Learn Basic Mowing Techniques

Use this guide to learn the ins and outs of mowing your lawn, including the types of tools that work best for maintaining your outdoor space.
Lawn with Wild Garden

Lawn with Wild Garden

A lawn that has been recently mowed abuts a wild garden filled with thick, green foliage plants; yellow, red, and purple flowering plants; and ornamental grasses.

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover, 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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Mowing is the most important maintenance job that your lawn requires. Regular mowing encourages healthy new growth and a strong root system to combat drought. It reduces a build-up of pests and diseases, and prevents weeds from seeding in the lawn and flowerbeds. Most importantly, a neatly mown lawn can improve the entire garden and make it look beautiful.

Mowing Guidelines

Spring and Fall:
Utility Lawn: 1 inch (25 mm), once a week
High Quality Lawn: 3/8 to 1/2 inch (8 to 10 mm), once or twice a week

Summer:
Utility Lawn: 1/2 to 1 inch (15 to 20 mm), once a week
High Quality Lawn: 1/4 to 3/8 inch (7 to 8 mm), up to three times a week

Winter:
Utility Lawn: 1-1/4 inch (30 mm), as necessary
High Quality Lawn: 1/2 inch (15 mm), as necessary

Mowing Patterns

Mowing should be done regularly. It's best to remove small amounts of grass often rather than a lot in one cut. When mowing, start by cutting the outside edges first and then mow in straight lines up and down the center. At the ends where the mower is turned, it is worth leaving a double width strip. When the center is finished, these ends should be mown again to tidy up any missed patches — this is known as the "finishing strip." Alternate the direction in which you cut the lawn each time. Otherwise ridges can form, particularly if you are using a mower with an attached roller. Consider mowing the lawn diagonally — this gives a neat finish and is an attractive alternative to going up and down its length. Another interesting alternative is to create a curved line which can be useful when mowing around curved flowerbeds, ponds, and circular patios.

Types of Cut

There are essentially two types of lawnmowers, giving two different types of cut: rotary and cylinder. With both kinds it is essential that the blades are kept sharp and are balanced properly, otherwise they will cut badly, leaving ragged tips on the blades of grass and making the lawn susceptible to disease. Mechanical mowers and string trimmers should be serviced once a year if they are to give their best performance.

1. Rotary mowers

The rotating blades slash through grass at high speed. Rotary mowers don't usually give as fine a finish as cylinder mowers, but those with rollers attached to the back give a perfectly adequate cut and create attractive stripes. Mowing heights are usually easy to adjust.

Lawnmower Blade

Lawnmower Blade

The picture shows that the lawnmower blade rotates clockwise.

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover, 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

2. Cylinder mowers

With a cylinder structure that sits horizontal to the ground, this mower has a series of blades that spin, cutting against a static bottom blade. It gives a fine cut and is suitable for formal lawns or sports surfaces where a high-quality finish is required.

Cylinder Mower Blade Rotation Pattern

Cylinder Mower Blade Rotation Pattern

This drawing illustrates the direction in which a cylinder mower blade moves.

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover, 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

3. String trimmers

These are useful for cutting areas of long rough grass or for use on banks that are too steep for a mower. They operate by cutting with nylon strings, which spin at high speed. String trimmers often give a poor finish, leaving ragged tips that eventually turn brown and die back.

How String Trimmers Work

How String Trimmers Work

Most string trimmers rotate clockwise, forcing weeds and debris away from you as you trim.

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover, 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

What to Do With Clippings

Cutting a lawn regularly means there is no shortage of grass clippings to add to the compost heap each week. Small quantities should be added to the heap in alternate layers with other garden material since the clippings are very high in nitrogen and can turn slimy and smelly if left in bulk. Carbon-rich compost, such as woody material, cardboard, or shredded newspaper, should be added to the pile as well; this will counterbalance the nitrogen from the clippings. The heap should be turned every few weeks to get air circulating inside the compost — this aids the breakdown of the material and will speed up the process. Remember that clippings decompose better if they have been allowed to dry out first.

Grass Clippings in Compost Heap

Grass Clippings in Compost Heap

To make the most of your compost heap, add grass clippings between layers.

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Lawns and Groundcover, 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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