How to Mow a Lawn

How to Mow a Lawn

reel mower girl

A nice lawn is a sign of a good looking home, and once the pattern of lawn care has been set, the routine is both simple and rewarding. Given a good lawn and good ground, proper mowing may be the most important single factor in keeping both the lawn and its soil good.

A properly mowed lawn will:

1. Maintain at worst the same or at best a continually diminishing weed count, even with no other efforts.

2. Fight against summer drought and minimize the effects of prolonged rainy spells.

3. Return to the soil annually a tenth of its underground bulk in spent root fibers as humus and, from above, the sum of the year’s cut foliage.

4. Prove the best available eradicator of most weeds.

5. Suffer far less from such pests like grubs and chinch bugs — not to mention fungus diseases — than any lawn not carefully cut.

6. Will have a good “spring” and take hard wear without flinching.

7. Look good all year.

And what does mowing have to do with all this?

1. Grasses benefit more from mowing than do weeds. Therefore, the grasses will gain strength as the weeds lose it.

2. If grass is cut to the correct cutting height, the resulting grass foliage shades the ground, keeping roots cooler and moister.

3. Grass that grows well exhausts normally 10 per cent or more of its root system per year. This remains in the ground and decomposes. High, regular cutting encourages good root growth, large root production, good root replacement. It also makes available a considerable quantity of green clippings on the top of the lawn, which will help keep the soil cool, eventually dry and disintegrate.

4. Correctly cut, healthy grass will inhibit weed development by shading the sun-lovers (crab grass, for instance), smothering with clippings and lush foliage the late annuals, crowding and weakening the perennials.

5. The healthier the roots, the more grubs or other pests can eat without seriously damaging the lawn. The more shade and coolness from tall grass and a clipping mulch, the less happy will be the chinch bugs. The healthier the grass plants, the more moisture the lawn can absorb and use, therefore the less danger from most fungi.

6. A lawn cut at the appropriate cutting height is a thick one, and a healthy lawn has elastic foliage. Thick, buoyant turf withstands wear far better than grass cut too high or too low.

7. Good mowing keeps the grass pushing. Grass does best when it is working hardest.

As for actual mowing itself, what this all mean?

First, set the cutting height on your mower for the proper height cut for your type of grass.

Second, mow your lawn as often as there is anything for the mower to cut, and often enough so the clippings will not form matted heaps. This means once a week, on the average, through the grass-growing season. In lush periods once a week may not be enough. In the middle of summer, sometimes once every couple of weeks may do.

So far as the lawn’s well-being is concerned, that’s all there is to it. For your own good, develop an orderly pattern of mowing to suit your own terrain and conditions. Mow with your back straight and your elbows bent.

Mow back and forth from one side to the other — not round and round. Allow an overlap of half the cutter width, in order that the grass will be mowed twice — once in each direction — for the best possible cut.

Make sure your reel mower blades are properly adjusted. Take good care of your mower.
Here are some additional tips for getting the best cut with a manual reel lawnmower:

1. Walk at a good, steady pace. With a manual reel mower, you are the engine; the mower will tend to bind up and skid if you walk at a snail’s pace. So get moving at a comfortably quick walking pace and youíll get the best results.

2. Overlap your rows, as described above. This will make the mower a bit easier to push because you’re mowing less grass, and it will also help catch any spots you might have missed on the previous row.

3. Experiment with different mowing patterns. Different types of grass and different lawns have different growing patterns. The direction in which you mow can make a difference in the quality of the cut.

4. Don’t let the grass get too tall. Manual mowers are harder to push when the grass gets too tall, so keep your lawn mowed regularly.

5. Experiment with your cutting height. Once you’ve looked up your type of grass and know the recommended cutting range, try different cutting heights to find which height makes the grass easier to cut and which height gives you the best cutting results.

6. Embrace imperfection. Grass is a living organism. It’s not carpet. If you miss a few blades of grass and they’re sticking up in the yard, move on. Youíll get them next week.

7. Mow early. This is one of the greatest advantages of having a reel mower. You can get up at the break of dawn and mow, and you wonít wake your next-door neighbors. Take in the cooler morning temperature, listen to the birds, enjoy yourself.

For more information or to order a reel mower, visit

Buy reel mowers here.

Other Information About Using Reel Lawn Mowers:

Don’t forget to read the general guide to using a push mower on the front page of the site.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Love my Reel Lawn Mowers 06.19.11 at 1:03 pm

I have owned 2 reel lawn mowers and find that if I cut my lawn about twice a week, I can almost recreate the effect of a mulching mower. By cutting just the tips off, the grass trimmings are small enough that they act like mulch. My grass is healthier, greener and I use less water to keep it looking great!

NewHomeOwner 07.13.11 at 6:45 am

Is twice a week pretty average for cutting the grass with reel lawn mowers?

steve 07.15.11 at 8:08 am

@NewHomeOwner, Congratulations on your new home! Yes, depending on what part of the country you live in it’s not uncommon to mow twice a week due to ideal growing conditions. My neighbor has a gas mower and has to mow twice a week, so it’s not always just due to the fact you are using a reel mower.

Jeff 07.20.11 at 9:09 pm

Just wanted to say, I went back to a reel this past week, was looking for a power one, but after reading your pages, I found an almost new Scott’s for $35. I would like a forward throw at some point, just think it would recut the clippings smaller maybe? I already like the workout, and even in just one week its looking better already, even without chemicals. Amazing how I’m suddenly persona non grata in the neighborhood, the comments are amazing. I wish the links were working, IM trying to figure out how high to mow my “weeds”.
thanks for your input.


steve 07.25.11 at 8:00 am

@Jeff, Thanks for your comments, using a push mower is great exercise and the near zero noise pollution is a big plus. As far as I know the forward throwing mower would not re-cut the already cut grass clippings. They’re designed to cut the grass that is vertical so the chances of it re-cutting any already cut clippings are unlikely.

Christine 05.20.12 at 4:25 pm

I’m very happy to have found your site. We just got a reel mower, and I love that it is quiet and clean and doesn’t throw grass clippings all over my gardens and the sidewalk. My big concern at this point is how to do my edges. There is a slight drop off the lawn into the flower beds, and with the wheels uneven, the blades don’t turn properly and the edges don’t get cut. I don’t want to have to pull out a weed whacker. Any suggestions?

Treehugger 05.22.12 at 11:41 am

My husband has been reel-mowing for around a year or so, when the gas mower died. I reel mowed the front and side yards today with the reel mower and I LOVE IT. I love the peaceful aspect, the lack of danger of ejected rocks etc, the fact I don’t have to fight to start a gas mower engine, the lack of noise and stinky gas mower exhaust. I didn’t disturb our neighbours or pollute the environment. I left the mulched grass clippings where they lay, too. I recommend everyone wear gloves though, my hands are a little sore.

BILL 08.16.12 at 10:11 am

Live to mow. Mow to live. It benifits you both ways.

Ana 04.06.15 at 9:26 am

Unfortunately, lawn care is never on the top of my list of things to-do in the fall and every spring I regret not spending a little more time the year before. This year, I’m determined to change that.

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