Cutting lawn grass: summer garden care

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 24 June 2016.

At this time of year cutting lawn grass seems to be THE urgent job. Grass grows fast in rainy days and warm sun (so do weeds, but that is another story, and another blog). My garden lawn seems to chase me. One day it looks pretty good, the next it is OK, the next it is a field. So today I am writing from the heart: about garden care for your lawn grass that makes gardening easier for you.

How often should I be cutting lawn grass?

Once, even twice, a week in a warm damp summer (the usual!). In hot spells, every couple of weeks.

Check the weather forecast: rain and warm means growth and more frequent cutting. Hot and dry means slower growth and less cutting. Plan for the weather and your grass – not only by sitting in the sun when it’s sunny (yes!) but by adjusting the height of the mower blades to suit the conditions.

Blade heights, oh please don’t go technical on me…

The height of the mower blade above the ground dictates how long the grass will be. It is set by different mechanisms on different types and brands of lawnmower. The easiest mechanism is a ratchet handle. The slots for the handle are numbered: the higher the number the longer the lawn grass will be.

Cutting lawn grass
Ratchet handle to adjust the height of the mower blade. Sarah Buchanan.

As a rule of thumb, set the blade so that you don’t cut off more than one third of the height of the grass.

  • Ordinary lawns: 1 to 2.5 cms.
  • Low use lawns – maybe away from the house – 2 to 4 cms.
  • Heavy use lawns – 2.5 to 5 cms.
  • Slopes – if possible add 50% to the mowing height.
  • Mossy lawns – mow at least 1 cm above moss height.
  • Shady areas – add 50% to the mowing height.
  • In very wet or very hot and/or dry weather, mow as high as possible
  • If in doubt, mow high.

It may seem a good idea to give the grass a severe haircut when it is growing fast. If we are heading for lazy days of a hot July, don’t. Lawn grass is quickly parched, to go as brown as a carpet. It revives quickly with water and rain – but watering grass is more work, it is not very ‘green’ and will make the grass grow. Cut out the watering, unless the lawn is new, and keep your grass greener longer by increasing the blade height, and to at least 2cm high.

If you are cutting grass that has grown longer than usual, raise the height of the blade for the first couple of cuts.

Ah, it is a little bit more complicated than that….

If you use a cylinder mower (with blades and a grass cuttings box at the front of the mower) cut more often than if you use a rotary or rotary hover mower (which has a blade underneath the mower and the grass cuttings box at the back). Some mowers don’t have boxes for grass cuttings. The cuttings fall where they are cut. That can be pretty messy as grass tends to walk into the house and stick to every shoe in sight. Buying a mower and not sure what is best? Look for advice and think about what suits your needs. For most of us, rotary mowers are fine.

A question: do I mow the daffodils growing in the grass?

When they are green, daffodil leaves are feeding the bulbs to give you more and better flowers next year. Be brave: cut the heads off and wait until the leaves are brown before you set the mower on them. When the leaves turn brown depends on where you live and the weather. Don’t rush, think of those happy flowers next year.

Still in the dark? This is what my neighbour does…

Blade height on his mower is number 3 or 4 at this time of year; 4 or 5 at the start and end of the cutting season; 5 then 4 then 3 where daffodils or bluebells grew.

Is there a way to reduce the demands of cutting lawn grass?

Apart from bribing family and friends, or doing deals with your neighbour (you cut my grass this week and I will cut yours next week) I am told guinea pigs are great little mowers: if you have them, move their run about 30 cm a day and they will do a job for you.

No time to mow? Look back at our blog, and cut your edges to transform the look. Long grass with trimmed edges looks so much better than short grass with ragged edges (as you see – I know!).

Lawn edge needs cutting.
Cut shaggy edges even if there is no time to cut lawn grass. Sarah Buchanan

And for grass that runs over the edges of edging, paving or gravel – and looks a bit of a mess (again, I know!),  push a half moon cutter into the gap and lift out the overgrowth.

Cutting lawn grass
Keep tidy by cutting away grass that runs over paving or gravel. Sarah Buchanan,

While we are at it, remind me, what do I do with the cuttings?

Compost or spread them under your raspberries!

So, what’s to stop you from cutting your lawn grass? Suddenly sunny? Sit down and enjoy the break because the lawn grass will need you again later in the summer!

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