How to Cut Tall Grass [6 Steps to Tame an Overgrown Lawn]

When cutting very tall grass, first check its height. If the grass is taller than 24 inches (60 cm), then it’s best to rent a brush hog to cut through the tough grass. If your grass is shorter than 24 inches, use a weed eater to cut the grass. When operating the weed eater, make sure to cut only one-third of the grass length each time you trim. Allow at least 3 days between trimmings. This will gradually reduce the height of the lawn without killing the grass. Once the grass is down to 6 inches (15 cm) tall, use mow the grass. A few days later, mow again and bag the grass clippings. This will result in a tidy, tamed lawn.

How to cut tall grass

How Do You Prepare to Cut Long Grass?

It is essential to wear proper protective equipment when using powerful tools to cut overgrown grass. Wear sturdy boots, pants, work gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt. Additionally, wear hearing protection and safety goggles. It is extremely common for mowers and weed eaters to throw up hard pieces of debris when cutting through very tall grass.

  • Wear boots, pants, long sleeves, and gloves.
  • Put on hearing protection (earplugs or protective earmuffs) and safety goggles.
  • Use bug spray to keep yourself safe from ticks and biting insects.

Because bugs, rodents, reptiles, and amphibians often lurk in overgrown lawns, be careful as you work. Apply bug spray to repel ticks and mosquitos. Be careful not to harm any wildlife as you work. By working slowly and carefully, you allow any animals to flee before you have an encounter with them.

6 Steps to Mow Grass That is Too Tall

Tall grass is hard to walk through and harbors a lot of bugs, so you’ll want to get it back into shape. However, an extremely overgrown lawn requires more than a lawn mower to trim the grass. Follow these steps to tackle tall grass and reclaim your yard:

Use a Brush Cutter for Extremely Tall Grass

Grass that is more than 2 feet tall (60 cm) requires high-powered equipment. It’s best to rent a brush cutter to make the job easy. Very tall grass is woody, can harbor small trees and bushes, and may be too tough even for a high-powered weed eater. Rather than spend days battling tall grass, a brush cutter will tackle the job in hours.

  • Rent a walk-behind brush cutter to cut grass taller than 24 inches (60 cm).
  • You can also buy or rent tow-behind brush cutters that attach to a riding mower or tractor.
  • If your grass is shorter than 24 inches, skip this step.

If you have a riding mower or lawn tractor, there are tow-behind brush cutters available. Contact your local hardware store or tool rental company to find the right tool for you. We have personally used tow-behind brush cutters to quickly tame overgrown fields and lawns.

Cut Tall Grass with a Weed Eater

Grass that is taller than 6 inches (15 cm) is too tall for a lawn mower. So, you’ll need to start by using a weed eater. Although bladed weed eaters can be a good option, most overgrown lawns can be tamed with a string trimmer. Make sure to prepare your trimmer with fresh line for this heavy work.

  • Lawns with grass over 6 inches tall (15 cm) should be gradually trimmed with a string trimmer, not mowed.
  • Work slowly, cutting the top one-third off the grass with your trimmer until the entire lawn is trimmed.
  • Wait 3–7 days for the grass to recover, then remove the top one-third of the grass again.
  • Repeat the process until the grass has been trimmed down to 6 inches (15 cm) tall.

When using your trimmer to cut tall grass, make semicircular cuts by slowly swinging the trimmer from side to side. Keep the trimmer head parallel to the ground, so that you cut the grass evenly. Continue until the entire lawn is trimmed. For the first pass, cut only the top one-third off the grass. It may take several trimming sessions to get the grass down to mowing height, but following the one-third rule is essential.

Follow the One-Third Rule

The “one-third rule” for cutting grass means that you should never cut more than one-third of the grass’s total height when you trim it. So, if your grass is 12 inches tall (30 cm), you should not cut off more than 4 inches (10 cm) at once. Cutting grass from a very tall height down to normal lawn height risks damaging or even killing the grass plants, resulting in a dead lawn.

  • It is essential to never cut off more than one-third of the total grass height when trimming.
  • The one-third rule applies no matter what height the grass is.
  • Cutting more than one-third of the total grass height at once can kill the grass.
  • Allow 3–7 days between grass trimmings to avoid damaging or killing your lawn.

When following the one-third rule, it is also essential to allow the grass time to recover between trimmings. Typically, it is best to wait 7 days between trimmings, to prevent damaging the grass. However, when you are working to reclaim an overgrown lawn, you can wait as little as 3 days between trimmings.

Prepare Your Mower

Before you mow a lawn full of tall grass, your mower needs to be up to the task. First, sharpen your mower blade, or take your mower blade to a local hardware store for sharpening. Second, raise the deck height of your mower as high as possible. The blade should be 4 inches (10 cm) from the ground.

  • Equip your mower with a standard blade, not a mulching or dethatching blade.
  • Sharpen your mower blade or take the blade to a hardware store for professional sharpening.
  • Raise the blade height of the mower to 4 inches (10 cm).
  • Open the side discharge chute so that cut grass will be discharged.
  • Fill your mower with fuel.

Once your blade and blade height are proper, make sure your mower’s side discharge chute is open. When cutting tall grass the job will go much easier with the side chute open. Wait to close the chute and use a mulching blade once the lawn has been reclaimed.

Use Mowing Tactics for Tall Grass

Mowing tall grass can bog down your mower or even cause the engine to falter. To prevent this, mow tall grass in “half-passes.” For this technique, position the mower so that the uncut grass is in line with the center of the mower. One-half of the mower will pass over the row you just mowed, while the other half will pass over the uncut grass. This results in a clean cut.

  • Use half the blade width when mowing tall grass, to prevent the mower engine from dying.
  • Mow slowly, at one-half to two-thirds your regular speed.
  • If it is a struggle to move your mower forward, or if the result is a ragged cut, slow down.

Work slowly when mowing very tall grass. Mowing too quickly can cause your mower to miss grass blades, resulting in a patchy, ragged appearance. If you are cutting tall grass with a riding mower, go at one-half your usual mowing speed. When using a push mower, go slowly. It should feel like a moderately easy walk behind the mower. If you really have to dig in and shove the mower forward, you’re going too fast.

Clean up Grass Clippings

3 days after mowing your overgrown yard for the first time, mow again. This time, attach a bagger to your mower. This will suck up all the grass clippings. Large amounts of grass clippings left over from cutting overgrown grass can smother your lawn, harbor insects, or even begin to rot and invite fungus. So, cleaning them up is essential.

  • Large amounts of grass clippings can block your lawn from receiving sunlight, which can kill the grass.
  • Perform a second mowing pass with a bagger attachment to gather grass clippings.
  • Empty the bagger into the trash or compost as soon as it is filled.
  • For large mounds of clippings, consider raking and bagging by hand.

If you don’t have a bagger attachment, or if you find the bag is getting filled with clippings extremely quickly, it’s a good idea to rake your yard to gather up the clippings. Gather large mounds of clippings and bag them like fall leaves. Then, you can throw them out or add them to a compost pile.

What is the Best Way to Cut Down Tall Grass?

There are some benefits to long grass, but reclaiming a lawn overgrown with tall grass is a daunting task. But with these steps, you can take care of it quickly:

  • Rent a brush cutter to cut grass taller than 24 inches (60 cm).
  • Use a string trimmer to gradually cut the grass back until it is 6 inches (15 cm) tall.
  • Only cut one-third of the total grass height at once, and allow 3–7 days between cuttings.
  • Prep your mower by sharpening the blade, opening the discharge chute, and raising the blade height to 4 inches (10 cm).
  • Mow much slower than usual when cutting overgrown grass, to achieve an even cut.
  • Remove grass clippings by mowing again, this time with a bagger attachment.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you will have transformed an overgrown mess into a tidy, groomed yard you can be proud of.

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