Mowing Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Lawn
Are you making any of the common mowing mistakes that can harm your lawn?
Even if you’ve been mowing lawns for years, you may still have room for improvement. And if your lawn has never reached the level of emerald perfection you’d like, a few technique changes may get you over the top.
To help you turn your lawn into the green carpet of your dreams, we share the mowing practices to avoid, explain how these mowing mistakes harm your turf grass, and describe what to do instead.
Lawn Mowing Mistakes to Avoid
Mowing Too Often
Most people mow their lawn every weekend (after all, that’s when you have “free” time, right?). But the frequency should really be based on how quickly the grass is growing – and that varies with the weather (for example, high heat and dry weather slow growth down), conditions (rain means a delay in mowing), turf type, overall health of the lawn, and more.
Leaving your lawn grass to grow a little taller also has several benefits:
- Taller grass can smother weeds more easily, by shading them or out-competing them.
- Taller grasses have more surface area for photosynthesizing, meaning healthier, stronger blades.
- Longer grass blades reduce water evaporation, so your irrigation water goes further.
- Keeping your mower set higher reduces the chance of over-mowing, or “scalping” areas of grass
Not Mowing Often Enough
This is not to suggest that you don’t mow regularly while your lawn grows in the warm months. Mowing so that you only need to take off a third or less of the height of your grass is a good rule to follow, as it keeps your grass blades at a healthy height and makes mowing easier.
Over mowing to compensate for a shaggy lawn means too-short grass and excessive clippings. While we normally recommend leaving grass clippings on the lawn to provide nutrients to the turf as they decompose, you shouldn’t do that if mowing has left large clumps or a thick layer. Excessive mulch clippings left on a lawn can block sunlight from reaching the grass beneath it, creating yellow areas that tempt people into using too much fertilizer to compensate.
Cutting Grass Too Short
Over mowing, or cutting grass too short, causes turf to dry out faster and can make bald spots where too much of the grass has been sheared off. Open areas in lawns are ideal for weeds to establish themselves, and seeding to fill in empty areas means you’ll have to stay off your grass (right when you want to lounge on it) until it grows in.
Mowing Wet Grass
Don’t mow if your lawn is wet from dew, rain, or irrigation.
- Wet grass blades are heavier and will bend or fold flat in front of your mower. This means you won’t get an even, overall trim, and areas of taller grass will spring up once the grass dries.
- It’s also more likely that your mower will tear grass blades instead of neatly clipping them, resulting in more visible damage to the ends of grass blade.
- If you mulch grass clippings over your lawn, they won’t be evenly distributed, and heavy clumps of wet grass can encourage fungus growth beneath them.
A dry lawn (and a sharp mower blade) ensures the evenest cut and an even distribution of mulched clippings.
Mowing With Dull Mower Blades
Keep your mower blades sharp. Just like in the kitchen, a sharp blade does a better job and saves time.
- Cutting your lawn with a dull mower tears, shreds, or pulls grass blades instead of neatly cutting them. This results in larger, irregular areas of grass blade damage, and missed spots you have to re-mow.
- If you see a white or brown cast to your lawn surface, it may be grass blade damage from a dull mower blade.
Regular mower blade sharpening is part of general tool maintenance that includes cleaning and oiling to keep your mower running efficiently. It also saves you time (no need to do a double-pass when mowing) and money (because your mower will last longer).
And don’t forget to clean your mower before winter storage. You’ll start your spring lawn care with a fine-tuned machine instead of visiting a repair shop or spending a sunny afternoon yelling at your tools.
Always Mowing In The Same Direction
You may have a habit of mowing your lawn the same way each time. If so, you might want to head in a new direction. Changing the direction of your mower is good for your grass for several reasons:
- You’ll avoid making ruts. Running your mower over the same place repeatedly will encourage ruts and reinforce irregular slopes in your soil’s surface. You’ll reduce repeated wear on the same grass from mower wheels, too.
- You’ll increase airflow. Shifting the location of your mower means you won’t compact the same strips of lawn, so you reduce soil compaction. Compacted soil repels water and reduces root growth, which you don’t want.
- You won’t flatten your grass as much. Cutting grass blades in the same direction can increase their tendency to grow in one direction. Regular direction changes will help keep grass blades upright, making your lawn look neat and even.
- You’ll look like a pro. Those stripes on baseball fields not only look neat, but they’re also beneficial. If you have enough lawn, you can mow stripes, checkerboards, or plaids in your lawn, too.
Alas, small lawns cut with a push mower won’t get the chance to be as flashy with patterning, but the grass will get the same benefits.
Don’t Want To Do All That Mowing Yourself?
We offer lawn maintenance programs to keep your lawn looking its best throughout the growing season. So, if you’ve had enough of mowing your lawn (or want to avoid any mowing mistakes), just give us a call at 703-402-9366!
Lawn Mower Blade Spinning but Not Cutting: Causes and Fixes
A lawn mower blade spinning but not cutting issue can occur because of several varying reasons. Either the problem lies directly in the blade, which is broken or incorrectly installed, or the engine needs to provide it with energy to spin properly.
We have compiled here every possible reason that might be causing this problem, as well as some tried and tested solutions. Go through this well-researched guide and learn all the reasons and their simple solutions.
- What Are the Possible Causes of Lawnmower Blade Spinning but Not Cutting?
- – The Blade Might Be Damaged
- – Incorrectly Installed Blade
- – The Tire Pressure Is Not Right
- – The Blade Is Not Adequately Sharp
- – Lawn Mower Tires Are Damaged
- – Dirty Mower Deck Prevents Cutting
- – The Mower Engine Is Not Fast Enough
- – Broken Mower Deck Belt
- – Replace the Blade if It Is Damaged
- – Install Blade the Right Way
- – Fix the Tire Pressure of the Mower
- – Fix Your Blade by Sharpening It
- – Fix Damaged Tires
- – Clean the Mower Deck Regularly
- – Tighten the Mower Belt
- – Replace Mower Belt if Needed
What Are the Possible Causes of Lawnmower Blade Spinning but Not Cutting?
The possible causes of a lawn mower blade spinning but not cutting grass include a damaged or wrongly installed blade. a dull blade, or damaged lawnmower tires. Other possible reasons can be improper tire pressure, a clogged deck, or a broken mower belt.
– The Blade Might Be Damaged
Even though mower blades are quite sturdy, they easily get damaged when used improperly. Hitting a particularly hard object like a rock while mowing will bend the blade, making it unfit to mow properly.
Use a straightedge to determine if the blade has been bent anywhere along its length. Just hold the straightedge against the blade, and you will see where the blade is bent or broken.
Smaller damages like cracks and dents can easily go unnoticed unless you clean the blade and examine it thoroughly. It’s best to remove the blade from the mower for a closer inspection from all sides. This way, you can hold the blade at various angles under proper light and not miss even the smallest nicks or kinks.
– Incorrectly Installed Blade
Lawnmower blades have one smooth side and one cutting side. The cutting side always needs to face down toward the grass, while the smooth side should be toward the mower deck.
If the blade is installed the wrong way by accident, then it will only spin but not be able to cut grass. Refrain from installing the blade upside down, as this is a common mistake for beginners and is easily corrected.
– The Tire Pressure Is Not Right
When the pressure within the lawn mower tires is unequal, a disbalance will be created in the mower. When that happens, the lawnmower blade will naturally be tilted and not cut the grass properly. It usually keeps spinning without cutting through the grass unless the balance is restored.
If you fill the tires with air, it is possible to fill each tire differently. Another possibility is that the tires have been set at different heights by mistake. Again, the lawn mower and its cutting blade are tilted towards one side.
– The Blade Is Not Adequately Sharp
It is common for lawn mower blades to become dull over time due to frequent use. This happens fairly often and is usually why the mower cannot cut grass properly despite spinning at its usual speed.
Cutting grass blades that are coarse in texture also dulls mower blades faster compared to finer grass varieties. Mowing grass is more difficult using a dull blade, and the lawn also looks far worse than using sharp blades to cut.
– Lawn Mower Tires Are Damaged
If one or more tires of the push type or riding lawn mower are damaged, the balance of the whole mower gets tilted. Either the cutting blade spins without cutting or cuts the grass blades unevenly. You may face difficulty moving the push-type mower forward, and the engine of the riding mower will have to do double the work moving it forward.
– Dirty Mower Deck Prevents Cutting
The entire purpose of a lawn mower deck is to protect both you and the mower’s engines from the flowing grass debris.
Over time, each mower’s deck gets filled with more and more debris and eventually becomes clogged. This occurrence is more common when people cut wet grass, which is prone to get clumped together.
What happens is that a clogged deck reduces the airflow that is responsible for lifting grass straight up before cutting. When this airflow is decreased, the grass does not stand straight and gets cut unevenly. The blade is spinning but not cutting grass as it should be.
– The Mower Engine Is Not Fast Enough
Often there is something wrong with the lawn mower’s engine, and it becomes unable to provide the appropriate level of energy to the blade. As a result, the blade spins but is not fast enough to cut grass.
This also happens when you keep the mower’s speed when cutting through rough, thick, or tall patches of grass. The engine cannot provide the spinning blade with the extra energy needed to cut through tall grass while carrying ahead at the same speed.
– Broken Mower Deck Belt
The lawn mower deck can wear out with time, especially if the machine is too old and used frequently. This would prevent the mower from cutting grass despite everything being in good condition.
Give the deck belt a thorough manual check-up yourself for signs of wear such as tears, cracks, or frayed edges. A broken belt also produces further tension on the rest of the mower parts, thereby causing damage to other mower parts.
How To Fix Lawn Mower Blade Spinning but Not Cutting
To fix a lawn mower blade spinning but not cutting, give your lawn mower a thorough check-up and correctly diagnose why the problem might be occurring. You should then correct that particular problem by fixing or replacing the damaged blade and cleaning the lawn mower deck.
– Replace the Blade if It Is Damaged
If the blade has been damaged, it is impossible to use it again. No matter how much you try to fix a bent or broken blade, it will not work the same way again. Here is a guide on how to replace your lawnmower blade safely.
- Turn the mower’s engine off and take the key off, whereas you should take the battery out when using an electric mower.
- Check the carburetor, fuel tank, and oil compartment to ensure no spillage as you tilt the mower over on its side.
- Once the mower is safely tilted to its side in a well-balanced manner, remove the bolts attaching the blade to the mower using a socket wrench.
- Remove the old blade and replace it with a new one that you can easily purchase from the hardware store.
- Before securing the bolts back, double-check that the blade is placed properly with the grass side facing down.
– Install Blade the Right Way
It is easy to determine when the blade has been installed incorrectly. Most newly manufactured blades have both sides marked on one corner. Then you can inspect the blade edges to determine which side goes where because the short side is always towards the ground.
The upcoming steps are similar to replacing a damaged blade. To avoid getting hurt accidentally, disengage the spark plug and turn the mower on its side. Unscrew the bolts holding the blade up and then flip it over. This time, ensure that the short side faces the ground before fixing the nuts and bolts.
– Fix the Tire Pressure of the Mower
Stop the mower, park it to one side and check that all of its tires are on the same level. If one of the tires seems higher or lower than the rest, adjust it so it is the same level as all. Next, it’s time to check the air pressure within all the tires and ensure they are equal.
Most lawn mower manuals specify the required air pressure that should be present within the tires. This is where a tire gauge comes in handy and allows you to determine the exact air pressure levels within the tires. If there is a discrepancy, fix it accordingly and see how the blade starts cutting grass smoothly afterward.
– Fix Your Blade by Sharpening It
Sharpening the blades constitutes a regular part of lawn mower maintenance and is quite easy to do.
- Take safety precautions by wearing thick rubber gloves and turning the mower engine off completely. As an extra precaution, it also helps to disengage the spark plug.
- Remove the blades by unscrewing the screws and attaching them to the mower. It is also possible to sharpen a blade while it is attached to the machine.
- You can use either sharpening stones or an electric angle machine to carry out the sharpening.
- Put the angle or the stone at approximately 45 degrees to the blade’s cutting edge to sharpen it. Be careful that both edges of the blade are cut equally to keep it balanced.
- Once you are done sharpening, clean dirt and grit from the blade using soap and water. Dry it with a paper towel afterwards.
– Fix Damaged Tires
It is not uncommon for the tires of a mower to get damaged while working. Before taking the mower out for work, you must remove hard objects such as rocks, stones, and other debris from the lawn. It is also inevitable that tires get damaged from use over time.
Tires will, of course, need to be replaced by a professional. Many beginners attach tires unevenly. leading to poor cutting by the blade. A professional mechanic will always give you a good discount on new tires in exchange for old ones.
– Clean the Mower Deck Regularly
It would help if you kept debris from accumulating within the mower’s deck. The one responsibility you can take to save it is regularly cleaning the deck to stop it from clogging over. Before accessing the deck for cleaning, double-check that the mower has been turned off and the spark plug disengaged.
Make a DIY cleaning solution using water and a good-quality liquid dishwashing soap. Use a long-handled brush with this solution to clean all the build-up debris from the deck behind the blade.
For further preventative measures, you should strictly avoid mowing wet grass because it will stick to the deck more. Applying a Teflon-based silicone spray to the mower deck also helps prevent the grass from sticking to it.
– Tighten the Mower Belt
Sometimes, a lawn mower belt needs a little tightening because it has loosened over time. This can be accomplished using either a screwdriver or a wrench only. Adjust the belt on the pulley properly and then tighten it gradually until you feel it is enough.
Take care not to overtighten the belt over the pulley, or it will end up tearing. It’s best to leave the pulley and the belt system alone if you need help with it; ask someone with experience for help instead.
– Replace Mower Belt if Needed
If the mower belt is loose, it can be tightened to fix the mower. However, if the belt has been damaged, then there is no option but to replace it. We must warn you that this is a delicate task that requires a certain skill with machines. Call your trusted mechanic because removing a damaged belt is complicated.
If you want to do this yourself, start by loosening the tension from the belt using a tension adjustor. Tension can also be relieved by removing the springs attached to the mower.
When the old belt has been removed, put the new one in, adjust it on the pulley system, and then tighten it. Again, this sounds straightforward but is much more complicated in practice.
A lawn mower is essential to keeping a well-maintained lawn, and sometimes it stops cutting grass despite the blade spinning.
Here is a recap of all the possible reasons why the blade might not be cutting grass.
- The blade often gets damaged either from use over a long time or by striking hard objects during mowing. A damaged or wrongly installed mower blade will only spin but not cut grass.
- This problem also occurs when there is a problem with the lawn mower belt and pulley system.
- Wet grass and debris clog the mower’s deck over time, eventually preventing the spinning blade from cutting more grass.
- Some solutions you can try when faced with this problem include replacing the blade, fixing the tire pressure of the mower, tightening the mower belt, or sharpening the blade.
It is common to find that your mower cannot cut grass despite the engine running smoothly and the blades spinning. With the help of this comprehensive guide, you will be able to find the cause responsible in no time and then solve them as well.
Mowing Height Debate: Last Mow of the Season Low?
There has long been a debate on the best height to cut the grass when it comes to the final mowing of the lawn before winter. Some say it should be cut lower than normal. Others say it should be cut the same height as usual. We’ll examine both sides of this mowing height debate and let you decide whether the last mow of the season should be lower or at the normal height.
Why Some Say Yes
When it comes time to make you final mow of the season, the argument goes, trim low:
- It prevents the laying over of grass during the winter.
- It helps prevent snow mold (a fungus that occurs under the cover of snow) by denying it the long, wet grass it needs to develop. The principal snow mold diseases are Microdochium patch, Coprinus snow mold, Typhula blight, and snow scald.
- It is an organic way to fight fungal growths of winter, no fungicides required. It should be followed by mowing low with the first cut of spring.
- There is less growth that needs to be pushed aside by new grass in spring.
- It discourages meadow mice. The furry pests, also called voles, leave tunnels in your lawn you won’t find until after the snow cover melts.
- Aesthetics: “A lawn just looks neater if it has that close cut before the snow settles down,” writes respected New York Times gardening columnist Joan Lee Faust.
- Allows more sunlight to reach the soil, which means warmer soil temps and an earlier green-up in spring.
- Removes dead grass blades and debris
- A natural way to encourage healthier grass, avoiding the use of chemicals
- Reduces thatch levels
Those making the argument recommend these guidelines:
- Instead of following the one-third rule, cut the lawn by half. So instead of going from 4 inches deep to 2 ½, go from 4 inches tall to 2 inches.
How to Fix a Mower that Cuts Uneven
- Be careful not to cut it too low; those low patches will die before spring
- Mow until all the leaves have fallen from the trees
- Mow until the grass has stopped growing for the year.
Why Some Say No
Setting mowing height too low can damage your lawn, other experts say:
- Keep it normal when it comes to mowing height. Turf should neither be cut short nor left long going into winter.
- The root systems become shorter and smaller, limiting the grass’ ability to pull in water and nutrients from the soil. This is because there is a direct relationship between the grass height and the amount of roots it can maintain. Lowering that grass height is the direct cause of the lessened root system.
- Mowing too close allows sunlight to reach weeds that otherwise would have been covered by the canopy.
- Low mowing reduces the area available for photosynthesis, which takes away from the vigor of the lawn.
- Aesthetics: Lawns “look much better” when they are higher (take that, lovers of short grass), according to the University of Illinois Extension.
The One-Third Rule: Learn It
For most of the year (with the possible exception of the last mow) the One-Third Rule is sound advice. The One-Third Rule says never remove more than one-third of your grass on any cutting.
Adhere to the one-third rule, and cut your grass down in increments. This will reduce the amount of stress you put on the grass as it grows throughout the year.
Mowing Heights by Type of Grass
The University of Minnesota Extension Service says homeowners should keep mowing grass at the proper mowing height until it stops growing. Follow these proper mowing heights for healthy grass during spring, summer, and fall.
This Mower Keeps Stopping When Cutting Tall Grass
“With cool-season turf grasses like the blue grasses, rye grasses, and tall fescue, I recommend mowing at the same height that has been done through the summer and fall,” says Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., professor at the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University. “The key thing is to keep mowing until you no longer are taking off clippings.”
The University of Missouri Extension recommends that cool-season grasses should be mowed at the same height “until growth stops” before winter.
The University of Nebraska Extension agrees, stating, “Never remove more than one-third of the total canopy height at one time,” even as you prepare for winter.
Warm-season grasses such as Zoysia and St. Augustine might benefit from a little more length, but should be kept within the recommended height range, according to the University of Tennessee Extension: “Higher mowing heights within the preferred mowing height range for a particular species favor the development of strong roots and rhizomes.”
Bermudagrass is not shade-tolerant and is intended to be cut shorter (as short as one inch), according to the University of Clemson Extension.
“On warm-season turfgrasses like Bermudagrass, I would begin to raise the mowing height up a little,” says Danneberger. “This would be especially important in the more northern region of its adaptation going into fall. A slightly higher height of cut will enhance the plant’s ability to tolerate winter injury a little better. Also…mowing short going into winter may inhibit fall photosynthetic activity.”
Put Proper Mowing Practices First
Tired of all the minutiae? Keep this in mind: Good lawn care practices matter more than trying to get your grass height within a millimeter of some golf-course ideal.
- Keep a mowing frequency that never lets the grass get too tall. You want to hit that balance between encouraging root growth (good) and encouraging weed heads to seed (bad).
- Leave your grass clippings in the lawn as mulch. Mulching beats bagging because the cut grass blades return valuable nitrogen to the soil.
- Vary your mowing pattern. Grass leans in the direction of the lawn mower, so it eventually becomes uneven. Mowing in a different direction also prevents you from wearing ruts into the lawn. That’s a particular issue for heavy riding mowers.
- Sharpen lawn mower blades regularly. Dull blades damage lawn grasses, as they pull and shred rather than cut.
Once the grass stops growing, winterize that lawn mower before turning your attention to the leaf blower or snow plow. Your lawn will high-five you with spring green.
You should never mow your lawn in winter if you can help it, as you could damage the dormant grass. However, if you absolutely must mow during winter, do so when the grass is dry and frost is not anticipated for at least 48 hours.
Keep on mowing until the grass stops growing. For most places, the rule of thumb is that it comes when temperatures during the day fall below 50 F, usually late in October.
Yes, mowing low helps prevent snow mold and excessive thatch, both of which contribute to disease in the lawn.
Yes, cutting wet grass isn’t recommended. There aren’t many days available at the end of the year to mow the lawn, and a number of them can be wet (and all of them cold). But you will have to pass up the temptation to mow despite the wetness. When wet grass is cut, it can result in ragged edges that are prone to fungal infections. Plus, the roots can be pulled out, leaving bare spots.
Go Low? Yes or No?
There is a debate on what height you should use on your final mow of the season. There was a time when the standard advice was to cut it short for winter. Now the best advice is to cut it the same as always.
But make no mistake: It is your lawn. YOU should make the decision on what to do with it. Don’t let it go. Take action and make a decision on what length for the final mow of the season is best for your lawn. If you’d rather have someone else do the work, call a local LawnStarter pro to make the final cut.
Rosie Wolf Williams
Rosie Wolf Williams has kept bees, grown vegetables and flowers for farmers markets, and never misses an opportunity to have a conversation with an interesting tree.
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The Last Mow of the Year
Temperatures are beginning to plummet, which means that fall is well underway. Although it might seem like the perfect time to head indoors for a season or two of cold-weather hibernation, don’t leave your yard to its own devices just yet. This time of year is crucial for many turfgrasses, and your efforts now can greatly impact the state of your lawn come springtime.
A growing concern in the world of lawn care is homeowners retiring their mowers too early in the season. Unlike summer, fall typically does not conjure up images of Saturday mornings spent outdoors on the lawn. That being said, the growing season can (and often does!) continue well into November, and it is essential to give your lawn the attention it needs before cold weather stresses set in.
When it comes to cutting your lawn, we have a saying here at Weed Man: keep mowing if it’s still growing. Pay close attention to your turf’s growing patterns, particularly if we have an unseasonably warm autumn, and be sure to mow your lawn regularly until growth ceases. You’ll want to keep it at a height of around 2.5-3 inches and only remove 1/3 of the grass blade at each cutting session. Regular mowing will help keep your lawn healthy, strong, and well-fed as it gears up for colder temperatures. As an added benefit, mowing can help mulch leaves and other turf-smothering debris that may be coating your lawn.
The Last Mow of the Year
When you are ready to cut the lawn for the last time this year, be sure to mow low (around 1.5 inches for Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass lawns; 2 inches for tall fescue). This final mowing can be the most important cut of the year for your lawn, simply because the way you go about it will determine your lawn’s resilience and ability to resist diseases throughout the winter months ahead.
Why Mow Low?
- To prevent flopping/bending. If grass blades are left too long, they can flop over and provide too much shade to surrounding grass plants. This leads to a lack of photosynthesis and less “food” made for your lawn.
- To prevent matting. When grass becomes top heavy, it clumps together and provides a breeding ground for winter fungal diseases like snow mold.
- Short turf stands up like a wire brush, making it stiffer and better able to resist snow and ice damage.
For the last cut of fall, lower your mower blade one notch or set your mower deck to the lowest mowing height recommended for your turf. If possible, use a mulching mower and leave grass clippings on the lawn, as they can provide additional nutrients for the roots to store for use over the winter and early spring.
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