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How to Measure Lawn Mower Cutting Height: 4 Tips & Tricks

Rotary Lawn Mower

In a bid to save time, most of us usually mow grass at the lowest possible height—but this misplaced priority to reduce mowing frequency has dire consequences. What most don’t know is that when mowing the grass too low, we are inadvertently weakening it. Grass uses leaves for photosynthesis. Trimming down the green cover reduces food intake. This, in turn, makes your lawn susceptible to pests, diseases, and harsh environmental conditions.

Likewise, mowing the grass too high promotes rapid growth and increases the time and cost used to tend to a lawn.

Mowing grass at the right height is essential for a healthy lawn. Exactly how to achieve that is what this article is going to explain.

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The 4 Tips & Tricks on How to Measure Lawn Mower Cutting Height

Knowing the correct mowing height may be the beginning of a blissful outdoor adventure for a gardening rookie.

1. Bring the Mower to a Flat Hard Surface

Lawn mower opposite the garage
Image Credit: Aleksandr Yu, Shutterstock

Before measuring the mower’s cutting height, you must tow it to a flat hard surface. Use the floor of a garage, driveways, or concrete sidewalks.

This has a couple of advantages:
  • It allows you to come up with accurate measurements since the mower is sitting on a flat surface.
  • It is easy working on a flat surface.

2. Measure The Appropriate Height With a Ruler or a Stick

measuring a lawn mower
Image Credit: J.J. Gouin, Shutterstock

Before bending down to the mower’s deck to set appropriate heights—safety first. Most of today’s mowers are equipped with safety features that prevent them from starting when you are not holding the handle. But it will be wise to put on industrial-grade gloves, goggles, and boots. Also, shut down the engine and remove the spark plug.

When measuring the height, target the distance between the blade and the ground with a ruler or a stick. A ruler is most accurate.

Don’t just measure the distance from the deck to the ground. You need to find where the blades are. Maneuver your way through the deck to the blade bolted up inside the mower. Measure the distance from the blade’s edge to the ground. That is how high you want to mow the lawn.

3. Adjust the Cutting Height

There is no universal way to adjust mowing height. Each method depends on the type and size of the machine. Here is how to do it for a walk-behind mower.

Locate the level lever

Detail of a lawn mower lever
Image Credit: plg photo, Shutterstock

A gasoline walk-behind mower has a height adjustment lever behind each wheel. Electric mowers, in contrast, rely on a single lever tucked between the deck and rear wheels.

Adjust the height

The Thenar webspace is the space between the thumb and index finger. Use this space to latch the lever and clump the other four fingers on the outer side of the wheel. Then, slowly use your thumb to remove the lever from the notch.

For Honda mowers, lower the mowing height by moving the rare wheel lever outward and forward. Conversely, pull the lever outward and backward to increase mowing height. Lower mowing height on front wheels by pushing the lever outward and backward. Do the opposite to raise the deck.

Most mowers have handy calibrated notches. Moving the lever from one notch to another raises or lowers the blades by an inch. If not in inches, you will find notches denoted as low, medium, or high, or A, B, or C. Low is mowing an inch from the ground, while high is equal to 3 inches.

Before using these mowing scales, refer to the manual first. It may be representing other units besides inches.

4. Take a Sample Run

man using lawn mower
Image Credit: Krystyna Taran, Shutterstock

After height adjustments, you need to know whether your mower is working perfectly or not. For this, do a sample run in your backyard or at the edges of your lawn.

What Is the Recommended Height for Mowing a Lawn?

The recommended height of mowing grass is 2 to 2.5 inches above the ground. Why 2.5 inches?

This is where the mowing rule of thumb comes in.

2.5 inches is an optimal height where even after shaving off a small layer of foliage, your lawn will stay neat while giving the injured grass a better chance of rejuvenating. This will also allow sunlight to reach the undergrowth to promote the growth of new shoots. Young shoots are the future of your lawn. So ensure they can shoot out vibrantly and healthily.

Cutting grass too low will lead to sculpting, which occurs after the blade slashes away grass patches exposing the soil. It is bad for your lawn as it kills turf and introduces ugly patches that require replants.

Mowing too high leaves behind a dense cover. During the rainy season, the cover absorbs moisture resulting in fungus growth and rot. This eats away the lawn inside out and halts the development of new shoots.

Furthermore, tall grass is unstable. Stems easily collapse on each other instead of forming a carpet-like cover.

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How Frequently Should You Mow Grass?

There is no exact formula on how frequently you should mow grass. However, the factors below will help you determine the mowing frequency.

1. Type of Grass

You are likely to mow once or twice a month after sodding your lawn with ryegrass or fine-leaf fescues. These species germinate and grow amazingly fast, even in tough conditions.

2. Season

Lawnmower in the spring
Image Credit:Ryan Nicoll, Unsplash

During warm and rainy springs, grass grows very fast. Schedule mows more frequently.

Harsh environmental conditions slow down the growth of grass. Therefore, you can relax in winter and dry summer and let nature do the slashing for you.

3. Height of the Previous Mow

You should mow your grass when it is about 3.5 inches high. At this height, you will shave off about a 1–1.5-inch-thick layer of grass.

Shaving off less than an inch, which leaves the grass at more than 2.5 inches high, will force you to redo the job after a few days.

The shorter the grass, the less frequently you will mow.

4. Shade

backyard shady fresh lawn
Image Credit: AVN Photo Lab, Shutterstock

Due to lack of sunlight, grass in a shaded area will grow slowly. Therefore, mow these areas less frequently and at 30% higher than the lighted area. Doing this will ensure the spindly leaves have enough surface area to cover the ground to prevent weed growth and photosynthesize enough food.

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Tips for Mowing at a Good Height

1. Check the Mowing Time

Clearing your schedule early in the morning is good, right? Unfortunately not. This is because the grass is usually slippery due to dew. Grass will clog the mower and stick everywhere, reducing its efficiency. Additionally, blades will slip over tall grass and pad them down instead of cutting.

Mid-morning and mid-evening are the perfect time to slash down grass. The grass is dry and less stressed from the midday heat.

2. Sharp Blades

lawn mower blade sharpening
Image Credit: lsuaneye, Shutterstock

Sharp blades are essential for clean cuts. Before sharpening, you will need to scrap out caked debris, mud, and leaves off the blades with a putty knife. Then, apply oil onto the blades, let it soak into the blade for 20 minutes, and finally clean them with a bristle brush.

Clamp the blade in a leg vise to sharpen it. When sharpening, you can use a drill-powered sharpening stone or a hand file. 40 to 60 back and forth strokes of the hand file will sharpen the blade. Of course, don’t target razor-sharp results but something close to a butter knife. For a power grinder, four to five quick moves will do the magic. Finally, orient the blades and bolt them up tightly again.

3. Use Different Mowing Patterns

Getting a uniform lawn involves using different mowing patterns. For example, mow the first round lengthwise, then change to widths in the second round. The third round follows the diagonals. This minimizes tire damage and prevents soil from becoming compacted.

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Adjusting the mowing height involves getting down into the deck and getting your measurement from the blades to the ground. At this time, ensure the mower is off.

Good mowing practices will keep the lawn healthy and neat. Use sharp blades and more in different directions to achieve the best results.

Featured Image Credit: Andres Siimon, Unsplash


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