Love it or loathe it, mowing the lawn is one of the essential jobs in the garden in spring and summer.
Mowing is the key to a healthy lawn – each cut encourages the grass to grow more thickly, creating a luxuriant look. It also blocks out weeds and makes the grass more hard-wearing. Cutting the grass can take up quite a lot of time in the growing season, so it’s worth making sure that you’re doing it properly.
Mowing frequency, cutting heights and lawn mower maintenance are all important factors in keeping your lawn looking good.
More lawn care content:
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Looking for the right kit to help you get your lawn into shape? Our experts have also tested a range of manual and powered aerators and scarifiers – check out the best scarifiers and best aerators reviews.
Here are our 12 tips for mowing your lawn effectively.
Get your mower serviced regularly
Get your mower serviced at the start of every growing season to ensure a clean, quality cut. Chipped or blunt blades will bruise the grass and can cause straw-coloured dieback at the tips. Watch our video guide to maintaining a petrol mower. Clean out your mower regularly to avoid a build-up of clippings.
Aim to reduce the lawn height by one third
It’s a good idea to aim to reduce the lawn height by only one third each time you mow – any more would decrease the health and vigour of the grass.
Cut fortnightly in early spring
The grass needs cutting less frequently in early spring as it is grows more slowly at this time of year. Cutting it fortnightly is fine until the weather warms up in late spring.
Cut weekly in late spring and summer
If you mow less frequently, you’ll break the ‘one third’ rule, as you’ll have to cut off more than one third of the grass’s height to keep it looking neat. You may need to mow twice weekly when growth rates peak in late spring.
Get the grass height right
Most lawn grass is best kept at 2.5cm-4cm tall. In patches that get more wear and are heavily used, leave it a little longer, say 4cm-5cm. In shade, you could leave it still longer, at 7cm-8cm.
Adjust the cutting height
Adjust the cutting height to suit the weather and season. Raise the height of the blade a little at the start and end of the season. If it’s hot and dry, raise the blade to let the grass grow longer. The extra moisture held in the longer foliage helps keep the grass green and shades the soil.
Mow on dry days
If you cut when the ground is sodden, the mower will smear and rut the soil, and wet grass clippings will clump and smother the lawn below. Mow when the grass and the soil beneath it is dry.
Avoid newly sown areas
Avoid mowing newly sown patches of lawn until the grass is 4cm tall, then cut them along with the rest of the lawn. Discover how sow a lawn from seed.
Mowing the lawn is an opportunity to get creative, with different heights and stripes. For a traditional striped finish, choose a mower fitted with a roller. You could leave an area unmowed – a natural look that’s great for wildlife. Discover how to mow an area of long grass.
Compost the clippings – or spread them on the lawn
Grass cuttings can be composted – be sure to mix them with plenty of carbon-rich ‘brown’ material to prevent slimy compost. In summer you leave the clippings on the lawn to help retain moisture. Watch our No Fuss Guide to dealing with lawn clippings.
Trim the edges
Overgrown lawn edges can look unsightly and make a well-cared for garden look untidy. For a professional finish, re-cut the edges of your lawn each spring using a half moon tool and trim overhanging grass after mowing. Read our guide to cutting neat lawn edges.
Consider a ride on mower
If you have a large lawn and want to limit the time you spend mowing, it might be worth investing in a ride-on mower. Which type you opt for will depend on the size of your garden, the type of terrain to be mowed and, of course, your budget. Check our ride-on mowers buyer’s guide.