mowers tend to produce cleaner results at less power, while rotary mowers are more likely to be budget-friendly. Rotary mowers may also be the ideal choice for lawns that are rocky, uneven, and often strewn with debris. It’s a smart idea to remove debris like twigs and trash from your lawn prior to mowing, but less critical if you have a rotary mower.

You may also choose a mulching mower, a type of rotary mower, if you’re keen on always having shorter grass clippings after mowing. Always consider the size of your lawn when choosing a mower; If you have a larger property, you might want higher horsepower or a riding lawn mower.


An old lawn mower sits on a field before a hill
Image credits: Jeremy Boley via Unspash

Mowing your lawn with dull blades causes tearing at the ends of grass shoots, which leads to damaged tissue and an unsightly, discolored appearance to your lawn. Frayed grass also needs more resources to heal, therefore using more water and increasing the likelihood of grass drying out. That leads to more lawn care.

Test your blades before each mowing session by gently pressing a finger against a blade. If a line forms on your skin, the blade is sharp enough to use. If the skin remains un-creased, you should take your blades to a hardware store or lawn mower repair shop.

Expect to sharpen your blades twice a year, and keep blades away from lawn debris that could diminish their quality at a faster rate.

Do The Right Thing!

Mowing a lawn may seem like a straight-forward activity, but lawn care is more complicated than it looks. Simple mistakes like mowing too short, choosing to mow after it rains, and mowing in the same direction every time can ruin the quality of your lawn and guarantee you’ll be doing more lawn care than you wanted.

Fortunately there are tips and tricks for getting lawn mowing right! Were you surprised by any? Comment below!