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How to Mow the Lawn: A Step-by-Step Guide

Woman mows the lawn with an electric mower, back yard.
Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images

Even if you think you know how to mow a lawn, there are always situations that may require relearning. Perhaps you just moved into a new home with a complicated yard, or maybe this spring brought some wild, unexpected grass growth. Whatever your situation, you’ll want to learn how to mow the lawn in a quick and safe way. Use this guide to learn how to cut grass like a pro.

Choose the right lawnmower

It’s all about having the right tools for the job — in this case, the best lawn mower for the job. Selecting the right lawnmower depends mainly on the size of the lawn.

For bigger lawns (say, more than a quarter-acre in size), consider investing in a riding mower. An electric or gas-powered front-wheel-drive walk mower is often able to tackle those smaller lawns. You can also use a low-cost push mower if you have a very small lawn.

If you want to turn your clippings into free lawn food, choose a mower with a “3-in-1” mulching blade. You can then add a lawnmower bag to collect the clippings, and throw them on a compost pile if you wish!

How to cut grass in 6 simple steps

Mowing the lawn is a little like getting a haircut. You want a precise, clean look. Jagged edges are enough to make a passersby do a double-take (and not in a good way!).

The key is to save time without rushing the process. For great results, follow these six steps to cut grass.

  • Step 1: Clear everything from your lawn. Survey your lawn for obstacles, both large and small. You don’t want to pause the mower time and again to remove things that are in the way. Above all else, make sure there are no children or pets running around outside.
  • Step 2: Check your mower. Before you mow the lawn, confirm that the mower is in good working order. Make sure the mower deck is clear of grass and debris. Set the deck to the desired height. Start the mower’s engine on a clear, paved surface.
  • Step 3: Cut patterns that are accessible. Choose a cutting pattern and change it each time you mow the lawn. Many find it most efficient to start out at the perimeter and work toward the center. Or cut in straight lines for a patterned look.
  • Step 4: Use an edge trimmer. For a crisp, finished appearance, use an edge trimmer where the lawn meets paved surfaces. Use it around trees, retaining walls, and other lawn objects as well. Cut the lawn first, so you know what length to trim to.
  • Step 5: Decide what you want to do with grass clippings. Clippings can provide vital nutrients for your lawn if you let them be. But if you want the ultimate polished look, you can sweep the clippings away or blow them away using a leaf blower.
  • Step 6: Relax and enjoy a job well done! Savoring the fruit of your hard (often sweaty) labor is the final step in the process. Grab a favorite drink, kick back, and enjoy the view.

Products and tools you’ll need to mow the lawn

  • Lawnmower: A power mower uses one or more spinning blades to cut grass. Match the mower to the size of the lawn.
  • Gasoline safety can: For uninterrupted mowing, fill a gasoline safety can with ample fuel. You’ll skip this expense if you have an electric mower or a push mower.
  • Edge trimmer: Edge trimmers cut grass using thick plastic strings rotating at high speeds. There are both electric and gasoline models.
  • Broom/blower: Use a rough-surface push broom when you sweep up stray clippings. If you prefer, use a leaf blower.
  • Lawn and leaf bags: Put any excess grass clippings or grass clumps in a large trash bag.

There are other safety items you’ll need, like yard gloves, closed-toe shoes, and sunglasses or other eye protection.

Tips on cutting your grass (and making it look good)

Mow the grass in patterns for a great looking lawn. You can create stripes by making parallel passes back and forth, or make multiple passes to create zig-zags, diamonds, or checkerboards.

Set the mower deck at the right height. It’s ideal to only trim the top one-third of the grass blades because tall grass stays greener, and it cushions any falls. Cut the widest possible swath with each overlapping pass. Don’t go too wide or you’ll leave strips of longer grass. For safety’s sake, mow slopes from side to side, not up and down, and save steep slopes for the edge trimmer.

Don’t mow the lawn while the grass is still wet. Mowing a wet lawn can damage your grass, your mower, and you (if you slip and fall).

Mow the lawn on nature’s schedule, not yours. Grass grows far quicker in wet, warm conditions. Also, longer grass retains more moisture, so if you wait too long between cuts, matted clumps of grass could start to spew from your mower deck when you mow.

Plan to mow twice a week during peak growing periods, especially in the spring. During a mid-summer drought, you might be able to go 2-3 weeks between cuts. Just be sure to wait until the morning dew burns off. (Your neighbors will prefer the early-morning quiet too!)

The bottom line on cutting grass

Start by mowing the grass with a well-maintained lawnmower. And remember that timing is important: Cut the grass when it’s dry and don’t let it get too long.

Make two passes if the grass gets overgrown. Set the mower deck higher for the first pass, lower for the second.

For the best results, vary the direction every time you mow the grass and finish the job by using an edge trimmer for a clean, polished look!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to mow a wet lawn?

You should not mow your lawn while it is wet, because blades of wet grass tend to tear, leaving your lawn with a brownish tinge. Worse yet, grass mats and clumps when it is wet. Also, you could slip and fall while cutting your grass.

How do I mow an overgrown lawn? 

Despite your best efforts, the grass may get too long. Tackle this challenge by making two passes with the mower blade first set higher, then set lower.

When should I hire a professional to mow my lawn? 

Sometimes it’s better to hire a professional and to devote the time saved to other activities. Homeowners with multi-acre lawns often use lawn care professionals who use large, powerful mowers.

How do I avoid scalping the lawn? 

Follow the contours of slopes to prevent cutting some spots too short. Scalped areas look bad, and they’re vulnerable to drought, disease, and weed growth.

How can I mow the lawn in a safe way?

Wear eyewear and closed-toe shoes. Make sure the area is clear of objects, pets, and children.

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