How to Mow Tall Grass

How to Mow Tall Grass Without Damaging Your Lawn

Mowing in tall grass can be difficult. It can often cause your mower to get bogged down or even to stall our while you’re mowing. In this article I’ll tell you how to mow tall grass. I’ll also provide tips to avoid wasting time stalling, clearing clogs, or damaging your lawn.

While commercial lawn companies do have equipment that will cut an overgrown lawn, they can be expensive. You also might not have time to wait around for them to schedule your appointment.

Following these basic steps will help ensure that you don’t damage your lawn when mowing through tall grass.

First, an Important Safety Disclaimer

Keeping yourself safe should be a top priority for any lawn care task, and especially for more challenging ones like cutting overgrown grass. Make sure you know how to use your equipment and understand the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Also, you should wear basic safety gear, including safety glasses, gloves, closed-toe shoes, and ear protection.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article research and contributions by Sr. Editor Samantha Lord, M.A. Article content reviewed for accuracy by Certified Horticulturist Nicole Forsyth, M.S., and by Horticulturist Arthur Davidson, A.S.

My Basic Tips on How to Mow Tall Grass (these apply to everyone)

Below I’ve collected my top three tips on how to mow tall grass efficiently, and I’ll elaborate and include some additional tips lower in the article for those who may want to go more in-depth.

The exact guidance that will work best for you really depends upon how overgrown your grass is, how big your property is, and the mower, trimmer, and other tools you have available to you.

Realistically there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to cutting tall grass, but I’ve tried to be thoughtful and offer enough guidance in this article that there will be something for everyone to use. is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

First, Cut a Little Bit at a Time

One of the biggest mistakes that someone can make when mowing an overgrown lawn is trying to cut it down to the desired height on the first pass.

While this may seem like it will save you time, it won’t.

Trying to cut long grass in one pass will cause your lawn mower to clog up. Your mower will likely stall and shut down as well. Not only can this damage your mower, it will leave you with more aggravation than you started with.

I suggest cutting your lawn down in a few passes and, if possible, spreading that mowing over a few days.

Remove the top layer of grass. Then mow it again one or two days later to get to the desired length.

If your grass is like a meadow, try a weed-wacker or scythe to knock it down to size. Allow the grass to recover for a few days, then repeat the process to get to the desired length.

Mowing Tall Grasses with a Weed Wacker or Scythe

If you cut more than 1/3 of the length of your grasses at a time, you risk damaging the health of your lawn.

This is why I recommend giving your lawn an opportunity to recover, heal, and begin growing again before you cut more.

Using your trimmer, cut off the tops of the blades of grass, and removing the trimmings when finished.

If you’re pressed for time (or you’re impatient), it’s usually ok to take multiple passes over your lawn to get it to the desired length.

Make sure to bag your clippings or rake them so you’re not smothering the grass with the mulched clippings.

One thing that I recommend when mowing tall grass is to stop mowing as soon as your grass is standing up straight.

Let the lawn heal at that point before coming back later in the week to mow to the desired height. You’ll be glad you did.

Next, Trim Grass to the Desired Height

Just because you have trimmed your grass once doesn’t mean that you won’t have to trim it again for another year. It actually means just the opposite. It is recommended that you trim your grass again roughly one week after the initial trim.

You can either do this by using your grass trimmer, or you can do this by setting your lawn mower to its highest setting before you mow.

It is common for most lawn mowers to have the highest setting of 4.” If your lawn is still taller than this after the initial trim, it is best to use the trimmer to cut the lawn down before you use your lawn mower.

Remember, a good rule of thumb to use when deciding how short to cut your lawn is the “Two-thirds rule.”

You only ever want to cut the top third of your lawn, leaving the bottom two thirds to live and be healthy.

Finally, Remember to Take it Slow

Now that your lawn is the right height and you can finally use your mower, remember it isn’t a race.

It might be tempting to go full throttle with your lawn mower. That will not lead to a healthy lawn.

A slower pace will cause less stress on your grass, ensuring a healthy lawn.

Let’s Talk About the Tools You Can Use to Cut Tall Grass

The height and density of your grass will dictate which equipment you can safely use to cut it.

Here are some general guidelines that you can use, based on my experience mowing tall grass and overgrown lots:

For Grass up to 1 Foot Tall

How to Cut Tall Grass That's Up to 12 Inches High

If your tall grass is shorter than one foot (12 inches), you can probably cut it with a regular lawn mower. 

Depending on the type of regular mower you have and how powerful it is, you may even be able to use it to cut grass as tall as up to around 2 feet. 

If you’re cutting grass at this length with a regular lawn mower, use the highest setting on your machine. Remember, you only want to remove a maximum of 1/3 of the total height at a time. If you take off too much at once, you will end up with overly heavy clippings. 

A zero-turn lawn mower is the best type of mower for cutting tall grass around a foot tall. However, it may also be possible to use a push mower, as long as you sharpen the mower blade in advance. 

If you need to use a push mower to cut tall grass, check to see if your mower has a side discharge option available. You should also put your mower on its highest cutting setting. 

If your grass is taller than one foot, there’s a strong chance that you will have trouble trying to cut it with a regular mower. In that case, you will have to use a trimmer mower. 

My Tip: Don’t Push Your Mower Too Hard 

If you think there’s any chance that your grass is too long for your mower to effectively and safely cut it, it’s better not to risk trying it. 

Excessively long grass can cause serious problems, such as causing your mower to get overheated and/or clogged. Also, your grass can end up torn and damaged.

For Grass up to 2 Feet High (taller if thin grass)

How to Cut Tall Grass That's 1-2 Feet High

If your grass is too long for a mower, but under two feet tall, you will need to use a gas powered weed wacker or timmer to knock it down before mowing.

If your property is large, you may want to rent a trimmer mower, which will save you time and effort and is generally money well spent.

But don’t confuse trimmer mowers with walk-behind string trimmers. Walk behind string trimmers can work for tall grass that’s quite thin, but for tall and dense grass you’ll want a trimmer mower, which has a much more powerful engine and the right kind of composition and design to handle the job.

Trimmer mowers work for grasses too long for regular mowers because you don’t have to position it so that the grass is underneath. Instead, a trimmer mower has an open front. This means that it can cut from that angle. 

Most people won’t need to purchase an expensive trimmer mower, which is why I suggest you rent one from a local lawn care equipment store.

For Thick Grass 2 Feet or Taller

How to Cut Tall Grass That's Over 2 Feet High

Especially thick grasses and/or grasses that also include some brush need a field and brush mower. Field and brush mowers combine the capabilities of a lawn mower with a bush hog. 

They feature high mass blades and powerful engines. No matter how thick your long grass is, a field and brush mower will tackle it. 

As field and brush mowers have high mass blades and powerful engines, they can deal with even the most stubborn grasses. In fact, they can cut through brush as thick as 3 inches. 

Field and brush mowers are considered commercial-grade equipment, and they tend to be expensive. You probably won’t want to spend thousands of dollars on this, especially if you only have to use it once. 

Luckily, you can rent a field and brush mower at a lawn care equipment store. And if you’re in a rural location, your best bet may be to ask a neighbor if you can borrow their bush-hog for the day, or if they’ll bush hog your property for a small fee.

Why Choosing the Right Tool for the Job is Important

While you can mow that tall field of grass behind your house with your walk-behind mower, it’s important to stop and ask yourself – “should I?”

Choosing the Right Tool to Mow Tall Grass is Important

As a full-time lawn care blogger since 2019 and homeowner with two decades of experience in lawn care, I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that having the right tool for the job is faster, safer, and more effective than just making do with what you’ve got.

Beyond this, with the right tool for the job, you’ll enjoy doing the work more.

You’ll also have a lower chance of injury – which is perhaps the most important part of ensuring you’re using the right tool to mow your tall grass.

Grass HeightTool to Use for Initial Cut
Grass under one foot tall (12 inches). If grass is especially thin, you may be able to go taller.Lawn Mower (for grass taller than 1 foot, I recommend you knock it down with a string trimmer first)
Grass is 2 feet or tallerUse a gas-powered weed wacker or a trimmer mower, depending upon the size of your property
Thick grass over 2 feet tallI recommend you rent or borrow a field and brush mower or a bush hog (depending upon the size of your property)

Proper Maintenance is Important After Mowing Tall Grass

Mowing the lawn is not always everyone’s favorite household chore. It can be really easy to let your lawn get overgrown and out of control. However, letting that happen will only lead to more work in the long run.

Tips for Mowing Tall Grass in Your Lawn

If you let your lawn get overgrown, it can cause stress on the grass, leading to an unhealthy lawn.

I have another article that discusses how often to mow your lawn if you’re looking for tips.

Here is a quick recap of the tips mentioned above:

  1. Wear Safety Gear – It’s important to wear safety gear. This includes safety glasses with side protection, as well as gloves (preferably leather) and ear protection. I highly recommend you wear a pair of polycarbonate safety glasses that have side protection. Verify that they’re impact resistant or even better, shatter-proof. Also, wear some ear protection earmuffs designed for lawn mowing. One popular option is the 3M Peltor X2A (available at Amazon and Walmart).
  2. Don’t Cut Too Much in a Single Mowing Session – While extremely overgrown grass will need to be cut back to a height that you can mow with a traditional mower again, you should remember that if you want to avoid damaging your lawn you must cut a maximum of ⅓ of the grass length during a single mowing session. I recommend cutting your grass back to a mow-able height, while leaving it as long as possible. Wait a few days before you mow again.
  3. Check Your Equipment Before You Begin – Make sure you’re using equipment that is appropriate for the task and get fully acquainted with the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Inspect the equipment before you use it, and follow all the steps that the manufacturer provides about how to prepare it. If you’re renting a trimmer mower or field and brush mower, ask the experts at the lawn care equipment store for guidance on how to use it. A field and brush mower is an especially large and powerful piece of equipment, so you should be extra careful to make sure you know what you’re doing. 
  4. Use a Trimmer or Weed Wacker First – Before you start tackling your overgrown lawn with a trimmer mower or field and brush mower, it’s best to go over it with a string trimmer (also known simply as a grass trimmer). I find that cutting back around property edges, fencing, and obstacles with a string trimmer or weed-wacker before you start with larger equipment can save you a lot of time.
  5. Identify and Remove Obstacles Before You Begin – It’s important to make sure there aren’t any obstacles on the area of ground where you will be mowing. Carefully inspect the area, making sure you remove any and all obstacles that are there, including rocks. If you accidentally collide with or run over any objects, you may damage your equipment or even worse, end up with an injury. If you’re using any rented equipment, you will likely be held liable for any damage. This is something you’ll definitely want to keep in mind if you want to avoid unexpected expenses (potentially significant ones). 
  6. Clean Your Mower & Tools After Mowing Tall Grass – If you’re able to use a regular mower to cut your overgrown grass, make sure that you clean before putting it away. Long grass also creates much more of a mess, and you want to ensure that grass hasn’t accumulated beneath the mower deck. Check the manufacturer instructions that came with your mower for information on the correct way to clean it. Make sure that you take out its spark plug before you do any kind of disassembling. 
  7. Get Back on a Regular Mowing Schedule – Let’s face it: cutting an overgrown lawn is a lot of work. So, once you’ve dealt with the problem, my best advice is avoiding it happening again. The best way to avoid your grass getting too long is by sticking to a regular lawn care schedule. Grass tends to grow the fastest in the spring, and it can quickly get out of hand if you don’t mow often enough because of your busy schedule. That’s why I recommend writing out a schedule and posting it somewhere, like in the kitchen. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Cutting Tall Grass

You probably still have some questions about how to mow tall grass without damaging your lawn (or your mower). You can absolutely ask questions in the comments and I’ll respond, but in case it saves you a minute, I’ll list and answer the most common ones below:

What is the best weather for cutting tall grass?

It’s best to cut tall grass in pleasant, warm (but not hot) weather without rain. The grass should be dry, and make sure that the morning dew has dried before you begin. Moisture bogs down your equipment and makes the work less efficient.

Avoid cutting your grass during the strong sun and heat of the middle of the day in summer. This can lead to damage to your lawn, and it will put more stress on your body as well. 

The best time of day to cut tall grass is around 9 or 10 a.m., after the morning dew has dried but before the full sunlight and heat of midday.

How do you safely make the first cut of tall grass?

Remember, the best practice for mowing lawns is that you should never remove more than ⅓  of the height of the grass blade at one time. If you take any more than that, it could lead to damage. This is called the ⅓ rule. 

That said, if you’ve got a severely overgrown lawn, you’ll have to accept that cutting it back will result in some damage – that’s just the nature of the beast.

Allow your lawn to recover, and going forward adhere to the best practice and cut only 1/3 of the grass length at any one time.

Keep yourself safe by understanding how to use your equipment and wearing protective gear, including protective glasses with side protection, thick gloves (preferably leather), and ear protection. 

Make sure you’re using the right kind of cutting equipment. If the grass is around 3 feet or taller, you will need a trimmer mower, or at the very least a powerful string trimmer or weed wacker.

How to Cut Tall Grass

If it’s very thick or includes brush, you will need to use a field and brush mower. 

In many cases, you’ll probably find it useful to use a string trimmer to take off some of the length first. This will make it easier for you to tackle the rest with a mower, trimmer mower, or field and brush mower. 

How short do you cut tall grass?

I’ve got a full article on this subject which may be helpful (because it really depends upon your grass type).

But my best advice when cutting back tall grass, is to leave it as tall as you can while cutting it short enough that your mower can mow it comfortably one week later.

In this way you do the least damage possible to the plant, while also cutting it back enough so that you can return to regular mowing on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Once you’ve cut back your tall grass to a reasonable length, you should make sure you only remove ⅓ of the height of the grass during each mowing session. If you take off more at one time, you risk damaging the grass. 

How short you should aim to have your grass varies depending on the type of grass you have. For example, if you have Kentucky bluegrass, you’ll probably want to keep it at around 2.5 to 3 inches. 

In the summer, you should usually keep your grass a little bit on the longer side. So, in the example of Kentucky bluegrass, you might want to keep it at about 3.5 inches. This can help cool season lawns a bit more resilient against difficult conditions.


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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