How to Cut Tall Grass with a Riding Mower [8 Simple Steps]

When cutting tall or overgrown grass with a riding mower, steps must be taken to protect your mower from damage and preserve the health of your grass while still getting the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. When mowing tall grass with your ride-on mower, follow these steps for best results:

  • Mow on a dry day in spring, summer, or early fall.
  • Clear the area of rocks, branches, and man-made debris.
  • Using a string trimmer, cut grass down to 6–8 inches in height.
  • Set your mower’s blade to its highest height.
  • Throttle mower to a very slow speed.
  • Mow in a circuit, cutting at half the maximum blade circumference.
  • Reverse the direction of your mowing circuit periodically.
  • Turn off the mower every 30–45 minutes. Check the blades for excessive grass buildup and remove it if necessary. Allow the lawnmower to cool.

By following these methods, you will clear the high grass and leave behind a healthy, manageable yard, without damaging or stressing your equipment.

How to cut tall grass with a riding mower

Steps for Cutting Tall Grass with a Riding Mower

A yard overgrown with tall grass can be a daunting task. Thick clumps of grass can seem like dense jungle brush and can hide all manner of dangers. The reward for clearing it? A beautiful managed yard that makes your home something to be proud of. It’s important to know how to cut tall grass so you can get incredible results every time.

Choose The Right Time

Do not mow tall grass when it is wet. Most overgrown grass is naturally moist, which makes the job tougher on your mower, but wet grass makes the job extremely difficult and results in poor results, damaged grass, stress on your mower, and may create a hazardous mowing environment (riding mowers often slip or lose traction on wet grass).

Choose a dry day in spring, summer, or early fall to mow. Because the grass is still actively growing at this time, it is able to recover from the shock of being reduced from an overgrown prairie to a tidy lawn.

Inspect and Clear The Area of Dangers

A lot of unseen hazards can lurk in tall grass. Before mowing, carefully walk the area in search of any stones, branches, litter, or small trees growing among the grass. Remove these hazards if you can—attempting to mow over them can result in damage to your mower. Mark any hazards too big to move with a stake topped with flagging tape. This way, you will be able to avoid dangerous objects when mowing.

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Use a String Trimmer to Cut Grass to Safe Height

Use a string trimmer or weedeater on overgrown grass before mowing. Riding mowers are designed to cut grass that is up to 8 inches tall. Above that height, cutting through dense grass with a mower is inefficient, slow work that puts a lot of stress on your mower. If the grass is more than 8 inches tall, use your string trimmer to cut it to 6–8 inches in height. This cut doesn’t have to look great—it’s only temporary before mowing—but it’s essential to get the grass to a mower-friendly height before the next stage begins.

Adjust Mower Blade Height

Before mowing overgrown grass with a riding mower, set the blade height to its highest setting. This will increase the speed and quality of the mowing job, as well as preserve the grass—cutting tall grass too low can seriously weaken or kill it. If the highest blade height leaves the grass longer than desired, wait 3–5 days, then mow with a lower blade height.

Set Mower Speed

The trick to tackling tall grass is to mow slowly. Set your riding mower’s speed at a slow walking pace. Although you may feel like you’re crawling, you will get a more even, clean result. This actually saves time in the long run. Mowing tall grass too quickly results in a ragged cut with many long grass blades remaining, meaning you have to go over the same area several times. By tackling long grass at a slow speed, you’ll get much better results.

Cut Grass at Half Blade Width

Tall grass often grows in thick, moist bunches that are difficult for your riding mower to handle. To ensure you cut grass cleanly without putting stress on your mower, after your first circuit, begin mowing so that the mower is halfway in the tall grass and halfway in the previously mowed area. Yes, the job will take longer, but the grass will look excellent afterward.

Reverse Mowing Circuit

When mowing tall grass with a riding mower, if you mow in a circuit that blows cut grass to the inside, this will result in clumps of long, cut grass piling up in areas you have not yet mowed. Mowing over cut grass clumps plus all that long grass is tough work, yields poor results, and may require you to mow over areas multiple times. To prevent this buildup, reverse your circuit periodically, blowing cut grass toward areas you have already mowed.

Give Your Mower a Break

Cutting tall grass is tough work for a riding mower. Once every 30–45 minutes, turn off your mower entirely and inspect it. Things to look for are

  • Check the fuel level in your mower.
  • Inspect the blades. Use a utility knife to cut away long grass or artificial debris (such as plastic bags) from the mower blade spindle, to prevent damage.
  • Clear away debris and grass clippings from radiator fins, engine components, and wiring.
  • Allow the mower to cool for 15 minutes. During intense operations, riding mowers tend to overheat.

By periodically checking your mower, clearing debris, and allowing it to cool, you ensure that you keep your mower from harm. A little caution will prevent costly damage to your riding mower.

Additional Tips to Consider

Man cutting tall grass with a riding lawn mower

Mowing overgrown grass is no small feat. By practicing mower operation safety and keeping an eye out for details, you’ll get the best results. Here are a few more things to consider.

  • Beware of thick weeds and trees: Don’t attempt to mow over saplings or shrubs thicker than your thumb. You can damage your mower blade. It’s best to cut these off at ground height before mowing.
  • Look out for stumps: Even a relatively small stump or stone can stop a mower blade on contact, causing your mower’s engine to cut off. Watch for hazards that seem low but are actually at blade height.
  • Protect wildlife: Tall grass often harbors many species of animals. Frogs, snakes, and mice may be living in that tall grass. Mow slowly to give animals time to flee. This will ensure you don’t injure or kill any animals.
  • Lift the grass ejection chute: One tactic to mow tall grass more quickly, is to raise the plastic hood of your grass ejection chute 1–2 inches. This will allow more grass to escape and reduce wet grass clumping inside the blade housing. However, take care, as this allows potentially dangerous debris to be flung from the chute.

How to Cut Tall Grass with a Riding Mower

To cut an area of tall grass with a riding mower, first select a dry day from spring through early fall. Then, clear the area of hazards such as branches, stones, and litter. Before mowing, use a string trimmer to cut long grass down to 6–8 inches in height. Once you have made the area safe for mowing, proceed slowly, mowing at a high blade height, taking care to perform conservative passes, and avoiding hazards. Because mowing a large overgrown area can be a substantial job, turn off your mower for 15 minutes out of every hour in order to add fuel, clean off debris, and allow the mower to cool.

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