So, how often SHOULD you mow your lawn, exactly?

If you want to neaten your lawn, you should mow. But too often stresses the plant and too rarely leaves your grass looking a mess. And how short you cut can make a big difference to
the longevity of your lawn.

And there’s a good argument for leaving your lawn to the wild.

So, from sharpening your cutting blades and choosing when in the springtime is best to start mowing to selecting the correct type of grass, this article is going to blow apart the myths!

Ready?

When can I start cutting my lawn?

The short answer is: don’t cut your lawn until March. In fact, Flymo suggests that “First Cut Sunday” is Sunday 28th March in 2021.

The slightly more detailed answer is, it really depends on where you live. If you live all the way up in the Highlands of Scotland, you should add at least two weeks to the advice the sun lovers on the South Coast of England might need to follow.

Your grass remains dormant until the soil temperature has reached 10ºC; it’s unwise to mow until it starts growing again. So, it’s the ambient temperature that’s the vital indicator here.

Look for new growth

Remember: the soil takes longer to warm up than the air. So you might be on short-sleeve order for a couple of weeks before the ground begins to warm.

You could use a soil thermometer if you want to be all scientific about it, or you could just wait for the signs of new growth before you consider mowing your lawn.

New growth indicates that the soil has reached the right temperature. If you can, let the grass grow for a little while before you jump in with the mower.

What happens if I cut my grass too early in the year?

The grass needs to be dry before you mow. So, if you cut too early in the year, the soil will be soggy, and the grass blades are likely to be wet.

Early mowing usually results in compacted grass, and there’s always the risk of damaging the roots.

Ultimately, cutting too early in the year causes patchy growth and dry, dying blades.

And no one wants that.

Cutting grass

Should I cut ALL of my lawn?

If you live in a suburban or urban area, you might think about leaving the first cutting of the year a little later or even preserving a section of your lawn to grow wild.

Chris Packham (of BBC’s Spring/Autumn Watch) suggests leaving a corner of your lawn unmowed to provide food for butterflies and insects, as well as shelter for animals such as hedgehogs.

You might want your lawn to be a lovely, neat carpet of green adorning your beautiful garden, but we share our space with a plethora of wildlife. And in built-up areas, our valuable wildlife needs all the help it can get.

Why should we care about insects?

Some of us consider insects a pest – they might bite us or eat our plants and crops. But it’s helpful to consider the bigger picture.

Insects are pollinators, and we need pollinators to contribute to the food chain. If you have a fruit tree or a veg patch, you definitely need pollinators to transform those pretty springtime flowers into fruit.

Without pollinators, the human race wouldn’t survive very long, after all, so we should learn to love our insect friends and live in harmony with them.

And your lawn is their home.

So, leaving a section of your lawn unmown makes a safe home for the insects and animals we rely upon and need to protect.

Have a pre-tidy before mowing

Over the winter, leaves and branches are likely to have landed on your lawn, and – if your grass is long – you might not spot them until they have blunted your lawnmower blades.

Tidying through the grass before mowing gives you an opportunity to remove stones that may have rolled out of flowerbeds and any other debris like old crisp packets and carrier bags that the wind may have carried into your garden.

During this pre-tidy, check for nesting animals who may still be hibernating. Hedgehogs, for example, are often to be found in piles of leaves or grass. If you do find a tiny home, please think about mowing around it.

Prepare your mower

It’s wise to carry out a maintenance check on your mower before you start using it each year; looking out – specifically – for blunt cutting blades.

Cutting your grass is a destructive act for the plant. Sharp cutting blades cut cleanly through the grass blade; blunt blades rip the grass.

A clean-cut heals quickly (and encourages the grass plant to release growth hormone), whereas a rip causes more significant surface area damage. And the larger the wound on the grass blade, the longer it takes for the plant to heal itself.

Wounded grass goes yellow or brown after cutting.
If you find that your grass looks sad and unhealthy after cutting, consider having your cutting blades sharpened.

Lawn mower maintenance

How short can I cut my grass?

If you enjoy a round of golf, you’ll notice that parts of the course are cut super-short. But, the potential minimum length of your grass depends on the grass species.

Most domestic grass isn’t suitable for super-short cutting. But if you do want a lawn like a bowling green, there is a way. Read on.

The rule of thumb – especially for the first cutting of the year is:

Never cut more than a third of the blade’s length.

The Rule of Thirds

As you mow throughout the year, you can gradually go shorter, but avoid “scalping” your lawn as it can lead to weed infestations and disease.

And those will cause the grass plants to die.

So, never cut more than a third of the blades’ existing length – even if you’ve
left it till the grass is knee height!

Don’t cut your grass too short

Each blade of grass is a leaf – and one of the principal purposes of leaves is to help the plant photosynthesise and create food for the plant from the sun.

So, if you cut the grass too short, there’s less leaf surface to photosynthesise, and – ultimately – your plant effectively starves and dies.

Tempting as it might be, don’t cut it too short.

But I want super-short grass!

OK!

We hear you.

Most domestic grass isn’t biologically built for really short mowing. The lower the blade, the more likely you are to damage the crown of the plant, making it vulnerable to disease and drought.

But, if you want neatly clipped, manicured grass like you might see on the golf course, you need to choose the correct type of ornamental grass seed.

Premium Lawn Grass Seed

Luckily, one of MOOWY’s founders, Louis Hooft, learnt his expertise at the Golf Academy in the United States, and he discovered the secrets of golf-course-standard lawns. And he used that learned expertise into our Premium Lawn Seed mix.

Our Premium Lawn Grass Seed contains a high percentage of red fescue for thickness, along with perennial ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass for structure and strength. This particular seed mix is tolerant of short mowing and – most importantly – thrives in the unpredictable UK climate.

The outstanding ornamental qualities of Premium Lawn Grass Seed produces a beautiful, slow-growing lawn that looks great when cut short.

Which brings us to the central question at hand:

Sowing grass seed with spreader

How often should I mow my lawn, exactly?

Mowing neatens your lawn, but – more significantly – it encourages healthy growth.

Wait until the grass is dry, as wet grass is more likely to tear, regardless of the sharpness of your cutting blade. And make your first cut at the end of March, moving into April.

Make sure that the cutting blades are at their highest setting for the first cutting of the year, and then – over the coming weeks – you can progressively move the blades lower each time; ensuring that you adhere to the Rule of Thirds.

Your grass will grow more rapidly in the summer and slow down again in the autumn. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends that you mow twice a week in summer but should minimise that to once a week during drought periods. During the spring and autumn, you can cut once a week unless growth remains particularly vigorous.

There’s usually no need to mow at all during the winter as the temperature falls below 10ºC.

If, however, we’re having an unusually mild winter and the grass continues growing, you can mow occasionally, with the blades at their highest setting.

Avoid cutting if the grass or the ground is wet, soft, or frozen.

You might find that shady areas of your lawn grow more slowly than areas in full sun, so you may need to mow those sections less frequently.

 

Ask MOOWY!

We love to be helpful at MOOWY, so if you have any questions that we haven’t covered in this article, please don’t hesitate to email us at hello@moowy.co.uk. We’ll get back to you in no time!

Thanks for reading. And happy mowing!

How to Improve Your Lawn in a Shaded Garden | Complete Guide

Does your lawn thrive in full sun? Does it look lush and green and weed-free but for a couple of dark spots that look thin, soggy, and full of moss?

Or maybe your lawn is completely shaded from full sun, and you think that you’re doomed to a lifetime of grotty grass coverage, surrounded by moss and weeds?

Well, we’re happy to inform you that you’re wrong! But not in a smug way, of course.

This article is going to share the secrets to a beautiful, lush, green lawn, even in the most shaded parts of your garden.

So, if you want to know how to turn your boggy, mossy, weedy patch into a beautiful thriving lawn that you’re proud of, read on.

 

If nothing grows in your shaded garden

If your garden is in full shade and feels like the place that plants go to die, there is hope!

Sure, the vast majority of garden plants need sunlight to thrive, but it’s a case of choosing varieties that thrive in the shade.

Think forests: when you go for a walk in woodland areas, you’ll notice a plethora of wildflowers that flourish under the shade of trees. And you’ll see that healthy grass grows between the trees as well.

So, your shaded garden might be a haven for weeds, but with the proper preparations (and soil conditions), you could have a beautiful lawn, with beds full of shade-loving plants.

But before we rush to the garden centre to pick our plants, we need to consider the soil.

Shady soil conditions

If you sit in full sun, you feel the benefit of the sun’s UV rays that heats your skin and everything within direct coverage. But sit in the shade, and the temperature drops, especially if there’s a breeze.

Shady lawns are subject to lower temperatures because they lack direct sunlight. However, they still usually receive the same amount of rainfall. The lower temperature, along with a proliferation of rainfall, makes shaded areas of your lawn cold and soggy, making it a haven for weeds and moss (and the worst possible conditions for most lawns).

But it’s not a disaster.

You CAN improve the chances of weed- and moss-free grass that thrives in the shade.

 

How do I improve the soil conditions of shaded areas?

The first thing to consider is how to raise the temperature of your shady soil.

Most grass seed requires the soil to reach at least 10ºC for it to germinate. But waterlogged soil takes much longer to heat up because it requires more energy to heat.

Soil in full sun is a good insulator of heat, absorbing heat relatively quickly and holding onto it, but soggy soil takes MUCH longer to warm up. Water is an ineffective insulator – think about how quickly your cup of tea goes cold.

So, think about improving the drainage of shaded areas to help the soil reach (and maintain) the right temperature for grass seed germination. It might take a little longer for your shaded soil to reach the right temperature, but it WILL get there with the proper treatment.

How do I improve the drainage of my soil?

Firstly, it’s essential to recognise what TYPE of soil you’re dealing with.

Heavy clay soil holds onto moisture well, while sandy soil is blessed with excellent drainage. We don’t need to worry so much about drainage for sandy soil – you just need to choose the correct variety of grass seed for shaded areas (more about that later).

 

How do I know what type of soil I have?

The easiest way to analyse your soil is to grab a handful and squeeze it in your palm for a couple of seconds (if the soil is dry, water it until it looks wet).

Open your palm, and examine what’s there.

If the soil has stuck together and resembles the stuff you used to make ashtrays with at school, unsurprisingly, you have heavy clay soil. This type of soil holds onto moisture and quickly becomes waterlogged.

If, on the other hand, the soil is still crumbly and falls apart again when you open your palm, then your soil is sandy, and the drainage of your soil is probably pretty good (but it still needs improvement).

 

So, sandy soils are brilliant, right?

Wrong. Sandy soils may drain well, but really sandy soil doesn’t hold onto moisture at all. Water runs through it efficiently (good times), but it washes away the nutrients easily (bad times).

Sandy soils need regular fertilisation and watering to boost nutrient levels. Mixing plenty of organic matter into your sandy soil will improve its texture and water retention.

Read on for tips on digging in organic matter to improve the soil condition.

 

Lawn feed granulate

 

How do I improve heavy clay soil?

Like sandy soil, clay soil is both a blessing and a curse. Clay soils are moisture-retentive and rich in mineral nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. So, whatever grows in clay soils enjoys a nutrient-rich, drought-resistant environment.

So it’s not all bad.

But it’s the drainage that’s the problem here.

Luckily, there are plenty of solutions, from soil conditioner and coarse grit to adding well-rotted compost and fertilisers, which helps to aerate the soil and improve the drainage.

Mixing grit into the soil reduces its heavy density and improves drainage, but it also improves your plants’ ability to develop healthy root networks.

 

 

How do I prepare heavy clay soil?

We’re not going to lie – this is going to take a bit of effort. But it’s well worth it, and you’ll reap the benefits later on down the line.

You’ll need at least 6-8 inches of organic matter to mix into the soil. Make that a combination of coarse grit and homemade compost (if you have it) or shop-bought bagged compost if you don’t.

Better get your digging gear on!

Mix the organic matter into the top 6-12 inches of the soil – don’t be shy of disturbing the earth with your digging fork or spade. If digging is a strain for your back, however, you could consider tilling the soil using a tiller tool.

This is going to make a mess of your existing lawn; there’s no doubt. But it WILL be worth it in the long run. If your lawn is in partial shade, you probably only need to focus on the shady areas if your grass is doing well in full sun.

Once you’ve finished digging and mixing, the soil level will appear higher than the rest of the lawn. This will break down over time, but – essentially – you’ve created better soil conditions for lawn growth.

 

Is that it?

Not quite; but this single job will have a lasting effect. If you do the soil test again after completing the above task, you’ll find that the soil isn’t as heavy and doesn’t stick together as much as it did.

However:

Over time, the soil settles and can become compacted and heavy again.

So, it’s crucial to regularly aerate the soil with a garden fork or aerating sandals.

Yes – you read that correctly: aerating sandals.

 

What are aerating sandals?

Aerating sandals are simple devices with spikes on the underside that slip over your shoes (make sure you attach them the right way round!!!!).

Once you’ve slipped the sandals over your shoes, all you need to do is walk across your lawn. Don’t just stick to the shaded areas we’ve been working with – all lawns benefit from regular aeration.

When you step on the lawn, you’ll notice a very satisfying sinking feeling – that’s the spikes sinking into the soil.

And that’s it. Enjoy it!

Create lots of tiny holes in the surface of your soil, and you’ve instantly improved your drainage.

 

Is that everything I need to do to improve my lawn in a shady garden?

No. The next step is essential.

Once you’ve treated your soil, you’ll need to sow new grass seed – and this is where you might have possibly gone wrong in the past: you need the correct type of seed for shady lawns.

Most grass does best in full sun, but you want a lawn seed variety that thrives in the shade, like our Shade & Sun lawn seed.

Our Shade & Sun seed mix has a high proportion of Red Fescue which does well in the shade. Along with Perennial Ryegrass for fast growth and Kentucky Bluegrass (don’t worry – it’s green!) for longevity, Shade & Sun sown over freshly prepared soil will provide a fantastic, resistant lawn that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Sowing grass seed by hand

How do I sow lawn seed?

The simple answer is to sprinkle the seed on top of the soil. The grass seed needs contact with the soil and access to any available light, so lay the seed on top of the earth – don’t cover it over.

Ensure that the seed makes contact with the soil – you could gently rake it in if you’re not sure.

Check out our experts’ guide to growing lawn seed for more information.

Shaded Garden

 

Beautiful lawns in shady areas

So, there you have it. You CAN have a beautiful, thriving lawn in shaded areas. It takes a bit of work, but there are few things in life that come easily.

With a bit of love and attention, your lawn will establish well in the shade and look beautiful for years to come.

 

Ask MOOWY

You might have some questions. Luckily, we love questions and we love to help.

So, get in touch, and we’ll be happy to help you develop your lawn into one that you’ll love for years to come.