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Mowing, the key to a pristine, tidy lawn – get the timing and technique right!

Lawn mower with large, perfect green lawn

Mowing the lawn is an easy art to master as long as you follow these few crucial steps!

Use the right equipment for your space and terrain, work at the right time, and mow at the right height. Those are the three main factors that will lead to a perfectly trimmed lawn.

Timing your mowing

You don’t mow the lawn the same way all year round: every season requires a slightly different approach to cutting the grass.

The gardener must adapt the work to weather conditions that influence how lawn grass grows.

Mowing the lawn doesn’t only have an ornamental purpose. It also strengthens the grass and triggers sending off of new shoots. Roots are reinvigorated, sending runners off in new directions. The lawn thus becomes more dense, lush, and thick under the influence of mowing.

Adapt your mowing to every season

  • Spring is without a doubt the most active growing period. Rising temperatures and soft rains stimulate growth. Mowing short and often helps the grasses grow thicker and spread out. For recently sown lawns, mowing also favors root development.
  • In Summer, lawns usually suffer from heat, and sometimes also from lack of water if water-saving ordinances prohibit watering in your area. Naturally, lawn growth is very much slowed in this season. To counter excessive evaporation and reduce the need to water, don’t mow as often. Neither should you mow too short: the ideal height is taller in Summer, around 4 inches (10 cm). That way, soil at ground level is shielded from the sun by the taller blades of grass, and evaporation is limited. But it’s still important to mow in Summer, because if you let the grass be, the lawn as a whole will weaken. It won’t cope evenly and patches will develop. Conversely, grass mown too often and too low in Summer will quickly turn yellow and dry up. There’s a delicate balance to strike here!
  • In Fall, lawns revert to lush green as milder temperatures return and frequent rainfall nourishes the soil. The lawn mower comes out more often and mowing height is shortened again to make sure rooting is boosted before Winter.
  • Winter is a dormant period. For purely esthetic purposes this time, it’s possible to mow once or twice during this season in regions where the cold isn’t as harsh.

Getting the right equipment

A vast choice to make from among many different types of lawn mowers!

To choose yours, you need to consider how much lawn surface you have to cover, whether it’s flat or not, and more personal preferences, too.

  • For vast expanses, a sit-on tractor or a self-propelled mower cannot be done without, if only for their comfort of use. Self-propelled mowers won’t tire you as fast as push mowers, especially for people who suffer from back pains. How wide the blade span is also influences the the choice. Again, it depends on how large an area needs mowing.
  • For smaller lawns, a cut breadth of 12 inches (30 cm) is enough, whereas for larger lawns a minimum of 2 ½ to 3 ½ feet (80 to 105 cm) will definitely shorten the chore by a number of hours.
  • Lastly, the engine itself must also match the surface! Gas-powered or electric, both makes have their own advantages. Gas-powered engines are more versatile and can run for longer, but they’re louder and require more maintenance. Electric mowers are perfect for small surfaces, quiet, don’t pollute at all and only require basic cleaning. No dirty greasy maintenance for them! Best is, nowadays, a cordless design with at least two spare rechargeable batteries. That should cover an average-sized lawn.

Last but not least, for people who absolutely detest mowing, a robot mower is the ideal option! Once properly set up, it works fine all on its own. Rain or shine, day in and day out, it can even work at night since it’s very quiet. With that type of mower, having the perfect lawn is as easy as ever!

After mowing

The mowing height should be higher in summer.Once cut, all the trimmings must be done away with. Rather than wasting a trip to the landfill, it’s much better to recycle them into compost or, better yet, spread them as mulch under your ornamental plants or in the vegetable patch! Mulch from lawn trimmings is excellent to keep the soil cool and minimize watering. It even blocks weeds from growing, and as it breaks down, nutrients enrich the soil. Pure bliss for the garden, as you see!

Good to know – Some lawn mowers have a “mulching” position, and others have add-on mulching kits to replace the collection hamper with. This makes your mower more versatile. Both options shred grass trimmings into very fine slivers, which the mower ejects to the side. Waste thus stays on the lawn and forms a protective and fertilizing mulch that is virtually invisible. Free, effortless topdressing!

If you’ve set an underground irrigation system up (or drip systems), however, you might run into a problem. This material often won’t get moist enough to break down naturally unless it rains regularly in the area. If it’s too dry for extended periods of time, trimmings accumulate and turn into a dry crust. It’s better to collect them and turn them into compost before topdressing with it.

Iris Makato, minor edits by Gaspard

Smart tip about mowing the lawn

Whichever make and model you choose, observe tips of blades of grass a few days after mowing. If they turn yellow or dry, it means blades need sharpening.

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Lawn and house (also on social media) by Bryan Clayton ★ under Pixabay license
Longer grass in summer by Jan and Mario Matzerath ★ under Pixabay license
Automatic lawn mower video (also on social media) by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work
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  • 21 century wrote on 25 January 2021 at 8 h 13 min

    “the mower ejects to the side. Waste thus stay on the lawn and forms a protective and fertilizing mulch that is virtually invisible”
    If you use a modern water saving drip irrigation, the sentence reads like:
    the mower ejects to the side. Waste thus stay on the lawn and forms a yellow, dry and ugly cover that is wasted fertilizer.
    Need to arrive to the 21st century.

    • Gaspard wrote on 25 January 2021 at 18 h 32 min

      Hi there, “21st century”, you’re right about mulch accumulating when it doesn’t rain or water enough. In most of Europe this won’t be a problem, as also in many portions of the United States, but in places where lawns are grown in drought-prone places it may accumulate as you describe. I reflected this in the article in case readers don’t reach the comments. As for being in the 21st century, I sure hope I’m in it or I’d be typing from the grave!