How to cut the perfect lawn
Cutting the grass for a lawn that will be a beautiful centrepiece in your garden is easy to do
Cutting and feeding your lawn are just two of the ways you can keep your lawn looking lush and healthy. But are you mowing it properly?
Find out the best way to cut your lawn and what to do with the clippings, as well as our top tips on how to care for your lawn throughout the different seasons.
Alternatively, head straight to our best lawn mowers.
In this article:
- Video: how to cut the grass
- How to cut the grass
- How do you mow stripes in a lawn?
- Can you cut grass if it's wet?
- What to do with lawn clippings
- How often should the lawn be cut?
- Lawn care: Summer, Spring, Autumn and Winter
- Start by cutting around the edge of the lawn.
- Put the cable over your shoulder to keep it out of your way to avoid cutting through it accidentally. Always make sure it's connected to an RCD to prevent electrocution.
- Work from the left-hand side of the lawn, cutting up and down the length.
- A good tip is to slightly overlap the previous strip each time.
- Empty the collection box regularly otherwise it may drop clumps of clippings on the lawn.
- Finally, cut the edges with lawn shears or a Best Buy grass trimmer for a neat result.
What height should the lawn mower blades be?
The height of the blades on most mowers can be easily adjusted using a lever, although on some hover mowers you'll need to add or remove spacers, which is a bit more fiddly.
At the start of the mowing season in spring, set the blades high then gradually lower them over the weeks, until you reach the main cutting height of 25mm. Cutting lower than this can result in a lawn that is weakened and more susceptible to drought and other problems.
For luxury lawns that don't get used much, you can cut as low as 12mm in summer.
To get stripes when you mow, you'll need a lawn mower with a roller as this will squash the grass flat after the mower cuts it. Hover mowers never have rollers, but most other types of mowers can have rollers, although it depends on the individual model.
When cutting stripes, it's important to mow up and down the lawn to get the neat effect you want. The stripes are created by the light reflecting off the grass blades. Grass facing towards you looks dark, while grass facing away from you looks light. The contrast of the two creates the stripes.
Longer grass creates the best effect as the grass blades bend further than shorter grass.
A well-fed lawn also looks more lush and striped, so why not use one of our Best Buy lawn feeds.
It's best to cut the grass when it's dry as wet grass clippings are harder for the mower to pick up and you're likely to get lumps of clippings left on the lawn. When Which? Gardening tests lawn mowers we give them a mark for how well they cut wet grass.
You should never cut frosty grass as you'll damage the grass and can leave marks wear you've been.
You can find out which ones cut wet grass well in our lawn mower reviews.
Some mowers offer a mulching function that cuts up the clippings very finely and pushes them back into the turf as a mulch so you don't need to pick them up.
Most mowers have a collection bag or box that fills with clippings as you mow. Many have an indicator so that you can easily check how full the bag is and whether it needs to be emptied. When Which? Gardening tests lawn mowers, we mark them for how well they fill their grass-collection bag. Find out more in our lawn mower reviews.
You can put grass clippings in your green-waste collection bin, although if you've used weedkiller on the lawn check the packaging to know how many cuts should go in the bin rather than recycling.
You can also compost your grass clippings. When Which? Gardening magazine tested different methods of composting grass clippings, we found that it's best to either add leaves from deciduous trees at a ratio of one part leaves to one part grass clippings or to add soil at the same ratio. Both methods absorbed the liquid in grass clippings and prevented them turning slimy.
If you're left with a lot of grass clippings, use a wheelbarrow to transport it to the bin or compost heap. Here's our guide on how to buy the best wheelbarrow.
In the growing season between spring and early autumn, the lawn will be growing strongly and should be cut every week or even twice a week if possible. This will stop it growing too long and keep clippings to a minimum.
Lawn mowers can struggle to cut long grass. When Which? Gardening tests lawn mowers, we mark them for how well they cut long grass. Read our lawn mower reviews.
In winter, grass only needs cutting very occasionally if there's been a mild spell of weather and it's grown again.
Grass gets a lot of wear over the warmer months, so make sure your lawn is in tip top condition.
- Feed the grass - the secret to greener grass is to feed your lawn.
- Kill lawn weeds - unless you like certain weeds, such as daisies. If so, either spray carefully with a lawn spot weed killer or dig out the weeds you want to remove with a daisy grubber.
- Prevent moss - shade from surrounding plants and trees is a common cause, so try to reduce this if possible by thinning out growth.
- Repair bumps and hollows - use a spade to cut a H-shape in the grass and peel back the turf so you get two flaps. Then either add or remove soil to make it level. Put back the turf, firm it down and keep it well watered.
- Relieve grass compaction - poor drainage and a collection of rain water beneath the surface means the grass roots struggle to get oxygen and the grass fails to grow. Get air back into the soil by pushing in a garden fork every 20cm or so.
- Repair bare patches in the lawn - remove the cause of wear, then either use a shop kit to fill the patches or rake the area yourself, sow grass seed and cover with compost or soil.
Autumn lawn care
Getting your lawn in shape after a busy summer of heavy usage is well worth the effort.
- Kill moss - apply a moss killer, remove sources of shade and relieve compaction in the turf.
- Rake or scarify - this process will open up the sward and make space for the new grass plants to grow with less competition.
- Oversow - sowing grass seeds onto existing turf will help thicken it up and prevent weeds filling the gaps.
- Top-dress - it will help improve soil quality. Mix three parts sharp sand with one part of bought compost. Apply at 2kg per sq m and work into the turf with a brush. Don't mow the grass for two or three weeks afterwards.
- Water and feed if needed - ensure the lawn is kept, don't saturate. You can also apply an autumn feed to strengthen the turf before winter.
Winter lawn care
The best strategy is normally to leave the lawn alone during winter, but there are some jobs that are good to do.
- Mow as needed - in our changeable climate, we can often see significant growth during mild winters. Mow the lawn as required, when the turf isn't wet or frosty.
- Watch out for fungal diseases - fungal spores live in soil and will cause turf diseases when it's damp and humid. A good preventative method is to brush off morning dew from the grass.
- Don't walk on frosty grass - it can damage it. The same applies during very wet weather.
Looking for a new lawn mower this year? Head straight to our top five lawn mowers to help you find the best one for your garden.