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Tips for Cutting Tall Grass: How Short to Cut Grass

You have an area of your property where the grass is overgrown. Tackling a mowing project with such tall grass may seem overwhelming. With a little work and the right equipment, you will be able to enjoy the newly usable piece of land soon. 

Cutting tall grass is best accomplished with the use of a sickle bar or flail mower. Begin mowing at the tallest mower deck height. Reduce the deck height after the first cutting and mow the area following a different pattern. Continue to reduce the deck height after each cutting until you reach the desired height for your grass. 

Continue reading and we’ll go over the best type of mowing equipment to use on tall grass along with the best cutting heights for your lawn. 

Overgrown lawn with grass starting to seed

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Follow all safety instructions provided in your equipment operator’s manual prior to diagnosing, repairing or operating. Consult a professional if you don’t have the skills, knowledge or are not in the condition to perform the repair safely.

Best Cutting Height for Your Lawn 

The best cutting height for your lawn is 3 to 3 ½ inches. Best cutting height is affected by the condition of your grass, the amount of water the lawn receives, the ground temperature, and soil conditions. 

Consider these Conditions When Determining Lawn Height:

Condition of Your Grass 

Take a look at your lawn.  Does it appear to be green and healthy, or does it appear weak and full of weeds? When your grass is brittle and weak, cutting the grass at a short length will not help the grass become healthy.  

Water Your Lawn Receives 

How much rain do you receive in your part of the world or how often do you water your lawn? The best growing conditions are in a yard that is watered or in an area where it rains every 5 to 7 days. 

Watering your lawn with natural rainwater is best, but in many parts of the world rainwater is scarce. The more water you receive, the shorter your grass can be cut. 

Underwatering and overwatering can both be detrimental to the health of your grass. Overwatering can cause your grass to develop a fungus in the soil and on the plant. It is best to have a good watering plan developed for your yard. 

Temperature 

In areas with extreme heat, grass can be stressed very easily. In a hot dry season, keeping the grass longer so the plant leaf can maintain a water base for the root system. 

When the root system gets dry, the plant turns toward the ground surface to look for moisture. Keeping the grass a little longer so the blades of grass can collect moisture will assist a stressed root system. 

Soil Conditions 

Soil conditions must be considered when determining the cutting height for your lawn. In a sandy based soil, that does not hold much moisture, you will need to consider how much water will be added to the lawn. 

If you are on a heavy clay-based soil, too much water will become a runoff instead of absorbing into the soil.              

Ideal Grass Height for Yard in Warmer & Cooler Climates 

The ideal cut grass height for your yard will vary depending on the climate you live in and the current season. It is better to cut grass shorter in the cooler climates and longer in the warmer climates. Cooler climates need to keep the grass height between 2 ½ and 3 inches. Warmer climates need to keep the grass height between 3 and 3 ½ inches. 

Grass Height in Cooler Climates 

Grass needs to be kept cut between 2 ½ to 3 inches long. The cooler temperatures allow the grass to grow and remain strong at these heights. Any length longer than 3 inches is pointless as cooler temperatures allows the grass to continue to grow at a fast rate. 

Grass Height in Warmer Climates 

Grass should be kept cut between 3 to 3 ½ inches long. Some homeowners like to mow at a higher height. The problem with mowing at a higher height is the grass may not dry out well after a heavy rain or heavy watering. When the grass cannot dry out, fungus can occur in the soil and on the plant.  

Last Lawn Cut Before Winter 

Your last cut before winter needs to be short between 1 ½ to 2 inches. Grass does continue to grow during the wintertime, but it grows at a very slow rate. 

If the grass is kept too long before a blanket of snow covers it, you can develop a snow mold. Snow mold is a fungus that can occur when you get a blanket of snow covering the ground that has not become frozen.  

The area between the ground and snow can grow mold from spores during these periods of cool wet weather. Snow mold appears to be gray or pink in color. It can kill the grass in your lawn. 

First Lawn Cut in the Spring 

Your first lawn cut in the spring needs to be 1 ½ to 2 inches. This first cut will knock down the wind burn and growth that occurs over the winter.  

Once you start to get a spring rain you can slowly bring the height of your lawn cut up to 2 to 3 ½ inches depending on the current weather conditions. 

When Grass is Too Tall to Cut with Mower 

Grass is never too tall to cut with a mower. Cutting tall grass will have to be approached differently from mowing a slightly overgrown lawn. Having to cut an area of grass that is 2 feet tall will not be able to be cut with a standard lawn mower. You will have to use a different cutting method. 

There are many different types of cutting equipment you can use to cut tall grass. Some are better for the plant than others. Read on and we’ll explain some options. 

Rotary Mower 

A rotary mower is a large format piece of equipment. Most rotary mowers are designed to be pulled behind a tractor using it’s PTO (power take-off) system to run the heavy thick blades. 

A rotary mower is very cannibalistic on the materials it cuts. The thick blades often just beat up the grass instead of cutting it. If you do choose to use a rotary cutter on very tall grass, keep in mind it is very abusive to the plant. 

Sickle Bar and Flail Mowers 

A sickle bar mower is a flat bar with teeth that cut tall grass and weeds. It resembles a very large hedge trimmer where it cuts along one side of the blade. Be extremely careful using this type of bar mower as there isn’t much protection against the open cutting edge. 

The amount of the grass that is cut off will be a whole piece that lays on the ground. A flail mower differs where the grass that is cut chopped up in small pieces. Generally, a sickle bar mower is better for tall grasses and the flail mower gives a better cut when the grass isn’t extremely tall. 

Sickle bar and flail mowers are generally a better choice over the rotary mower when cutting high grass. When cutting tall grass, it is best to raise the mower deck as high as it can go without damaging any belt or drive shafts. 

Once you complete one cut, you will most likely have to mow the grass again at a different height to shorten the grass further. Most lawn mowers will only cut 4 to 5 inches of grass at the maximum with each cut.  

Continue to lower and cut the grass until it is at your desired cutting height. The grass will look bad for a couple of days, but it should bounce right back providing there is water to support the plant. If there is not proper water, the grass may take several weeks to become green again. 

Do not forget to remove any tall cut grass clippings from the area you cut. If you do not, you may develop dead spots in the grass because the clippings are smothering areas of your lawn. 

Cutting Too Much Grass at Once Can Damage Lawn 

Do not cut more than 1/3 of the blade length in one cutting. If you remove too much of the grass blade at one time, the plant itself will become damaged. 

Why Your Grass Height Needs to Be Kept Manageable 

Are you just sick of mowing your lawn and the upkeep that comes with having a yard? You may be wondering why you need to mow your lawn regularly. Besides having to deal with your neighbors complaining about having an unmanageable lawn, there are several reasons why you still need to get outdoors and cut that lawn. 

Your grass height needs to be kept manageable to promote lawn health, less weed growth and to deter rodents and insects. 

Lawn Health 

Taking a mower and chopping off long blades of grass to the height you require can severely damage your lawn. Removing more than 1/3 of the blade length in one cutting can put your grass into a weakened state where it is more susceptible to increased pests and weeds. 

Rodents, Vermins, and Insects 

Tall lawns and grasses attach rodents and vermins will nest in areas with tall grass. Providing an area for rodents to be attacked to around your home will increase the likelihood of a rodent infestation, not only outdoors, but also indoors. 

Enjoying the outdoors is a lot less enjoyable when you must deal with insects. Mosquitos, fleas and ticks are among many insects and pests that are attracted to tall grass. Keeping your lawn at the recommended cut height levels will greatly reduce insects in the area. 

Increased Weeds 

When you don’t keep your lawn nicely mowed and promote a good lawn with regular watering, your lawn will develop weeds. As grass grows longer it may turn to seed with will give your lawn the appearance that it is full of weeds. 

Related Items

Striping Your Lawn

You have seen that neighbor’s lawn that has the perfect stripes. Once you are able to get your tall grass cut and start a good manageable lawn care program you will be able to get a good healthy lawn to stripe.

Having a good lawn that is not full of weeds; a mower with a good mowing deck and blades tip speed; and possibly a striping kit (not always needed to achieve stripes) will be what you need to have the lawn everyone is envious.

Read more about striping your lawn in our article, “How to Stripe Your Lawn Like the Professionals“.