14 Mowing Mistakes Everyone Makes

What's the difference between your lawn and the one next door? If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it could be that you're making one of these cardinal mowing mistakes. We spoke to Greg Weekes, Product Marketing Manager at John Deere, who filled us in on some of the biggest mowing mistakes to avoid. So have a look and see if any of your bad habits is costing you a better looking lawn.

  1. Buying the wrong mower

    choosing a lawn mower

    You could be making a whole lot of extra work for yourself—all because you're using the wrong mower. For instance, a push mower slows things down on a large plot of land (over 1/2 acre). On the other hand, in a small yard (1/4 acre or less), a lawn tractor will only get in the way. When buying the right mower for your yard consider the size of your lawn, the terrain, how many trees you need to maneuver around. 


  2. Running the mower at half speed

    Mowing the Lawn

    Some folks mistakenly believe that running a riding lawn mower at full speed is bad for the engine and shortens the life of your machine. Not so of John Deere lawn tractors, says Weekes. In fact, there's an optimum blade tip speed on each and every machine and hitting a higher RPM on your engine means you'll get an even better cut.


  3. Mowing too quickly

    mowing too fast

    While it’s okay to run the mower at full speed that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to rush through the process of mowing the lawn. Take your time to ensure you get a clean, even cut. The last thing you want is for the lawn to look messier than before you cut it.


  4. Using dull blades

    dull lawn mower blade

    One of the simplest solutions to a clean cut lawn is a fresh set of blades. Lawn mower blades wear down with use, just like a razor blade. You can tell when it's time to sharpen yours by looking at the grass blades themselves. Ragged, jagged, and torn grass is a sign the blade needs to be sharpened. Weekes recommends keeping a second set of mower blades in the garage and taking the dull set to a specialist to sharpen so you'll never have to wait to mow.

    Related: How To: Sharpen Lawn Mower Blades


  5. Cutting a wet lawn

    mowing wet grass

    After a rainstorm, there are often plenty of tasks to do around the yard but mowing the lawn shouldn't be one of them. Not only can wet grass be slick (not ideal for mowing), the moist clippings are more likely to stick to and clog your mower. One of the best ways to eliminate the need to mow a wet lawn is to watch the forecast and mow ahead of schedule. If you normally mow on Saturdays but you're in for a rainy weekend, give the grass a haircut on Thursday or Friday, instead.

    Related: Solved! The Great Debate on Mowing Wet Grass


  6. Not mowing enough

    How Often to Mow Lawn

    Want to keep your lawn looking luxurious all summer long? Then cut it and cut it often. For the strongest, healthiest grass, you'll want to cut no more than 1/3 off the top each time you mow. That means adjusting the blade height when necessary and never allowing the grass to grow too long. 


  7. Cutting grass too short

    Cutting grass too short

    Think you can take a shortcut by giving your lawn a major trim so you don’t have to mow as frequently? Think again. Mowing any more than 1/3 of the grass blades damages the lawn. Known as “scalping the lawn,” a super short cut makes the yard more prone to weeds, and forces the grass to focus on regrowing its blades than deepening its roots. If you’re hoping for a lush lawn (and who isn’t?) then avoid giving it any crew cuts.

    Related: 7 Things Your Lawn May Be Trying to Tell You


  8. Sticking to a schedule

    mowing schedule

    You might like having a plan for when you can check chores off your to-do list, but have some flexibility when it comes to mowing the lawn. It’s important to pay attention to the grass before deciding if it needs a cut or not. In the spring and summer, it grows quicker and needs trimmings more often. That said, wait a day or two after rainfall and allow longer breaks if your location is going through a drought.


  9. Following the same pattern

    mowing patterns

    Mix up the direction every time you mow the lawn. When you follow the same path, the grass begins to grow in the direction it’s being cut in. Varying the pattern ensures the grass will grow upright, as well as avoiding ruts in the lawn.

    Related: 6 Things to Know About Lawn Striping


  10. Cleaning up the clippings

    grass clippings as mulch

    Save yourself from extra work and leave the grass clippings on the lawn. The scraps will quickly decompose, providing beneficial nutrients to the soil.

    Related: The Best Things You Can Do for Your Lawn


  11. Not cleaning the mower

    Cleaning Lawn Mower

    Everyone knows that you're supposed to clean the underside of a mower after use—but many folks let this little chore slide. However, when you do just that you're actively shortening the life of your machine. Not only do clippings block proper airflow necessary for mulching or bagging clippings, but moisture and fertilizer traces can corrode the deck of the mower, causing premature rust and wear.

    Related: 7 Tips to Keep Your Mower in Working Order


  12. Ignoring the maintenance manual

    Lawn Mower Maintenance

    If you treat your mower well it will return the favor. Consult your manual to determine how often you need to change the oil and filters. This simple bit of maintenance will do wonders for improving performance, extending the life of the mower, and making for a smoother running machine. Mark reminders on your calendar so you don't miss a crucial tune up.

    Related: Solved! The Best Type of Oil to Use for a Lawn Mower


  13. Improper off-season storage

    Lawn Mower Storage

    The last thing anyone wants come springtime is finding that the mower won't start because of sticky, separated fuel in the tank. Not only is it frustrating to deal with, it's not great for the mower. Be sure to add fuel stabilizer to the tank before you stow it away for the season. Take a tip from Weekes and and run the mower for 10-15 minutes before park it in the shed.

    Related: The 10 Best Sheds for Your Backyard


  14. Ignoring safety protocol

    Lawn Mower Safety

    No matter what kind of mower you own, you're working with a powerful piece of machinery. Take proper safety precautions every time you mow by ensuring the discharge shoot is properly attached to the mower to prevent debris from flying up and hitting you. Even more importantly, mowing is not a family affair: Keep the little ones—and pets—inside while you mow. Then, after you're finished and the mower's put away, you can safely relax in the yard together, enjoying the sweet smell of clipped grass.


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