It’s not the most pleasant summer chore, but it’s got to be done. Neglect it, and you’re sure to have critters and complaints. It’s lawn mowing, and there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Read on to find out if you are mowing your lawn in the best way possible.

Grass is not all the same. Find out what kind of grass your lawn is composed of and mow it to the height recommended. The optimal mowing height for cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass is 2-3 inches; for warm-season grasses like common Bermudagrass, it is 3/4 to 1 inch. You should never mow more than a third of the height of the grass. Scalping will place the grass under stress and lead to a thin lawn with plenty of room for weeds to grow.

Change the oil if you haven’t already. Inspect the blades. Are they clean and sharp? Dirty, dull blades can tear, rip and damage grass. If you didn’t empty the gas tank last season, do so now and gas up. Finally, start the mower and make sure all systems are go.

Mowing can be dangerous, so make sure you take all of the necessary precautions. Choose a good time to mow. Wet grass can clog mower blades quickly, so try to mow on a sunny day, preferably later in the morning when temperatures are cool and the grass is dry. Know your mower. Read the owner’s manual and never disable any of the safety features. Clear the area. Pick up loose rocks and branches, stray toys, trash and anything else the mower might hit and fling. Dress appropriately. Wear sturdy, non-slip shoes and some form of eye protection. Insist young kids and pets stay inside.

Mow like a pro. Move quickly in even rows to prevent the blades from getting clogged. Overlap rows by several inches on each pass to prevent strips of tall grass. Mow across slopes with a walk-behind mower or up and down slopes with a riding mower to prevent accidents. Leave the clippings. They will decompose quickly and put nutrients back into the soil. Finally, mow in a different direction each time. This will provide for a more even cut and prevent the grass from growing in the same direction.

You may need to mow your grass weekly or more depending upon the weather in your area. Should you miss a week, don’t try to make up for it by cutting the grass shorter. Mow as usual and mow again a few days later. This will give the grass ample time to recover and make for a thriving lawn.

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