When is the Best Time to Mow Your Lawn?

lawn mower cutting grass

If you have the time, you should cut your grass during the mid-morning as it’s the best time to mow your lawn. However, not everyone can mow their lawn during that time – work, rain, and noise ordinances are just a few reasons why. In that case, try to mow your lawn during the late afternoon before nightfall. That’s the second best time to cut your grass.

However, the best time to mow your lawn is also influenced by the seasons. Want to learn why? Read on to learn more about when you should mow your lawn.

What is the best time of day to mow?

image of a person mowing grass
Photo Credit: Pexels

As we said earlier, the best time of day to mow your grass is either mid-morning or late afternoon

But why is that? Ideally, you want the following conditions when mowing your lawn:

  • Dry grass. Mowing wet grass is a bad idea for several reasons: uneven cuts, increased susceptibility to lawn diseases, soil compaction, and possible lawn mower damage. Walking on your lawn while it’s wet also could be a slipping hazard.
  • Cooler temperatures. Mowing while it’s really hot out stresses out your turf. It can also result in “heat tracking,” which is any damage caused by traffic on heat-stressed turf. “The resultant damage may look like RoundUp was on the tires of the (lawn mower),” says Kevin Frank of the Michigan State University Extension.
  • Enough time for grass to recover. Grass needs time to recover from mowing before nighttime. Grass that has been cut at night will be more susceptible to lawn diseases, especially since the dew will set in before it can heal.

So, let’s look at the different times of day and how good they are for mowing. Generally, it doesn’t matter which season it is – these rules apply. Keep in mind that the times noted are generalized and may not reflect seasonal daytime conditions:

  • Early morning
  • Mid-morning
  • Midday to early afternoon
  • Late afternoon
  • Evening

Bad: Early morning mowing (before 8 a.m.)

  • Dry grass? No
  • Cooler temperatures? Yes
  • Enough time for grass to recover? Yes
  • Other issues: 
    • Might go against local noise ordinances or policies
    • Neighbors might dislike you, especially if it’s the weekend

Mowing early in the morning means you beat the heat and your lawn has more than enough time to recover before night falls again. However, your lawn is usually dewy during the early morning hours. Your mower might have a difficult time mowing. Mowing wet grass also will tear it rather than cut it, which is an open invitation to disease and fungus.

It’s also not generally considered neighborly to mow before 8 a.m. on weekdays. However, there’s some debate on what time is considered acceptable for the weekend. Some say after 9 a.m. is acceptable, while others say to wait till 10 a.m. We recommend being observant of what time your neighbors begin mowing on the weekends and following suit.

Some areas even have policies against loud noises during early morning, so check if yours has something similar.

Great: Mowing during mid-morning (8 a.m. to 10 a.m.)

  • Dry grass? Yes
  • Cooler temperatures? Yes
  • Enough time for grass to recover? Yes
  • Other notes: 
    • Not feasible for all homeowners
    • Can still annoy some neighbors

Mid-morning mowing is the healthiest for your grass. It meets all the conditions we mentioned earlier: dry grass, cooler temperatures, and enough time to recover. Plus, you also avoid possibly getting heat exhaustion or sunburnt by working outside in the midday sun. Mow your lawn during this time of the day whenever possible for the best results.

But there lies the problem: Not everyone can mow their lawns during this time, especially during the weekdays. It’s all fine and dandy when it’s a weekend – except if you’d rather sleep in – but what if your lawn needs to be mowed on a weekday? If you work a 9-to-5 job, you’re likely not going to spend your precious morning time on lawn mowing.

Bad: Midday to early afternoon mowing (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

  • Dry grass? Yes
  • Cooler temperatures? No
  • Enough time for grass to recover? Yes
  • Other notes: 
    • Hottest time of the day
    • Stresses grass out and can lead to lawn damage
    • Also bad for the person mowing the lawn. Make sure to wear sun protection and keep yourself hydrated while mowing during this time of day.

Despite the grass being dry and having enough time to recover before nightfall during this time period, midday up to early afternoon is not a good time to cut your grass. 

Midday and early afternoon are the hottest times of the day, and that’s bad for grass. “Mowing the plant shoots in the hot, sunny, and dry weather severely traumatizes the entire plant body, and the entire vital process is altered,”  a study from the journal Agronomy reports. 

Mowing during these times of day is not as bad as mowing during a drought, but it does still hurt the grass. The study notes that plant shoots (like grass leaves) lose water, begin to wilt, and stop growing when mowed during very hot temperatures.

Stepping on your lawn when it’s really hot out – and especially during drought conditions – also can damage your grass in other ways. It’s even worse if you ride your lawn mower across the lawn. We mentioned earlier that Kevin Frank of the MSU Extension calls this “heat tracking.” Your lawn may end up with dry tracks where you and your mower have gone. 

Thankfully, heat tracking is reversible. Frank says that rain, irrigation, and cooler temperatures will help your grass recover.

Early afternoon and midday mowing is also bad for the person mowing the lawn because they can get sunburns and dehydration. Worse still is the risk of heat exhaustion. Always wear proper sun protection (don’t forget your sunblock!) and drink plenty of water if you do mow your lawn during this time.

Good: Mowing during late afternoon (4 p.m. to 6 p.m.)

  • Dry grass? Yes
  • Cooler temperatures? Yes
  • Enough time for grass to recover? Yes
  • Other notes: 
    • Better time for busy homeowners
    • Don’t mow too late
    • Overlaps with one of the best times to water grass. Try to irrigate after mowing.

By 4 p.m., it has cooled off enough to venture outside to mow the lawn. You avoid the highest temperatures of the day while ensuring your grass is thoroughly dry before mowing if you do it in the late afternoon.

Cutting grass in the late afternoon also still allows the grass time to recover from the cutting before mold and disease can creep in when the temperatures drop at night.

Late afternoon mowing is a good alternative for homeowners who are too busy during mid-morning. Just don’t mow before evening sets in. 

Some homeowners prefer watering around 6 p.m., especially during the summer months. This is because it’s the second best time to water lawns – not too hot with some time to dry off. If you’re one of these people, water your lawn after mowing instead of the other way around.

Bad: Evening mowing (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

  • Dry grass? Yes, until dew sets in
  • Cooler temperatures? Yes
  • Enough time for grass to recover? No
  • Other notes: 
    • Mowing during this time exposes turf to lawn fungus

If you’re busting out the lawn mower once dusk sets in – or worse, when nightfall occurs – then it should be a last resort. Generally, anytime after 6 p.m. is too late to be cutting your grass. Of course, that time can change based on the season.

Your lawn needs time to recover and heal before it gets dark and dew develops. If your grass has not had time to heal properly, you risk exposing your freshly cut grass to disease.

When is the best time to mow during each season?

This question can be taken in two ways:

  • What time of day is the best time to mow during each season?
  • When should I start or stop mowing during each season?

We’ll answer the second question because we already covered the first one in the previous section. But first, let’s go over some information about how turf grows, as different grass types grow better during some seasons than others.

Cool-season grasses are grasses that grow best in cooler temperatures, and they typically have great cold resistance. Their active growth seasons are spring and fall. Commonly grown in the North, popular cool-season turfgrasses include:

  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Fine fescue
  • Tall fescue
  • Perennial ryegrass

Here are some cool-season grass growth characteristics, according to the Pennsylvania State University Extension:

  • Root growth can occur when soil temperatures are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and is strongest from 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool-season grass roots don’t grow when the soil temps are freezing (32 degrees F) or very hot (90 degrees F and above).
  • Leaf growth is best at 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit daytime air temperatures and gets better when the days grow longer.

Note: Soil temperatures are usually 10 degrees colder than air temperatures when it’s cold out, and 10 degrees warmer during hotter weather. Use a soil thermometer for the most accurate temperature readings.

Warm-season grasses are the opposite, thriving in warmer temperatures and having great heat and drought tolerance. They grow most vigorously during the summer months. Commonly found on Southern lawns, some popular warm-season grasses are:

  • Bahiagrass
  • Bermudagrass
  • Buffalograss
  • Carpetgrass
  • Centipedegrass
  • St. Augustinegrass
  • Zoysiagrass

Here are the growth characteristics of warm-season grasses, according to Oregon State University:

  • Grass growth is best when the air temperatures are 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Dormancy ends when the soil temperature reaches 60 to 65 degrees. Any lower than that and they go dormant.

Now, let’s go over the best times to mow per season:

Spring

Lawn mower cutting green grass in backyard, mowing lawn
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Spring brings warmer temperatures that nudge grasses out of winter dormancy throughout most of the Lower 48. Grasses in northern states, such as those in the Northeast, get out of winter dormancy later in the season. Some areas in the South, like the Florida Keys, may not see their grasses wake up from dormancy because they never went dormant in the first place.

When is the best time to cut grass after winter? 

The first mow of spring will heavily depend on where you live and what grass you are growing:

  • Homeowners in some northern states might be able to start mowing by the tail end of April. Others will be able to by the end of May.
  • Homeowners in the South might have their first mow in March. Some may not have even stopped mowing throughout the winter.
  • Homeowners in Alaska can get their first mow in by May.
  • Grasses in Hawaii basically never go dormant as the temperatures are pretty warm throughout the year.

A good rule of thumb is to wait until your grass has grown tall enough to need mowing – around 4 inches or more.

Here are some tips for mowing in the spring:

  • Deal with pests and diseases before mowing your lawn, if possible. You don’t want to spread them to other parts of your lawn.
  • Once your grass has grown 4 inches tall, it’s time to mow.
  • Don’t mow more than one-third of the grass blade length.
  • Bag your clippings if your grass is still diseased.
  • Mow more frequently as growth picks up.

Summer

Mowing lawn
Photo Credit: Pexels

The hotter temperatures of summer signal the start of the active growth period of warm-season grasses – at least, in the South. Lawns in the furthest reaches of the North may still need to wake up from dormancy in the first week of summer.

Mowing season really picks up in the southern one-third of the country, while it might stop in areas with cool-season grass.

When should I stop mowing my lawn in the summer?

If you have a cool-season lawn, you will likely need to stop mowing your lawn once the summer heat really kicks in. The only exception may be areas in the upper third of the country, where the temperatures don’t get too extreme.

  • Areas in the transition zone will have hotter temperatures, especially as you approach the border of the southern third of the U.S. Some areas may even get drought conditions. Homeowners in this area may need to stop mowing their cool-season grass in July or August.
  • Homeowners above the transition zone and in Alaska may not have to stop mowing their grass during summer.

Note: The transition zone encompasses West Virginia to North Carolina and down to Southern California.

The general rule of thumb is to stop mowing if your grass goes dormant; besides, dormant grass doesn’t grow anyway. Dormant grass looks brown but is not dead.

Fall

Mowing the grass with a lawn mower in early fall
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Fall brings cooler temperatures once again. This season marks the start of the second cool-season grass growth period and the decline of warm-season grass growth. So, homeowners with cool-season grass will start mowing while those with warm-season grass may need to stop.

When should I start mowing my grass in fall?

If your cool-season lawn has gone dormant in the summer, it will revive when fall sets in. Cool-season lawns will resume growth once daytime temperatures drop below 80 F. 

Wait until your grass is long enough before mowing your lawn again.

When should I stop mowing my grass in fall?

Warm-season lawns will slow down their growth throughout the season, eventually growing dormant – at least further north in the transition zone. 

  • In the transition zone, homeowners may need to stop mowing their warm-season grass by October at the earliest, but some areas like Sacramento, CA, may need to wait until November.
  • Homeowners below the transition zone will probably be able to mow their lawns until November. The further south you go, the less likely you’ll need to stop mowing.

Homeowners also will need to stop mowing their cool-season grass in the fall, but when that is will depend on where you live. Usually, it’s best to stop mowing a week before the predicted first frost. According to the Cornell University Northeast Regional Climate Center, the first fall frost can be as early as Sept. 15 in the furthest reaches of the Northeastern region.

Some areas within the northern states may be warmer than others and may get first fall frost dates as late as the first week of November.

Pro tip: Cut your grass to the proper height before it goes dormant to prepare it for winter. These final pre-winter cuts are essential to prevent mold and fungus from taking over your lawn. You can read more about this in our article about how short to cut grass before winter.

Winter

Morning frost on lawn.
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Winter brings heavy blankets of snow in the northern half of the continental U.S. and the first freezes of the year in the South (minus the very southern parts of the country, which don’t get frost).

Throughout the winter cutting your grass is generally not necessary. However, if your grass is growing, then it will need to be cut. This can happen during unseasonably warm spells, just be sure the ground is reasonably dry and frost-free before pulling out the mower.

Here are some mowing tips for winter:

  • Continue to mow until your grass stops growing.

Warm-season lawn owners are generally done with mowing when the average temperature drops below 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember, if you live in a subtropical climate like Florida, you will likely need to keep mowing throughout the winter as part of winter lawn care.

Should you mow your lawn when it’s rainy?

when the grass is wet
Photo Credit: Pexels

No, you should always avoid mowing wet grass whenever possible. Mowing wet grass can cause all kinds of problems for you, your mower, and the grass. Not only is wet grass harder to mow since wet grass is slippery and may cause you to fall, but it’s also hard on your grass. Your mower can also get clogged and choked by clumps of wet grass.

Mowing your lawn when it’s wet can lead to tearing rather than cutting which can leave room for disease to creep in and set up camp. Cutting your grass when it’s wet can lead to fungal lawn diseases such as:

What do I do if it doesn’t stop raining? 

While it’s not advisable to mow wet grass, sometimes it’s unavoidable. For anyone who lives in a climate that has a rainy season, it can be difficult to find a day when the grass is completely dry. 

If you find yourself in such a situation, then check the weather forecast for the day with the lowest chance of rain and for the time of the day least likely to rain. If you have to mow after it rains, wait a few hours. You want to let the grass dry as much as possible before mowing.

If it keeps raining, you should try using a side discharge mower rather than a mulching one to mow your wet grass. It’s easier to mow wet grass than wet and overgrown grass. Here are some other tips for mowing wet grass:

  • Sharpen mower blades before mowing
  • Raise the mower deck
  • Stop and clean the underside of the mower periodically
  • Break up clumps of wet grass after mowing

Should I mow during a drought?

Lawn during drought
Photo Credit: Famartin | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Whenever you’re going through a drought, continue to mow the lawn about once every two weeks. Cutting grass in hot, dry weather can damage the lawn if you trim it more than twice a month when it hardly rains. 

Early in the drought, it’s a good idea to raise your mower deck for a higher-cut lawn. This helps produce more shade for the soil which encourages deeper roots and helps reduce evaporation and heat damage.

Your grass will likely go dormant if the drought persists; even the most drought-tolerant grasses will go dormant in the most extreme conditions. If your grass stops growing, don’t mow. Resume mowing when your lawn becomes revitalized.

If you want more tips on how to maintain a lawn during drought, you can read our articles here:

How often should you mow your lawn?

Mowing the same direction
Photo Credit: Pxhere

How often you cut your grass will depend on the season and how fast it grows, which can vary greatly depending on the weather and the type of grass in your yard. But a good rule of thumb is to plan to mow every four to six days during your turf’s active growing season.

You first need to know what type of grass you have then you can use our charts below to help you to know when you should cut your grass. Mow your lawn regularly so that you can follow the One-Third Rule of never cutting off more than a third of the total grass height at a time to avoid over-stressing your grass.

Here are the ideal cutting heights for cool-season and warm-season grasses:

Cool season grass typeIdeal lawn height (inches)Mow at this height (inches)
Fine fescue1.5 – 32 – 4
Kentucky bluegrass2 – 32.5 – 4
Perennial ryegrass2 – 32.5 – 4
Tall fescue2 – 42.5 – 5.25
Warm season grass typeIdeal lawn height (inches)Mow at this height (inches)
Bahiagrass3 – 44 – 5.25
Bermudagrass1 – 21.25 – 2.5
Buffalograss2 – 42.5 – 5.25
Carpetgrass1 – 21.25 – 2.5
Centipedegrass1.5 – 22 – 2.5
St. Augustinegrass2.5 – 43.25 – 5.25
Zoysiagrass1 – 2.51.25 – 3.25

After you mow your lawn, give the grass time to recover by not walking on it for at least 24 hours.

Pro tip: Don’t cut your grass too short. When your lawn is too short, it can turn yellow and brown in hot weather.

FAQs about the best time to mow your lawn

What is the fastest way to mow my lawn?

The most efficient way to mow your lawn involves making the fewest number of turns. According to David’s Lawn Mowing Efficiency Hierarchy, the list of fastest to most time-consuming mowing methods are:

  1. Spiral: Start from the outside and spiral into the middle. 
  2. Long stripes: Mow the long edge — the length of the rectangle — then u-turn, and go back the other way.
  3. Short stripes: Same as long stripes, but mow across the short side.
  4. Diagonal stripes: Start at one corner, and go back and forth across the diagonal.

What should I do with my grass clippings?

There are three options for grass clippings and all have their time and purpose:

Mulching 

Using your grass clippings as mulch is typically the most recommended use as it will reduce your need for fertilizer and improve soil nutrients. Use this method regularly with a healthy lawn for low-effort mowing and to provide free fertilizer for your grass, hydrate your lawn, reduce weeds, and prevent soil erosion.

Bagging 

This method leaves a clean, freshly mowed lawn that can help reduce allergies if someone in your household is sensitive to grass pollen. Use this method when you have diseased grass to prevent the spread of the disease to healthy parts of your lawn.

Discharging

This method of expelling the clippings to the side is used if the grass is wet or if it has grown too tall since the last time you mowed. However, this method will leave clumps of grass throughout your lawn which can be rather unsightly and can negatively affect your lawn’s health.

What do I do if my grass is overgrown?

Many experts, including those from the Utah State University Extension, recommend gradually lowering the mowing height until you reach the recommended mowing height for your grass. You may want to mow your lawn more often until you reach that point.

If you want a detailed guide, you might find our guide on How to Cut Long Grass helpful.

When to hire a lawn care pro to mow your lawn

The best times to mow your lawn are during mid-morning and late afternoon. The problem is that these times are typical work hours or just after (when many people would rather unwind than do lawn care).
If you, like many people, find yourself struggling to find time to do all your household chores, juggle work, and have time for yourself, let Lawn Love find a qualified local lawn care company to take care of all your outdoor needs.

Main Photo Credit: Pixabay

Janine Caayao

Janine Caayao has always been fascinated with growing plants, from fruits and veggies to bonsai trees and orchids. Now, she’s interested in urban gardening with her family. She loves finding new tips and tricks to keep their plants thriving.