Grass cutting for dummies
Cutting your grass may sound straight forward, however most people don’t realise half the factors that affect how and when you should cut your grass. That’s why we have created our dummies guide to cutting the grass.
The grass cutting season in the UK typically starts around mid-March to early April when the weather begins to get a little warmer, which in turn encourages the grass to grow. The grass cutting season generally ends in October when the temperature begins to decline and grass growth slows down. These dates will vary each year depending on the weather and area in the country you live in.
The recommended cutting height for your grass will depend on where in the grass cutting season you are and the weather. For the very first cut of the season, you should change the cutting height on your lawn mower to its highest.
When cutting grass, you should never cut more than a third of the length of the grass blade off in one go. Being cut is very stressful for grass, and the more you cut off in one go, the more stress you cause making the grass more susceptible to disease.
Over the first couple of months of the grass cutting season you can gradually decrease the cutting height of your lawn mower to get the length of grass you wish to have. There is no set recommendation for the correct cutting height as it is generally down to personal preference. It is however recommended that at the beginning of the grass cutting season that you don’t cut the grass more than once a week as you risk overly stressing the grass.
Most people in the UK like to cut their lawn very short; however there are risks associated by doing this. During very hot periods, typically at the height of the summer, it’s recommended that you cut your lawn a little longer than usual.
The reason behind this is fairly simple. The shorter you cut the grass, the more you expose the soil to the suns heat. This in turn removes the moisture from the soil which is required for the grass to grow. This is a common reason why some lawns turn brown in the summer.
By allowing the grass to grow a littler longer during hot periods, it provides the soil with additional shade and protection, preventing the water in the soil from evaporating.
At the end of the cutting season you should again cut the grass much longer. This time it is to help insulate the grass and protect the ground from frosting over. It will also protect the lawn from pests, disease and moss over the winter.
As the weather gets warmer and grass growing conditions get better, you will need to increase the frequency you cut the grass. Once the peak grass cutting season has finished, you will then need to gradually decrease the frequency in which you cut the grass. During September when it gets a little colder you will probably need to decrease your grass cutting frequency to once a fortnight and by the end of October there may be no reason to cut your lawn at all, as the temperature has fallen to such a level that the grass no longer grows.
Obviously these cutting frequencies need to be adjusted to the weather conditions and to suit your lawn. The length in which you cut your grass is also dependent on the finish you want to achieve. Many people in the UK like to have stripes on their lawn. To do this you need to use a lawn mower which has a rear roller. A roller flattens the grass in the direction that the lawn mower is being pushed which reflects the suns light in a different direction giving the impression that the grass is a different colour, which produces stripes on the lawn. When adding stripes to your lawn you will need to go in an up and down direction with your lawn mower.
You should only ever cut the grass using a lawn mower with a sharp blade. It is recommended that you sharpen or change the blade on your lawn mower before the start of each season. The reason for this is to ensure that you ‘cut’ the grass rather than tear it. Tearing the grass creates additional stress for your grass and can lead to other problems like weeds later down the line. A sharp blade also uses less energy which reduces power consumption and wear and tear on the machine. For more lawn maintenance tips visit our separate blog post.
When cutting the grass you should try and cut it in alternate directions each week. By continuously cutting the grass in the same direction each time, you will begin encouraging the grass to grow in that direction causing graining. Graining then causes larger spaces between the blades of the grass, which then creates a suitable environment for moss and other pests to grow in.
Scalping is another problem that you may face when cutting the grass. Scalping occurs when the lawn mower blade hits the ground causing an unsightly bald spot in your lawn. This could be caused by your lawn being uneven and you hitting a raised point in your garden, or if your lawn mower suddenly falls as it enters a dip. To prevent scalping you should try and level the lawn out where possible alternatively you will need to raise the cutting height on your lawn. Areas of the lawn that have been scalped are again susceptible to weeds, moss and other pests.
Many homeowners collect the grass each time they cut the lawn however this is not necessary in many situations. The main reason people collect their grass clippings is for aesthetics. This is totally understandable when the grass has been very long, like after the first cut of the season.
In situations when the grass is being cut at least twice a week, it can be beneficial to leave your grass clippings on the lawn and let them breakdown back into the lawn. This allows the grass clippings to add the moisture and nitrogen found in the grass to be reabsorbed. Removing grass clippings from the lawn every time you cut the grass, prevents this from happening and actually removes essential nitrogen from the grass, which can create a nitrogen deficient in your lawn. This process is know as mulching, to get the best results a mower that has mulch function should be used. The only way to repair a nitrogen deficient is to add nitrogen into the lawn which can be done by adding a nitrogen rich fertiliser.
Before cutting your grass you should first go around your lawn and remove any debris. This includes stones, children’s toys for example. The reason for this is to protect your lawn mower from damage while in use. Hitting stones and hard objects when cutting your grass can damage the lawn mower’s blade and misalign the mower. This causes the lawn mower to cut unevenly and in extreme cases prevent it from working. If you are using a petrol lawn mower, first check the oil and remove any old fuel also.
You should also check your lawn mower over for any faults and perform any basic maintenance. Basic checks for your lawn mower should include looking for faults on any electrical cables, checking the blade is sharp and that the lawn mower is in good basic working order.
If using a petrol lawn mower, you should never put oil or fuel into your lawn mower when it is placed on the grass. Spilling these on your grass not only has a negative effect on the environment, but spilt fuel can also turn your grass brown. When using a petrol lawn mower you should always let it run for a few minutes and check for any leaks before cutting your grass.
The ideal grass cutting conditions is when it’s dry i.e. not raining and when there is good daylight, especially if using an electric lawn mower. You should avoid cutting the grass that is wet where possible as it not only increases the chances that you will tear the grass rather than cut it, but the ground may also become slippery. Wet grass may also ‘clump’ when being cut causing the lawn mower to work less inefficiently.
When mowing lawns that contain slopes you should always mow across the slopes rather than up and down. This reduces the risk of injury to the operator if they lose control of the lawn mower when cutting. You should also never cut the grass walking backwards as you could trip.
Using a lawn mower to cut your grass will only get you so far. For a truly neat and tidy finish you will need to cut the edges of your lawn with a grass trimmer or edger. A lawn mower will be unable to cut the grass that goes over the edge of the lawn, and attempting to do so will mean risking scalping your lawn. One exception to this is the Flymo UltraGlide with its unique hover design which enables it to mow over edges.
To cut the grass around the edges of your lawn you will need to use a grass trimmer or a pair of hand shears. Using a lawn mower to get cut the grass down the edge of your lawn you will end up scalping the lawn.
Buying a new lawn mower
If you need to buy a lawn mower, then the Official Flymo WebShop has a wide range of lawn mower deals to choose from. The Flymo lawn mower range includes wheeled rotary lawn mowers with rollers, like those found in the Flymo Chevron Range which enable you to add stripes to your lawn, hover mowers that are perfect for gardens with slopes and robotic lawn mowers that can cut the grass for you so you don’t have to.