How to Cut Grass on a Steep Hill

How to Cut Grass on a Steep Hill with a Riding Lawn Mower

Most riding mowers are not designed to mow slopes steeper than 15 degrees and will indicate that in the manual. So what do you do if you’re wondering how to cut grass on a steep hill safely?

There are some more expensive riding mowers that can accommodate larger slopes if it is essential to mow steep slopes on your property. You can use an ATV as an alternative (use them with pull-behind mower attachments).

You can mow smaller slopes, but riding mower operators must use extra caution. In these situations, safety is vital; risk of injury or death is not worth the manicured grass.

In this article I’ll provide my top tips to tell you how to cut grass on a steep hill safely. I’ll also help you decide whether you should use a riding mower or try another method.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Certified Horticulturist Nicole Forsyth, M.S.

Go Slow and Know When to Stop

Slow down and take your time while you work on mowing a slope. Use the lowest possible gear on the transmission.

Ensure properly functioning brakes so that you can stop the machine properly on a hillside. If you notice that your front tire is not making grooves while going uphill, then slowly turn to go downhill; if the front end starts to come up, then the weight of the back wheels will certainly roll it backwards down the hill.

Avoid stopping, starting, or turning directly on the slope. Wait until you are on a more level part of the ground to do so.

Go Up and Down the Hill (never side-to-side)

While using a push mower, it is easier and safer to mow from side to side along a hillside. The opposite is true with a riding mower, whether you drive a zero-turn or riding lawn tractor.

It is better to mow up and down the hillside on a riding mower. This can help you avoid sliding or rolling sideways down the hill.

Mowing on a Steep Hill

This type of accident could lead to you being crushed by the mower if it rolls sideways. If the hill is too steep, then avoid mowing up the hill and only mow down the hill.

This may mean that you need to find a wide berth around to get back to the top of the hill. Make sure the path you choose isn’t as steep.

Lumps, Bumps, and Edges

Be on the lookout for any uneven sections or obstacles in the lawn. Rocks, lumps, and holes can all increase the risk of the mower tipping over.

The edges of ponds and embankments are also to be avoided as the soil several feet around the edge of the embankment can quickly become waterlogged or filled with loose soil that will tip the mower.

Never Mow Wet

Mowing wet grass is never a good idea because it gets heavy and can clog up the mower.

Using a riding mower on wet grass is especially dangerous when mowing on a slope.

Wet grass creates a slippery surface for a riding mower and makes it more likely that it will slide or end up rolling over.

Consider Alternatives When You Need to Cut Grass on a Steep Hill

If you have a fenced in area, consider livestock that will happily eat the grass on your hillside to keep it at an acceptable length.

Another option is to turn the area into a work of landscape architecture or a hillside garden with terraces … something that doesn’t require mowing at all.

You could even consider sowing wildflowers and turning your hillside into a wildflower garden and sanctuary for pollinators and wildlife.

Most importantly, read your operating manual to see what slopes you can safely mow and then judge what alternatives will work best for the slopes that are too steep for your riding mower.

Use a weed-wacker or string trimmer. This can be a good choice on smaller slopes if you’re determined to keep them grassy.

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Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

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