Lawn mowing 101: everything you need to know to get a perfect lawn

Do you want to make your neighbours jealous of your lawn? We'll show you how, with our tips on how to mow your lawn correctly and what you need for lawn care.

1. Mowing the lawn: why, when & how often

A green lawnmower mowing medium-length green grass.
A green lawnmower mowing medium-length green grass. Caption: Do you want to get your lawn in perfect condition this year? You can find everything you need to know about mowing right here

A thick, robust lawn requires the right care. Lawn mowing is essential for maintaining a healthy lawn. To make sure your garden is looking its best, there are some things you should keep in mind:

1.1 Why should I mow my lawn?

Does the idea of having a wild, untamed garden appeal to you? While it might sound like a good idea, it's not practical because it limits the area of your lawn that you can actually use. And you might only realise this when you're throwing a barbecue for all your friends! But lawn mowing isn't just practical, it's important for maintaining a thick and robust lawn, too. Mowing the lawn promotes the development of new shoots and makes your grass grow thicker.


1.2 When should I mow my lawn?

Just like when planting a garden or sowing seeds to grow new plants, timing is important when it comes to lawn care – and this applies to lawn mowing too. Your lawn needs regular attention from the beginning of the year until autumn. You can let it rest during the winter months.

1.2.1 Mowing the lawn for the first time in the new year.

During the cold winter months, your lawn will temporarily stop growing, just like all other plants. Your lawn will start growing again when it gets a little warmer outside. But you need to be patient, as mowing your lawn too early on in the year can actually damage the fragile grass. You should wait until temperatures have risen above the 10-degree mark and there's no more frost on the ground.

1.2.2 The last time mowing before winter comes.

Before you let your lawn go into hibernation, it is advisable to mow the lawn one last time. The right time for this: After the first night of frost, when the grass is reasonably dry. If you live in areas where it snows, mow your lawn a little shorter than usual before the break. In this way the blades of grass are not flattened by the snow. It is also important to collect the cuttings during the last cut - especially for lawn mowers with mulch attachments.

1.2.3 Mowing your lawn for the last time before the winter

A man stands in a garden with long grass. He's holding a lawnmower with both hands. A hedge and a flower bed can be seen in the background.
When is the perfect time of day to mow your lawn? Late afternoon

It's advisable to mow your lawn one last time before you let it rest for the winter. You should do this after the first night of frost, when it's more or less dry again. If you get snow in your area, then mow your lawn slightly shorter than usual before letting it rest. This will ensure that the grass doesn't get squashed flat by the snow. It's also important to collect the grass clippings when mowing your lawn for the last time before the winter – especially if your lawnmower has a mulching attachment.

1.2.4 When is the best time of day to mow your lawn?

Do you want to work on your tan while mowing the lawn? We wouldn't recommend this, as mowing your lawn when the sun is at its peak puts too much strain on your grass. It's best to mow your lawn in the late afternoon. Mowing won't annoy the neighbours at this time of day.


1.3 How often should I mow my lawn?

The first rays of spring sunshine are likely to tempt you outside. That's good, because your lawn needs a lot of attention in springtime. Try to mow it once a week. In the summer, you should start giving your lawn longer to recover and mow it once every two weeks – otherwise it might get scorched from too much sun exposure. In autumn, you can start mowing your lawn more regularly again, depending on how often it rains and how warm it is outside. But it's not the end of the world if you forget to mow the lawn one week. High-performance lawnmowers tend to cope quite well with longer grass. But the longer you wait, the more effort it will take to get the job done. Depending on how long your grass is, you might need to mow it in two stages.

2. Lawn mowing: cutting height, quality and technique

If you want to have a healthy, thick lawn, there are lots of things you need to consider: from the correct cutting height, to getting an even cut and making sure you use the right cutting width – these tips and tricks will help you maintain your lawn correctly.

The front section of the lawn has been mowed. The back section of the lawn that hasn't been mowed is a few centimetres longer.
The right knowledge is crucial to achieving a thick, lush-green lawn. You can find tips and tricks on cutting height, types of cut and different techniques here

2.1 How long or short do you want to mow your lawn?

The cutting height that's right for you depends on the type of activities that you have planned for your lawn. You can aim for a height that suits the level of activity your lawn will be used for. Another important factor to consider is the weather in your area. If your local climate is relatively mild and rains a lot, then you can probably shorten your lawn to around 2 cm. The hotter and drier it is, the easier it should be to mow your lawn: otherwise the grass will get scorched too quickly.

2.1.1 The right mowing height for a garden party

Do you want to use your garden as an outdoor room? If you intend to use your garden for hosting barbecues in the summer, it's best to cut the lawn a little bit shorter to make it more comfortable for your guests to stand and walk around on.

A family of four enjoys a barbecue in the garden. The father stands while the mother and two children sit on wooden chairs at the table.
If you want to host a large garden party or a small barbecue in your garden, a medium-length lawn should be just right for you

2.1.2 The right cutting height for a playing field

Mowing your lawn to a medium length should do the trick for most sporting activities such as football and running around. This ensures it's short enough not to hamper running, but long enough to cushion a light fall. If you want to use different areas of your garden for different things, pick a simple cutting height setting on your lawnmower.


A little girl and boy in swimwear jump around on a lawn. Between them is a large inflatable ball with green, blue and yellow stripes. A water fountain can be seen in the background.
Do your children like playing in the garden? Then a medium-length lawn should work well for you. © istock

2.1.3 Cutting height for shady areas

Is your lawn partly shaded? If so, you should allow the grass in the shady areas to grow a little longer. This will give it chance to take in more sunlight and absorb enough energy to grow.

A man mows a large lawn using a green lawnmower. Tall trees and a seating area cast shadows on the lawn.
Areas of your lawn that lie in the shade (such as grass that grows near trees) can be left to grow slightly longer

2.2 How do I mow along an incline?

Is your garden on a slope? If so, then always mow 90 degrees to the gradient. This will ensure that the grass is cut more evenly and will protect the grass clippings. It will also mean that you are on the same level of the slope as your lawnmower, so your device won't tumble towards you if it falls over.

2.3 How do I achieve an evenly cut lawn?

When mowing, it's best to tread on areas you have mowed already, since grass you have already trodden on only straightens itself up slowly. This way, you can avoid uneven cutting heights. Try to create even paths with just one tyre track of overlap when mowing. This is the most efficient way to mow your lawn and it will put the least amount of strain on the grass.


2.4 How do I achieve a beautiful cut?

The type of cut refers to how your lawn looks after it's been mowed. Ideally, all the grass stalks will have been cut cleanly and the grass won't be flattened. If you see a lovely green carpet of grass in front of you, you've done it right. If not ... then it's worth taking a look at your lawnmower's blades: dull blades fray the ends of the grass during mowing, which means they turn brown more quickly. Also, always make sure that the blades are sharp and kept in good condition.

2.4.1 How do cylinder lawnmowers work?

Cylinder lawnmowers cut grass like a pair of scissors. Rotating blades on a horizontal cylinder cut blades of grass on a fixed bottom plate, so they end up being sliced cleanly. This results in a very clean cut.


2.4.2 How do scythe mowers work?

Scythe mowers (also known as sickle-bar mowers) have two blade plates that lie one over the other so that the blades can rub against each other. They make light work of long grass and thin bits of wood, thistles and young shrubs. They are particularly well suited for mowing grass in orchards or in larger fields.


2.4.3 How do rotary lawnmowers work?

In rotary lawnmowers, a horizontally rotating blade works like a sickle, cutting off the ends of the blades of grass. However, this doesn't always deliver a clean cut, though this isn't an issue if the blades are sharp.

2.5 What does a lawnmower's cutting width refer to?

Small and neat or nice and wide? The bigger the cutting width of your mower, the more you can mow in one go. But a large cutting width might not always be the best option, especially if you have a small lawn or lots of trees in your garden. So as mentioned above, it depends on whether you and your mower – or rather your mower and your garden – are right for one other. Robot lawnmowers usually have a smaller cutting width. But the fact that they can work independently makes up for it, since you can just leave them to get on with the job as often as you like.


A man mows a lawn using a green lawnmower. Its cutting width is clearly visible.
If you need to mow a large lawn, you should use a lawnmower with a larger cutting width. The smaller your lawn area is and the more nooks and crannies it has, the smaller your lawnmower should be

2.6 Grass boxes or grass catcher bags?

Depending on your lawnmower type and model, it may have a grass catcher bag or a box for collecting grass clippings. Both are a good way to collect the grass you cut. A bag is generally easier to empty and saves space when it's not in use. A box doesn't get filled up as quickly. Ideally, you'll be able to look at the fill level indicator to see when it's time to empty the catcher bag or box. Some lawnmowers don't come with a box or a catcher bag. If you decide to buy one of these models, you might want to consider getting a rake to gather up the grass clippings.

2.7 Can I mow my lawn when it's wet?

Since it's not always sunny in the summer, if you want to mow your lawn every week, you might sometimes find that it's quite wet. It's better not to mow your lawn when it's raining or when your grass is wet, since the grass won't look very nice and your lawnmower might struggle to mow it properly. If you really want to mow your lawn when it's wet or raining, it's a good idea to take more breaks, remove any grass that has got stuck to your mower and empty the grass box more often.


3. Lawn care: aerating, scarifying, mulching and composting

Now to add the final touches. Mowing your lawn isn't the only way to bring it to life. Additional jobs such as scarifying or adding fertiliser are an important part of looking after your lawn. You can find out everything you need to know about scarifying your lawn right here.

Moss and grass clippings are removed from a lawn using a green verticutter.
Say goodbye to moss and grass clippings. You can clean up and aerate your lawn using a verticutter

3.1 What is scarifying?

When scarifying your lawn, grass clippings are swept up and moss and thatch are cleared away. The grass is cut by blades on a rotating cylinder. You can think of it as a bit of spring cleaning for your lawn. It's good to do this after leaving your lawn to rest over the winter.

3.2 Aerating your lawn – here's how it works

Your lawn will benefit from being aerated regularly. You can use lawn aerators for this purpose. You can simply stick a pitchfork into the soil beneath your lawn at evenly spaced intervals. This will mean your lawn has a better air supply from below and it will also enable water to flow through the soil more easily.


3.3 The right time for sowing

Do you want to sow a new lawn, improve bare areas or thicken your lawn? The best time to sow new seeds is at the beginning of year, once you've scarified your lawn. Try to distribute the seeds evenly across your lawn.

3.4 What is mulching?

Mowing your lawn will produce grass clippings, which serve as a natural fertiliser. The process of distributing the grass clippings on the lawn is called mulching. But if you spend a lot of time in your garden, it makes more sense to collect the grass clippings, since otherwise the grass will stick to your feet and end up all over your home. To make sure your lawn doesn't get buried under grass clippings, which can lead to mould in the worse-case scenario, you should make sure the clippings are a maximum length of 1.5 cm. And you should also only mulch when it's dry outside. That's how you ensure that the clippings fall between the grass stalks and fertilise your lawn from below.


3.5 Where do the grass clippings go?

Is mulching not an option for you? Then here's what to do with grass clippings, weeds and moss: you can dispose of grass clippings on the compost heap and put weeds and moss in the organic waste bin, as they won't be of any use as compost. You can also take your garden waste to a local recycling facility.

Grass clippings are shown inside a lawnmower's grass box.
Grass clippings are shown inside a lawnmower's grass box.

3.6 How often should I add fertiliser to my lawn?

Every now and then, we could all do with an energy boost – and your lawn is no exception. If you don't mulch your lawn, it will need a helping hand every once in a while. Adding fertiliser to your lawn several times a year will ensure the grass has the nutrients it needs to grow and flourish. Add fertiliser to ornamental lawns once or twice a year. If you happen to play a lot of football on your lawn, it's better to add fertiliser three to four times a year. In terms of how often you need to add fertiliser, this depends on the quality of the soil and the fertiliser. For best results, read the packaging of your fertiliser carefully – or ask someone who works at a specialist store for their advice.


3.6.1 Lawn soil analysis

Is your lawn lacking in nutrients? Lawn soil analysis will help you find out what your lawn is missing. There are soil testing kits available online. As per the instructions, take a few soil samples from various areas of your lawn and send them in for analysis. Once you receive your results, you'll know exactly which fertiliser your lawn needs. For information on the best way to go about getting an analysis and finding a suitable laboratory, please check with your local authority.

4. What types of lawnmowers are there? Pros and cons

The best mower for your lawn will depend on many factors. But generally speaking, lawnmowers can be categorised according to two key features: how they are powered and the cutting tool. People tend to differentiate between these power sources:

  • Electric lawnmowers
  • Cordless lawnmowers
  • Petrol lawnmowers (2/4-stroke)
  • Hand-push lawnmowers

When it comes to the different types of cutting tools that are available, there are rotary, cylinder, scythe and flail mowers, which function as follows:

  • In rotary mowers, quick, horizontally rotating blades cut off the ends of the stalks of grass. The height of the blades is adjustable.
  • In cylinder mowers, two rotating blades on a horizontal cylinder cut so precisely that the blades of grass which are caught between them get sliced very cleanly.
  • Scythe mowers (also known as sickle-bar mowers) have two blade plates that lie one over the other so that the blades can rub against each other and cut grass and branches.
  • Flail mowers – which are also known as flail mulchers – have blades or little flails attached to a rotating drum that is pulled along the ground. They are usually attached to tractors and are therefore used for larger fields or plots of land.

Which lawnmower is right for you? The size, structure and features of your garden should all be considered when choosing the right lawnmower for you. Here is an overview of the most popular models:

4.1 Electric lawnmowers

Use: small to medium-sized lawns

Benefits: quiet, cost-effective, easy to maintain

Downsides: power cable, not ideal for gardens with lots of nooks and crannies

An electric lawnmower with a cable is used on a green lawn.
Electric lawnmowers are powered by the mains

4.2 Cordless lawnmowers

Use: small to medium-sized lawns

Benefits: quiet, environmentally friendly and easy to manoeuvre

Downsides: long grass is a challenge and it offers a limited amount of use per charge

A woman pushes a cordless lawnmower across her garden.
Cordless lawnmowers are convenient

4.3 Robot lawnmowers

Use: medium to large lawns (up to 1,500 m2)

Benefits: mows independently, is environmentally friendly and saves electricity

Downsides: expensive to set up

A small robot lawnmower mows the lawn independently in a large garden.
A robot lawnmower keeps to its lanes on its own

4.4 Petrol lawnmowers

Use: large lawns

Benefits: high-performing and works independently

Downsides: loud, not odour-neutral and produces emissions due to its combustion engine

A lawn is mowed using a petrol lawnmower.
Petrol lawnmowers – think big

4.5 Lawn tractors

Use: very large lawns

Benefits: large cutting width, high-performing and works independently

Downsides: loud, large, heavy, produces emissions, very expensive to buy

A man sits on a lawn tractor and works on a large lawn area.
Lawn tractors – for those who are in it for the long haul

4.6 Scythe mowers

Use: very large lawns

Benefits: great for long grass and fields, very easy to manoeuvre

Downsides: requires some practice to get the hang of, very expensive to buy

4.7 Cylinder lawnmowers

Use: small lawns

Benefits: quiet, affordable and produces a very clean cut

Downsides: long grass pushes it to its limits and the fixed bottom plate can be bent out of shape quicker.

A cylinder lawnmower is used to cut an ornamental lawn and the grass clippings are distributed onto the lawn.
Cylinder lawnmowers – clean and precise