Moving into a new house with a great-looking lawn can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’ve never had one before. There are so many things to know about mowing a lawn for beginners, such as what type of mower is best or how short to cut the grass, and that’s just for starters!
If you’re a beginner at lawn mowing, start by making sure you have the most suitable type of mower for your yard. Once you have selected your mower, choose a dry day to do the first cut, set it to the correct height, and start mowing in a basic striped pattern for an easy, neat finish.
To help you get started, I’ve created this guide to provide you with all the information you need to maintain a healthy lawn in a simple step-by-step format. So, let’s dive in!
1. Choose The Right Lawnmower
The first thing to do is find a good quality lawnmower that is suitable for your yard. Below you will find the most popular model types with a brief description of each to help you choose, taking into account the size of your lawn and your budget.
Push Reel Mower
Reel mowers are the most basic and affordable type of lawnmower that requires human effort to push across the lawn. They’re an ideal model for small lawns that don’t require much maintenance. Push reel mowers are easy to handle, lightweight, and produce no emissions, making them very eco-friendly.
If you are interested in this type of mower, you can learn more about its usage here.
Electric mowers are powered by electricity (duh) and come in both corded and cordless models. They are quieter and lighter than gas mowers and produce fewer emissions plus they offer easy maneuverability. Best for small to medium-sized lawns with models available to suit most budgets.
Gas Powered Mower
Mowers that run on gasoline are the most common type of lawnmower, as basic manual push models are within most household budgets. They are powerful and ideal for medium to large-sized lawns. Gas mowers come in two types – self-propelled and push. Self-propelled mowers are easier to operate and require less effort from the user but are more expensive.
Riding mowers are perfect for large lawns with an area of more than half an acre. They come with a seat and are easy to operate. Riding mowers have different cutting heights that can easily be adjusted based on the lawn’s requirements. This category includes lawn tractors and zero-turn mowers which are the most expensive types of mowers available.
One final category to mention is a type of push gas mower that is specially designed to cut your grass clippings into tiny pieces that are left on the lawn as mulch. In contrast, most normal mowers collect the clippings in a bag that you then have to dispose of.
For a detailed explanation see my article on whether to mulch or bag grass clippings.
2. Safety Precautions
Mowing your lawn can be a satisfying experience, but it requires taking some precautions to make sure you do it safely. Here I explore some important points to remember for a safe mowing experience.
- Wear appropriate clothing: Lawn mowing can flick up stones and other debris so wearing the right gear to protect yourself is essential. Wear long pants, closed-toed shoes or boots, and always use eye protection. I know many people like to skip this but trust me, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Check your mower before use: Before turning your mower on, inspect it for any damaged or loose parts. Check the oil and fuel levels if appropriate, and make sure the blades are sharp.
- Keep children and pets away: Do not allow children or pets to play near the lawn while you are mowing. Besides the danger from flying stones etc., you do not want them to come anywhere near the spinning blade or hot exhaust.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Take a moment to assess the area you plan to mow. Look for any hazards or obstacles that may get in the way. Walk the perimeter of the lawn, and clear any debris or sticks that could cause an accident.
- Turn off the mower when refueling: Always turn off the engine before filling the tank. Gasoline is highly flammable, and running the mower while refueling can cause a fire or explosion. Also, make sure to let the mower cool off before refueling. Otherwise, the mower’s heat could ignite any spilled gas in an instant.
Overall – never take safety for granted when mowing your lawn to avoid injuries to both yourself and your family.
3. Preparing The Lawn For Mowing
There are a few tasks you should always do to prepare your lawn before mowing to make sure you get the best results:
Trim Overhanging Branches
If any branches are hanging over the lawn, make sure to trim them back as much as possible. Overhanging branches can make it difficult to reach everywhere and even cause accidents or injury.
Trim Any Long Grass Or Tall Weeds With A String Trimmer
If the lawn hasn’t been cut for a while, you may need to spend some extra time trimming any long grass or weeds first. This will help your mower work more efficiently and ensure that you’re left with a cleaner cut.
Wait Until The Grass Is Dry
Avoid mowing the lawn when it’s wet after rain or on dewy mornings. It’s best to wait until the morning dew or rain-sodden turf has dried, as wet grass can clog up the mower. Mowing wet grass also carries other risks, you can read more about those here.
Clear Debris From The Lawn
Clear the lawn of sticks, stones, toys, or anything else that could damage your mower or get flung out by the blade. You might also want to check the area for obstacles like hidden dips or bumps that may cause your mower to tip over or you to trip.
4. Adjusting The Height Of Cut
Before mowing the lawn, it’s important to check how long the grass is and set your mower height so that you’re not cutting off more than one-third of the length in one go.
This practice encourages growth and prevents damage to the grass. It may require more frequent mowing, but it will ultimately produce a healthier lawn. Keep in mind that during periods of drought, it’s best to maintain a slightly longer grass height to help the roots retain moisture.
If you know the type of grass you have then you can consult online resources to work out the optimum height that you should be aiming for. If not, then a general guide is to keep your grass between 2.5 and 3.5 inches high, which works for most varieties.
Mowers usually have adjustable blade heights, which can be done manually or automatically. Make sure to adjust the height so that it’s the same on both sides of the deck and ensures grass blades are cut evenly, creating a well-manicured look.
For more information, check out my article on the best length to cut grass.
5. Best Time Of Day To Mow
Before getting out in the yard to cut the grass, it’s a good idea to plan the time of the day you’re going to get started. Early morning (between 08:00 and 11:00), when the grass is dry and the temperature is cooler, is the perfect time to mow your lawn, especially during the summer months.
If you don’t have the opportunity to do it early then the next best time is late afternoon, from 16:00 onwards.
On the other hand, mowing during the hottest part of the day is definitely not recommended.
High temperatures combined with exposure to the sun can be extremely stressful for both you and your recently cut grass. As such, it is best to avoid mowing during these times to prevent damage to the turf and maintain a healthy lawn.
6. Mowing The Lawn
Now that you know how to select the right mower and get yourself prepared, it’s finally time to get out there and cut the grass!
For beginners, it’s best to mow in straight lines rather than in a more complicated pattern, at least to begin with. This helps ensure that the grass is cut evenly, and it also gives a more polished appearance to the lawn.
All you need to do is move forward in one direction from one edge of the lawn to the other, then turn around and come back in the opposite direction in a parallel line next to your first one. Repeat this until you’ve covered the whole lawn and then mow any areas you missed around the edges.
Make sure that you overlap each pass by a small margin as you go to help avoid missing any spots. Overlapping also aids with making sure the lawn has a smooth and consistent finish after mowing.
The next time you cut the grass, try mowing in an alternate direction as this helps to prevent creating ruts in the lawn and compacting the soil.
7. Cleaning-Up After Mowing
When you’re done mowing your lawn, there are a few final steps you should take to tidy up afterward that will make for a neater finish and keep your lawnmower running well.
First and foremost, if you’re not mulching your grass clippings with a mower built for the purpose, be sure to remove them from your lawn if they haven’t been collected along the way.
Next, remember to properly clean your lawn mower. This not only helps maintain its lifespan but also makes it cut more efficiently. Use a brush or cloth to remove any debris or grass clippings from the blades, deck, and wheels. Wipe down the mower with a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture and prevent rust from forming.
Finally, store your lawn mower in a dry and safe place, ideally in a covered shed or garage. This will help protect it from the elements so that it doesn’t rust and is ready to go the next time you need to use it. If you don’t have a shed or garage, you can find some outdoor storage ideas here.
8. Maintaining A Healthy Lawn
Putting some time and effort into maintaining a healthy lawn is crucial for achieving a beautiful and lush green yard throughout the year. This requires regular care and attention to various aspects such as mowing, fertilizing, watering, and weed control.
Mowing the lawn on a regular basis helps to keep it looking good and also promotes healthy growth by encouraging the development of new shoots. During the growing season, plan on mowing the lawn every 5-7 days for the best results.
In addition to regular mowing, fertilizing is essential for a vibrant and healthy lawn. Typically, a general-purpose fertilizer rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium should be applied every 4-6 weeks during the growing season, with the summer and fall requiring a slightly different ratio to maintain healthy growth and resilience.
Note that if you are using a mulching mower then this regime will need to be adjusted as mulch provides many of the same benefits in a more natural way.
Watering the lawn regularly is also essential for promoting healthy growth. Deep watering once a week is preferable to shallow watering, as it helps to encourage the growth of deep roots that can tolerate dry periods better.
To give you an idea of how long this will take, you will need to water the lawn for 45 minutes to an hour, as this allows moisture to penetrate deeply into the soil.
Promptly Remove Weeds
Lastly, removing weeds promptly is also an essential step in maintaining a healthy lawn. Weeds are persistent and invasive, and if left uncontrolled, they can take over, depriving the grass of much-needed nutrients and moisture. Pull out weeds regularly, or use herbicides as and when necessary to keep them at bay.
That’s it! You’ve made it to the end of my comprehensive guide for beginners on many of the important things to look out for when maintaining your new lawn.
Make sure you select the best mower for the job and that the lawn is well-prepared for you to start mowing and you will be sure to get good results. In no time at all your lawn will be the envy of the neighborhood.
Just take things steadily to start with as you learn, and make sure to keep in mind all the safety precautions I’ve mentioned. Happy mowing!