For some of us, lawn care is not the most important thing on our minds. We all lead busy lives, have things that need taking care of, and simply can’t get to the lawn on time.
While this is mostly not a problem, it can lead to tall grass in your yard that becomes increasingly difficult to mow.
When this happens, it is not only difficult to mow the grass but it can actually cause damage to your mower too. So in addition to being a huge, messy pain, there’s the potential that you could hurt your mower.
What do you do?
How can you mow your grass if it is starting to get out of hand? There are a few helpful tips for cutting tall grass.
Keep in mind that it won’t work if the grass has grown to several feet in height; you’ll need to start hacking at it with an industrial weed whacker and keep going until you’ve trimmed it down to a reasonable height.
Raising the Deck
Generally speaking, the mower decks on most standard lawnmowers will be able to get up to about four inches in height.
If the grass is a little tall, switching your mower to the highest cutting height could be enough to get the job done.
If the grass height is above that four-inch mark, though, there could be issues.
If the grass is still quite high, it is important to not force it.
You generally only want to use about one-third of the length of the blade with every cut. This is meant to reduce stress on the blade and keep it from wearing down or breaking.
If the grass is higher than four inches, try angling your mower. Do this by leaning on the handlebar so that the body of the mower angles up.
You can then trim some off the top of the grass to bring it down a little. It may take a few passes doing this to make your grass more manageable for the mower to cut even at the highest deck height.
Again, if the height of the grass is five inches or higher, you may need to spend the time hacking it back down to a reasonable height with a weed whacker or call in a professional service to get things under control again.
Don’t Go Full Throttle
While it might be fun to put the pedal to the metal, it can also be the worst thing for your mower when dealing with tall grass.
It can be all too easy to hammer down on the throttle, especially if you’re in a hurry to get the lawn cut before an event or gathering.
If your grass is on the taller side, make sure that you go slow and take your time. With excessively tall grass, you will really need to take your time.
The goal here is to cause as little stress on your mower as you can.
The mower is only meant to handle so much stress and forcing it to cut through the Amazon rainforest just increases the chances of your mower breaking down and failing.
Work with the mower and you should be able to eventually get the job done to satisfaction.
Make Sure That You’re Using the Right Blades
It might seem as though a blade is a blade and they are all capable of doing the job. But if you have really long grass, it is of the utmost importance that you use mulching blades.
This is because it can be extremely difficult to keep your yard clear and free of those glass clippings, especially when the grass is very long.
When those long grass clippings are left on your lawn, it can actually be highly detrimental to the overall health and prosperity of the grass.
The longer the grass clippings, the more likely that they will wind up suffocating the lawn and killing your grass.
You can get away with not using mulching blades but there’s a caveat. If you don’t use mulching blades, you have to take the extra measure to clean up those long clippings.
Having a bagger will go a long way towards doing this but it still can be a huge pain in the rear end. Having mulching blades will likely be easier in the long run.
Should you not want to mulch, you can also use high-lift blades.
Whatever option you choose aside from mulching blades, be certain that you clear the clippings from your lawn or it will wind up doing more damage than you bargained for in the long run.
For Extra-Tall Grass
Sometimes the grass can get to such an unruly point that there is no hope of using a lawnmower to do the job.
When this happens, there are generally only two things that can be used to get the job done: a weed whacker or a scythe.
A scythe is a long, curved blade on the end of an even longer handle.
You can hack down the height of the grass to a more manageable level. The downside to this is that it can be physically taxing and take a lot of work.
Still, it is a highly effective way of hacking down that extra-tall grass to a more manageable level.
You can also use a weed whacker to take down around a third or half of the height depending on how long your grass is.
This is a much faster, more effective way of evenly cutting down the grass to a more manageable level.
The goal here is to get that tall grass back down to a height that a traditional mower can handle.
Putting unneeded stress on the mower will lead to damage and breakdowns. It could even mean having to replace the mower entirely and that can be a costly endeavor.
Trim a Second Time
The reason why you’ll want to stop and go a second time is the clippings.
At the very tall heights, you will have some large grass clippings to take care of. Make sure that you get rid of them because they can smother your grass, making it turn brown and nasty.
Take the time to clean up after the initial trimming. You should have taken it down by a good bit and the cleanup efforts will make things more manageable too.
When you’ve cleaned the area up, you can come back through with the trimmer again.
By making a second pass, you can bring the lawn down to a height that your mower can handle. A good rule of thumb is that if the grass stands up straight, it’s good to mow.
If the blades still bend, though, you should keep hacking it down until it is at a reasonable height.
Only Cut When It’s Dry
For homeowners out there, it goes without saying how difficult it can be to mow a lawn when the grass is wet.
Think about how difficult it can be to mow when your grass is a reasonable height. With all the wet clippings sticking to the underside of the mower and the mess of bagging and cleaning up the clippings, it can be a complete nightmare.
This will only be amplified if the grass is at a much higher level. When you decide to cut down the large swaths of tall grass, doing so when it is wet can be absolutely chaotic.
Try to make sure that there is no moisture if you can; it will simply make the cleanup effort much easier to handle.
Mowing Tall Grass Without a Trimmer
If you’re confident that there are taller weeds and grass that you can simply mow over, keep in mind that it is possible that the mower will only knock them down and not completely mow them in the first pass.
This is only with the tallest of grass and may not be the case; watch as you go.
Make sure that you go in one direction to start. When you have finished your lap, go back over the space that you just mowed but from the opposite direction.
It may take two or three times before your mower is able to completely cut the grass down to a clean, reasonable level.
You can also try simply backing up but it all depends on the size of your lawn. Smaller lawns can get away with this in a timely manner but the larger the space, the better off you are simply changing directions.
It also cannot be emphasized enough that you should go slow on the first pass.
Not only will this allow anything hanging out in the tall grass to get away but it will give your mower the chance to work through all the brush successfully without hurting the motor, the blades, or any other components of the mower.
The last thing that you want is to have to replace the mower because of it.
If at any time you smell burning, stop the mower right away. Make sure that you turn it off completely and check under the deck of the mower.
Check to see if there is any grass that is wrapped around the spindles of the mower. If there is, cut it off with a utility knife or something similar.
Even if you do not smell anything burning, a good rule of thumb is to stop the mower every 30 minutes or so. Turn off the mower and check to make sure that there is no buildup underneath the mower.
It might take a little longer to get the job done but it will ensure that your mower doesn’t overload or break down.
As you work through the lawn, it is a good idea to keep debris and grass off of the engine. This is to keep the engine as cool as possible and prevent any overheating.
Make sure that when you stop the mower, you take the time to clean off the engine and remove as much dead grass that will collect around the engine as you can.
If you are using a riding mower, check under the seat too.
Sometimes dry grass can accumulate under the seat and overheat some of the electrical wires. When this happens, it can lead to fire and it goes without saying how dangerous fire can be.
Make sure that you use gloves at all times because if there are weeds interspersed with the grass, they can be sharp and prickly and they will cut up your fingers in the process. You can probably get away with using a leaf blower to blow the excess debris away.
You should also touch the blade spindles with a bare finger (when the mower is off, obviously). If it feels too hot to touch, there is a good chance that there is an issue with lubrication.
If you have a cast iron spindle, grease it up. If it is aluminum, your bearing might be going out. Stop and check it before things get worse.
The idea is to clean off as much of the mower as you can when it becomes covered in grass clippings. Overheating in any area can potentially lead to fire.
That’s not even including any potential damage that a buildup of grass can lead to.
The best way to handle tall grass depends on just how tall the grass is.
If it is four inches or less, you can use your mower with no problem. It is when the grass becomes much taller than that where issues can occur.
Anything over that height is best approached using a weed whacker or scythe to bring down the height of the grass to a more manageable level.
It is also important to make certain that you take your time. Rushing through, using too much power, and not properly cleaning the mower can lead to damage to the mower.
Lastly, make sure that you clean up your grass clippings. Leftover clippings will smother and eventually kill the lawn after enough time.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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