How to Cut Grass: Do’s and Don’ts

Updated: Dec. 19, 2023

There are definite do's and don'ts when it comes to how to cut grass. Follow these 10 expert mowing tips to keep your grass healthy and strong.

Mowing your lawn may seem like a pretty cut-and-dried chore. (No pun intended.) But there are definite do’s and don’ts when it comes to cutting grass. Check out these 10 helpful tips to learn how to mow like a pro and keep your lawn healthy.

Don’t Mow During the Hottest Part of the Day

Pol Bishop, a gardening and landscape expert with Fantastic Gardeners, says to avoid mowing your lawn when the temperature is at its highest. (That’s typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.) “Never mow when the sun is at its peak, as your grass will lose a lot of water and won’t recover easily,” he cautions. “Instead, mow in the early mornings before 10 a.m. or in the evenings.”

Editor’s Tip:  Also maintain your lawn by learning how to avoid common lawn care mistakes.

Do Leave the Grass Clippings

Leaving behind the grass clippings instead of bagging them. The clippings release water and nutrients into the soil as they decompose, which helps the grass grow back strong and healthy. “Definitely use grass clippings as mulch,” says Zach Reece, a lawn care and home improvement pro and owner of Colony Roofers, an Atlanta roofing company. “This minimizes water loss, retains soil moisture and lowers the soil temperature.”

Don’t Cut Wet Grass

Emma Sothern, a gardening and lawn expert who runs the website Garden Zoo with her husband, cautions against mowing wet grass. “No matter how scraggly your yard has gotten during rainy weeks, avoid cutting it while it’s still wet,” she says. “Cutting wet grass inhibits growth and raises the chance of soil compaction.” That’s a problem because compacted soil weakens, thins and browns grass if you don’t aerate your lawn.

Do Rotate Your Mowing Pattern

Glen DellaValle, CEO of DellaValle Management, a property management company in Lexington, Ky. that cares for more than 150 acres of private lawn, recommends frequently changing up the direction of your mowing. “Rotating the pattern in which you cut your grass will help it be more evenly cut over the long term,” he says. Another benefit: It prevents your mower’s wheels from compacting the same area over and over.

Don’t Cut It Too Short

Many people make the mistake of cutting their grass too short, which can harm your lawn in the long run. The best height to cut grass might be longer than you would expect. Taller grass tolerates stress better, especially during the hot summer months, and helps prevent weeds from spreading. Maintain a healthy lawn by aiming for a grass height of between two and 3-3/4 inches.

Do Keep Your Mower Blade Sharp

It’s important to regularly sharpen your lawn mower blade. “Dull blades tear at grass, making it look frayed and messy and causing undue stress,” says Coulter Lewis, co-founder and CEO of Sunday, a subscription direct-to-consumer lawn care company. “Torn and shredded grass from dull mower blades is more vulnerable to disease than clean-cut grass.” Bonus: The Sharpal Knife Sharpener is the perfect tool for getting the job done.

Don’t Mow on a Strict Schedule

Resist the urge to mow on a set day every week. Instead, periodically assess your lawn’s growth and consider the season and weather conditions when deciding when to mow. Grass typically needs to be mowed more often in the spring when it’s actively growing than it does during the height of summer and at the end of the growing season.

Do Let Grass Under Trees Grow Longer

Grass under trees has to compete with tree roots for nutrients and soil. It’s better able to do that if it has deep roots, and taller grass promotes longer, stronger roots. For that reason, it’s best to raise your blade when mowing grass under a tree’s shade.

Don’t Cut Off More Than a Third of the Grass Blade

The pros recommend never cutting off more than one-third of grass leaf tissue during each mow. Cutting off too much at one time stresses grass and weakens your lawn over time. So if you’re mowing at three inches high, don’t let your grass grow higher than 4-1/3 inches. If it exceeds that, best to cut it in stages. Mow at your mower’s highest height first, then mow again at a lower height later that day or the next.

Do Take Your Time

It can be tempting to rush through mowing your lawn when you’re short on time. But it’s better in the long run to take your time and do the job right. Rushing a lawn mow often results in missed patches, uneven rows and big clumps of clippings deposited in random areas of the lawn. It’s better for the look and health of your lawn to slow down and do a thorough job.