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Home & garden.

Updated: 22 Apr 2022

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
Rebecca Marcus
Lawnmower

The lawn takes centre stage in most gardens. When your lawn looks good, the whole garden looks good – but there are a couple of tricks that make things a little bit easier. Our expert guide explains how to cut the perfect lawn.

To help you keep your garden looking its best throughout the year, we've pulled together some top tips on how to cut your grass, making sure to explain the ideal height for your mower blades and how often you need to repeat the process.

Keep scrolling and you'll also spot our handy lawn care checklist, split by season so you know what you need to do whether it's a toasty summer or a chilly winter.


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How to cut the grass

Step 1: Check your lawn

Before you start mowing, have a look around the garden and pick up any loose pebbles or small sticks. Without doing so, you risk debris striking your mower blades, which could damage the machine and cause injury if the materials are propelled back out.

Step 2: Safety checks

If you're using a corded mower, place the cable over your shoulder to avoid cutting through it. Always make sure it's connected to an RCD (residual current device) to prevent electrocution.

Choose appropriate footwear: sandals and flip flops don't offer enough protection; steel-toe boots are the best for protecting your toes from serious injury. You might also want to wear eye protection in case stones fly up and a pair of sturdy gardening gloves.

Step 3: Cut around the edge of the lawn

Now you're ready to begin cutting. We suggest you start by cutting around the edge of your lawn, taking care not to snag any plants you might have at the side of your garden.

When you're mowing the sides of your lawn, try to avoid standing on the edge (where the grass meets your flowerbed) as this can damage the edge.

Step 4: Continue cutting in lengths

Cut up and down the full length of your lawn, overlapping the previous strip each time so you don't miss any spots.

Empty the collection box regularly or it may drop clumps of clippings on the lawn.

Step 5: Finishing touches

Finally, you can cut the edges of your lawn with shears or a grass trimmer for a neat result.

To see which lawn finishing tools have impressed in our rigorous lab tests, see our grass trimmer and strimmer reviews.

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's 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.

How to get stripes in your lawn

To get stripes when you mow, you'll need a lawn mower with a roller; 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. 

Striped lawn

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.

Can you cut wet grass?

It's best to cut the grass when it's dry. Wet grass clippings are harder for the mower to pick up and you're likely to get lumps of clippings left on the lawn. For every lawn mower that we test, we check how well the machine cuts wet grass. 

You should never cut frosty grass as you'll damage the grass and can leave marks where you've been.

To see which models are the best for cutting in damp conditions, check our expert lawn mower reviews.

What to do with lawn clippings

Some mowers offer a mulching function that cuts up clippings and pushes them back into the turf so you don't need to pick them up.

Most lawn 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 testing lawn mowers, we mark them for how well each model fills its grass-collection bag.

You can put grass clippings in your green-waste collection bin, although if you've used weedkiller on the lawn you usually have to cut it a certain number of times before the cuttings are safe to put in the compost bin. This will be stated on the weedkiller's label.

You can also compost your grass clippings. 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 absorb the liquid in grass clippings and prevent them from turning slimy.

If you're left with a lot of grass clippings, use a wheelbarrow to transport it. Consult our guide on how to buy the best wheelbarrow.

When to cut grass

In the growing season between spring and early autumn, your lawn will be growing strongly and should be cut every week or even twice a week if possible. This will stop it from growing too long and keeps clippings to a minimum.

In winter, grass only needs cutting very occasionally if there's been a mild spell of weather and it's grown again.

Spring and summer lawn care

Grass gets a lot of wear over the warmer months, so make sure your lawn is in 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. Low-growing spreading weeds, such as clover, can be difficult to kill. Try raking them before you mow to raise their stems and you’ll weaken the plants over time.
  • Prevent moss – shade from surrounding plants and trees is a common cause, so try to reduce this if possible by thinning out growth. Feeding the lawn and reducing compaction by spiking the surface with a garden fork should also help.
  • 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. 

See the best garden spades

  • 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.

Winter lawn care
  • 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.

Shopping for a new lawn mower this year? Before you part with your money, have a read through our guide on the best lawn mowers.