Lawn Care - Mowing Guide

The "one third rule" is the simplest and most fundamental rule of mowing - quite simply, do not cut more than one third of the total height of your lawn in one go. The next thing to remember is that the best height to cut your lawn to (always between 3/4 of an inch and 1 and a half inches) depends on the time of year. Follow the "W" or "three finger" guide to mowing heights:


  • Mow at the greater height of 1 and a half inches at the start of spring - the first upright of "W"
  • Reduce the height to 3/4 of an inch in spring - the first lower point of the "W"
  • Raise the height to 1 and a half inches again in summer - the middle point of the "W"
  • Lower the height to 3/4 of an inch as growth picks up in early autumn - the second lower point of the "W"
  • Raise the height to 1 and a half inches for a final time for the last couple of cuts of the year - the final upright of "W"


Mowing lawn


You may wish to increase the height in shady areas, on banks or if your lawn takes a lot of wear and tear. Whatever you do, don't be tempted to mow too short as this will weaken the grass and allow weeds and moss to grow through the lawn. The view that cutting the grass shorter will save work as it will allow you to leave the lawn for longer before it needs mowing again is misguided. The reality is that by mowing very short, the plants protection system kicks in, so it actually starts growing more quickly. Additionally, mowing short reduces the grasses' root depth, which in turn reduces the lawn's ability to reach water reserves. This can become particularly telling during extended dry spells.


The general guidance, which should allow you to follow the essential "one third rule", is to mow every 2 weeks in spring, every week in summer, then a couple of times towards the end of October or the beginning of November if the weather is particularly mild. Reduce the amount of mowing in really hot, dry weather as your lawn will be straining to cope with the weather; allowing the grass to grow longer during these times will increase its resilience. When going on holiday, mow just before you go but do not be tempted to reduce the height. When you return, be sure to follow the one-third rule, even if this means 2 cuts within the space of a few days are required to bring the grass back down to the desired level.


Lawn catching light sky in background


When mowing, each run up the lawn with the lawn mower should slightly overlap the previous one. Be wary of repeating grass cutting in the same track multiple times as this will produce ruts and tramlines. In particular, when using a ride-on lawn mower, be sure to overlap each run so that the wheels do not go in the same place twice. When mowing in wet conditions (which should always be avoided if you can help it), you should raise the mowing height as well as reducing your drive speed to reduce strain on the lawn mower. You will also need to empty the mowing bag/box more often when wet as it will get heavier more quickly with the moisture. Regardless of conditions, always ensure all clippings are collected and composted.


A final comment worthy of mention relating to lawn mowing is the maintenance of your equipment, including lawn mower, strimmer and any other tools you use. To maintain your garden effectively and ensure your lawn mower and other tools last as long as they should, maintain them well and follow manufacturers instructions wherever appropriate. In particular, sharpen the blades of your lawn mower at least once a year; blunt blades harm your lawn by ripping grass instead of cutting it. If you find that your lawn has a 'frayed' look after mowing, the grass is turning white at the tips or becoming more prone to diseases, your lawnmower blades need sharpening.


Push along lawn mower



Share this page: