Mowing should be the simplest task when looking after your lawn, right? Wrong. Mowing mistakes can make or break a good lawn.
After patiently aerating the soil, seeding, and watering your turf, running your best lawn mower over the verdant surface should be a walk in the park... in theory. But do it wrong and you'll be left with lackluster, brown patches and a broken grass cutter.
Thankfully, these potentially expensive errors are avoidable. All you need to do is change your trimming technique and you'll soon have a luscious lawn that looks like it's been tended to by a pro.
Here, we spoke to Carlos Real, lawn care expert and managing director of TotalLawn (opens in new tab), who revealed the most common mowing mistakes you probably don’t know you’re making, and how to mow a lawn like a pro.
1. Using the wrong lawn mower
'Is your lawn even? Do you have objects to navigate around?' asks Real.
'The answer to those questions will determine the type of lawn mower you should be using. Cutting your lawn with the wrong mower can be detrimental to its health.'
'There are two kinds of lawn mower: rotary and cylinder. A rotary mower is the most common and is the best choice if you have lots of objects to navigate around, if your garden is uneven, or if your grass is long. That’s because it has a big spinning blade underneath a chassis, which creates a hoover-like effect, sucking the grass up before chopping the tops off.'
'The other option is a cylinder: a cylindrical-shaped set of blades with a roller in front. The quality of the cut is generally much better, as the blades spin while chopping off the top of the grass, all while creating stripes on your lawn with the roller. They are the ideal option if you want a low mow, which is why they are the chosen mower for professional sports pitches and bowling greens, however, they are no good on uneven lawns or long grass.'
If you want to learn how to level a yard before you get started on mowing it, our editors have put together a simple step-by-step guide to landscape your plot.
2. Running the mower at half speed
Trimming your turf shouldn't take forever, so if you've invested in a lawn mower, make sure you're using it to its full potential. Even the best small lawn mowers possess powerful credentials so there's no need to go at a snail's pace.
'Some people mistakenly believe that cutting at full speed damages the mower’s engine and shortens its life, but the truth is all mowers have been created with full speed for a reason – it’s best to use it!' reassures Real.
3. Cutting with dull blades
Sharpening lawn mower blades is essential to keeping your grass and outdoor equipment in tip-top condition. But you needn't go to a specialist shop to have this done for you. Instead, our tutorial will show you how to revive those razor edges so that you can lacerate your lawn more efficiently.
'It’s important that you cut your lawn with sharp blades as dull blades have a tendency to pull up portions of grass rather than chop it at the desired height.' says Real.
'This will inevitably kill some of your grass, causing it to appear yellow or brown – not the aesthetic you’re hoping to achieve!'
4. Cutting grass when it's wet
'Cutting a wet lawn is a no-go for many reasons: not only does it speed up cutting blades being dulled, but wet grass actually tears when cut, creating an unhealthy mess rather than a clean, sharp cut,' warns Real.
'Wet grass tends to clog up your mower too, meaning the mower has to work harder and increases the amount of time you actually spend mowing and cleaning your mower.'
Glen Peskett, owner of Saxton Blades advises that you: 'check the weather before cutting your lawn,'
'This should be particularly noted by electric lawn mower owners, as electricity and water do not mix. This will also greatly reduce the risk of slipping whilst mowing, reducing the risk of injury.'
5. Not mowing regularly enough
'In the main growing season, the extra sunlight means you want to be mowing every two or three days, or at least once a week if your schedule is tight,' explains Real.
'Your grass will grow quicker in the summer, and it’s better to cut little and often than all at once.'
And, if you're in need of summer lawn care advice, we've got a whole guide dedicated to hot weather maintenance.
6. Cutting grass too short
'In general, you shouldn’t take off more than one-third of the height in a single mow, as this will put the plant under unnecessary stress, and it may discolor if you overdo it,' warns Real.
'Remember to adjust your blade height as necessary, and if you have the desired height, it’s best to be patient – it may take a couple of mows to get there!'
And, Chris Bonnett, founder of Gardening Express (opens in new tab) concurs. He says: 'You may think that you’re keeping your lawn nice and tidy by having short grass but actually it could be doing more harm than good. Shorter grass means less photosynthesis which means less growth. Ideally, you want to keep your grass around 2 to 3 inches long.'
7. Mowing in a straight line
'Everyone wants that beautifully striped lawn but varying your mowing pattern is good for your lawn over time as it means you’re not repeatedly forcing the grass to bend in one particular direction,' says Real.
'Instead, one week start at the top of your garden and finish at the bottom and alternate it the mow after. This will make the stripes look slightly different, and result in stronger and more resilient grass over time.'
8. Mowing too far apart
'When you are mowing in a straight line though, make sure to overlap each pass of the lawn mower by a couple of inches. This will create an even lawn – it’s much better to overlap than to look back and see strips of grass that you have missed!'
9. Not cleaning your mower properly
'It can be tempting to leave your mower for a while after you’re done with your lawn, but the longer you leave it, the harder the grass clippings are to remove,' explains Real.
'A build-up of clippings will result in your mower overheating the next time you cut, which can cause it to break down – an expensive mistake to make for something that would only take you a couple of minutes at the end of each mow!'
10. Mowing too quickly
'Although mowing can be quite a tedious job, especially if you’re doing it regularly, it can be tempting to rush. Doing so, however, will leave your grass looking uneven, and sometimes leaves clumps of clippings on the lawn – not the tidy look you were hoping for,' says Real.
'Mowing your lawn should be a regular job in the summer months, and with these simple steps you should have a luscious, healthy lawn in no time.'
11. Mowing in extreme heat
If it's hot outside – down tools and let go of your lawnmower. Your summer lawn care schedule can literally make or break your turf. And the timing could be the difference between a brown or green grass plot.
'During a heatwave, your lawn will be trying to gain access to water and therefore should not be mowed, instead mow the lawn prior to the heatwave and leave grass cuttings to help shelter the soil,' says Anna Hampshire, head of marketing at Marshall's.
'Trimming your grass will signal it to grow which uses vital energy and water which obviously needs to be preserved in heat, so what until the heatwave has passed.'
Still at a loss? Be inspired by these no-mow designs
If you're battling a brown lawn or you're not quite satisfied with your groundcover, there are loads of low-maintenance alternatives to grass that won't involve you dragging out your mower multiple times a week.
Decking designs, gravel and bark, and paving are just some of the possibilities to explore. Each of these will add texture and interest to your backyard, without the weekly upkeep.
However, dandelions and other unwanted foliage can still make their way through these decorative furnishings, so get yourself some weed control membrane (available on Amazon) (opens in new tab) and a bottle of the best weed killer to achieve clean-looking results.