How to Cut Tall Grass

black lawn mower sitting on grass

If your lawn has turned from a manicured carpet to a jungle paradise, fear not. This article will take you from safari to suburbia in six steps. 

1. Set your expectations and gear up.

First, your lawn won’t look like a golf course right after you mow. You will need some patience. Expect the lawn to take a while to recover and get back to normal.

Second, gear up before you begin. A tall yard is not a shorts-and-T-shirt kind of job. Consider wearing safety goggles or a face shield, ear protection, and proper clothing and footwear. Mowers routinely find mice, snakes, rabbits, turtles, and all kinds of trash hiding in long grass.

2. Make sure the grass is dry.

This isn’t always possible, but it is very helpful. Mowing wet grass can be frustrating and messy. It can create clogging in your mower engine and will leave large clumps of grass clippings in the lawn. If the grass is wet, the mower may pull the grass up from the roots instead of cutting the blades of grass off the top. Also, you run the risk of leaving ruts in the lawn if the ground is muddy. Mow when it’s dry if possible. 

3. Before mowing, use a string trimmer.

Depending on your grass height, it may be helpful to start with a string trimmer. If your grass is taller than your mower can cut, this is a good option because you can knock down the grass to a mowable height. If you have a scythe, you can also use it for this part of the process. (Some have even used chainsaws for very thick, overgrown weeds and small bushes.)

Fun Fact: String trimmers are also known as weed eaters, weed whackers, and whipper snippers, depending on where you live.

4. Mow the lawn.

After you’ve used the string trimmer, it is time to mow. No matter what type of mower you choose, make sure your mower blades are sharp. Set your mower at the highest setting. Go slowly and remember the one-third rule: Don’t take off more than one-third of the grass at a time. 

You’ll want to double or triple mow the area to mulch up the clippings as much as possible.

After you mow, it is ideal to wait several days before you mow again. Keep mowing using the one-third rule until you reach the desired height. Doing multiple mowing sessions to shorten the lawn little by little will encourage a healthy lawn going forward. 

Whether or not you bag the clippings is up to you. It will likely depend on the lawn’s height. If it is only slightly overgrown and you can do several mows, you’ll do fine to leave the clippings on the lawn. If the lawn is several feet tall, you’ll want to remove the debris. 

5. Put on the finishing touches.

If you haven’t already trimmed the sidewalks and along the driveway, do that. Then, blow off the hard surfaces. You’ll probably want to blow through the yard as well, evening out any large clumps of grass so they are more evenly distributed. 

6. Clean your equipment.

After you mow an overgrown lawn, you may need to sharpen your mower blades, and you’ll need to clean your mower. When you cut long, thick grass it often clumps under the mower deck. Take good care of your equipment, and it will take good care of you.

Enjoy your freshly cut grass!


1. What type of mower should I use?

The best type of mower to use is probably the type of mower you already have. 

Using tools you already own saves you time and money. You’d be amazed at what you can do with a regular push mower, even in extreme situations. There are even folks who have successfully used heavy-duty battery-powered lawn mowers to shear overgrown grass in lawns and fields. Corded electric lawn mowers may not be the best choice since having to manage a cord through dense brush is not ideal.

If your mower isn’t very powerful, you may have to mow the lawn in sections, doing a little each day to accommodate what your mower can do.

If you’d like to DIY this job but want a more powerful mower or have a large lawn, go to your nearest large equipment rental store and rent a brush cutter, riding mower, or commercial mower.

The other option is to hire a professional. A professional company not only has professional-level mowing equipment, but they have heavy-duty string trimmers and blowers, as well. 

1. When is the best time of year to mow my lawn?

Most experts agree that the best time to cut your overgrown lawn is during a season of active growth. Cool-season lawns go dormant during the hottest part of the summer, and it is not advisable to cut either cool-season grass or warm-season grass during the winter.

If you mow during an active growth phase, the lawn will have a better, quicker recovery.

3. When is the best time of day to mow my lawn?

Early in the morning, from 8-10 a.m., is the best time to mow. This not only keeps you from overheating, but it helps prevent your motor from overheating, as well. It also gives your grass time to recover before the hottest time of the day.

If your backyard jungle is too much for you to handle, hire a lawn care professional to get the job done without breaking a sweat.

Main Photo Credit: Andres Siimon | Unsplash

Hilary Walker