Many homeowners mow the lawn when they can and may not give much thought to whether they’re causing damage by doing this task at the wrong time or under the wrong conditions. Mowing is one of the most important elements of lawn care, but timing is important. Keep scrolling to learn about the best time to mow your lawn.
Not knowing the right way to mow your lawn and the best time of day to do it means that you may actually damage your grass and hurt your lawn health.
So, let’s find out the best times to mow your lawn, tips on the process, and best practices to help you get the best results when you mow.
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The Best (and Worst) Times of Day to Mow Your Lawn
Some homeowners believe they should mow their lawn first thing in the morning, just to get it done and out of the way. They also may like to enjoy the view of their freshly mowed lawn for the rest of the day.
But this is a mistake.
In fact, the best time to mow your lawn is late afternoon or in the early part of the evening. An advantage of mowing in the early evening hours is that dew from earlier in the day will have dried, and you (and your lawn) won’t be stressed by mowing in the mid-day heat.
An exception would be if there has been rain earlier in the day. If this is the case, you shouldn’t mow your lawn.
Wet grass may damage your lawn mower, as it can clump up.
Nicole Forsyth, M.S., a certified horticulturist and member of our expert panel, adds that “when you take sharp turns on a ride on or walk behind mower, and in some cases push mower, you dig up your grass. The wheels of the mower (especially a heavier one) can also cause compaction in wet soils.”
Instead, wait until it has dried off, which will probably be the early evening of the following day.
One time of day you should never mow the lawn is the middle of the day on hot days. That is because the heat will cause more damage to your lawn.
How Often Should You Mow Your Lawn?
How often you should mow your lawn depends on several different factors, such as season, growth pattern, weather, and the type of grass you have.
Most homeowners will have to mow most frequently in the spring months. This is the time of year when grass is in active growth pretty much everywhere.
During the spring, you may have to cut the grass once or twice a week.
When it comes to the summer, however, if the weather is hot, you shouldn’t need to mow as much (though some warm season grasses will still require frequent mowing).
You may have to do it once a week, but in many cases you can go with once every two weeks. This is at the tail-end of the grass growing season.
In northern climates, you may need to mow more frequently in the fall as cool season grasses are reinvigorated. This is especially true if you hit your lawn with a quality fall lawn fertilizer.
Other Rules for Cutting Grass the Right Way
Here are some other rules to remember if you want to cut your grass the right way and have a healthy, beautiful lawn.
Keep a bit more height on shady areas of your lawn.
Grass in shady areas, such as under trees or tall plants, tends to get less sunlight, nutrition and water than grass in other areas.
That is why you should keep the grass a little taller there. This will help it stay healthy.
Don’t Cut Off Too Much
I always recommend that you should not cut off more than 1/3 of the grass height at any one time.
Cutting off more than that may damage your lawn and impede its growth. It may make your lawn more susceptible to weed growth, pests, and disease.
Keep the Blades Sharp
Also, as long as you make sure your mower blades are sharp, cutting your lawn will help make the grass stronger.
If mower blades are too dull, however, they won’t create a clean cut, and a clean cut is necessary in order to avoid damage. It’s a bit like cutting hair.
Another benefit of cutting your grass is that you can leave the clippings on your lawn, giving it extra fertilization when they break down.
If you don’t mow your lawn, you’ll hurt its health as well as its appearance.
Understand Your Grass
The type of grass (species) you have plays a significant part in how you take care of your lawn.
Different kinds of grass have different ideal mowing heights. Some kinds of grass need higher mowing heights, while others should be cut to lower heights.
If you’re not sure what kind of grass you have or how to care for it, have a chat with the experts at a local garden center.
They can steer you in the right direction for your climate, and the advice is free!
What Happens If You Don’t Cut Your Lawn Often Enough
Mowing a lawn too short or too often isn’t great, but you can damage your lawn by not mowing it frequently enough as well.
When you correctly mow your lawn at the right times, you boost its health, prevent weed growth, and will enjoy a more beautiful yard.
One of the benefits of mowing is that it will keep the blades of grass at a uniform height. This is important, as water, sunlight, and nutrition are accessible to every grass plant in your yard.
Don’t Let Clippings Get Too Long
And if you wait long periods between mowing, the clippings will end up far too long and heavy. This means if you leave them on your lawn, you could create a thatch problem, or smother healthy grass.
Excessively heavy clippings and the thatch they can cause will stop your lawn from getting all the sunlight, water, and nutrition it needs.
Another problem with failing to mow your lawn regularly is that extremely long grass blades will use up too much of the sunlight, nutrition, and water in your soil.
That means that your lawn won’t be able to support new and regenerated growth, and the uniform grass you want may get starved by leggy invaders.
How to Mow a New Lawn
If you’ve used grass seed to create a new lawn on your property, you must know the rules for how and when to mow it.
In general, you shouldn’t mow new grass until it has grown to about three or three and a half inches. If you do it sooner than that, you risk damaging your new grass.
As always, make sure the blade on your mower is sharp before mowing a newly planted lawn. You’ll remember I mentioned earlier that a dull blade will damage your grass.
With new grass, you have to be especially careful not to cut it excessively short. Ensure you never take off in excess of one-third of its height at one time.
I also recommend that you bag your clippings for the first few mows of a new lawn.
Best Practices for Using a Mulching Mower
As I talked about earlier, leaving the clippings on an established lawn after you’ve mowed will give it extra nutrition. When the clippings break down, they’ll return nitrogen to the soil and will help feed your lawn.
A mulching lawn mower takes this process to the next level.
With a mulching lawn mower, the design will cut up your grass several times before it’s deposited on your lawn.
The fact that the clippings will be smaller pieces will make them able to break down faster on your lawn.
I personally have a self-propelled Honda mower and almost always use the mulch setting. The only times I don’t are when I mow young grass (mentioned above), and when there’s a super heavy layer of leaves from one of my large maple trees.
I’m a fan of mulching leaves, but my trees just drop too many so every year I bag some of them to avoid smothering my lawn.
Lawn Care Tips for Spring
We’ve already learned that spring, when grass is in active growth, is the time of year when you need to mow your lawn most frequently.
Springtime is also when you should do several other lawncare tasks. I’ll go over them here.
Dethatching and Aeration
Dethatching is the process in which you remove the layer of thatch that has accumulated on the surface of the soil.
This is important, as the thatch can stop water, nutrients, and sunlight from getting to the roots of your soil.
Aeration is the process of putting holes in the soil. This loosens and breaks up compacted soil, allowing water, oxygen, and nutrients to penetrate and get to the roots of your lawn.
Compaction in the soil can stop nutrients, water, and sunlight from reaching grass roots. It interferes with grass growth and health, and that’s why core aeration is one of the best things you can do for the health of your lawn.
Many homeowners decide to overseed their lawns, and spring is one of the best times to tackle this project.
Overseeding is the process of spreading grass seed on an established lawn. It helps make your lawn thicker, lusher, and healthier.
It can improve lawn health because a thick lawn crowds out weeds, and I personally try to do core aeration just before I overseed so that the seed I spread falls into those holes for great seed-to-soil contact.
Fertilizing your soil is another common springtime task. This will infuse your lawn with extra nutrients, to keep it healthy.
If you haven’t done one, also consider using a lawn soil test kit to understand the pH and nutrient levels in your yard.
Many homeowners skip this step, but it’s an important way that you can give your lawn exactly what it needs to thrive and unlock its potential.
Best Overall Lawn Soil Test Kit
The Soil Test Kit I Use & Recommend
There are many options for testing your lawn’s soil, but I prefer a lab-based soil test that provides a detailed analysis of your soil’s nutrients and what’s needed for your lawn to thrive.
I use this one from MySoil every year.
And if you’re interested in taking the guesswork out of what to do next after you get your soil test results, consider Sunday’s subscription lawn-care plan. They test your soil for you and use local weather data to send you exactly what your lawn needs, when it needs it. It’s pretty fool-proof – you can Click Here for Your Instant Lawn Analysis and take 12% off your order with promo code LAWNCHICK2023.
Choosing the Best Time to Mow Your Lawn
As we’ve seen here, the best time to mow your lawn is late afternoon or early evening. Grass tends to be too damp in the morning, and I don’t recommend that you mow your lawn in the middle of the day.
Mowing in the mid-day heat in the summer will put your lawn at risk of health issues.
Plan to mow a dry lawn when things start to cool later in the day and you’ll be able to enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass when 5 o’clock rolls around as you admire your yard and throw back a cold one.
That’s a plan we can all get behind!
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