Lawn Too High? How to Cut an Overgrown Lawn

Updated on April 30, 2019
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Thomas has skirmished with his fair share of untamed lawns and wants to help others successfully overcome the daunting task.

Does the lawn you inherited need a major manicure? Follow these steps to get yourself back on a regular schedule.
Does the lawn you inherited need a major manicure? Follow these steps to get yourself back on a regular schedule. | Source

How to Cut Extra-Long Grass

You’ll need a bit more patience with overgrown lawns than with a lawn someone was regularly cutting and maintaining. Getting the lawn into perfect shape is going to be a little bit more difficult.

Commercial lawn companies have equipment that will cut such a lawn, but it can be very expensive to hire them. And in the summer months they can be so busy that you will have to wait a long time before they can deal with the problem.

I hope that following these basic steps will give you a reasonable lawn without getting too complicated.

Required Tools for Cutting Long Grass

  • Lawn mower
  • String trimmer, scythe, or garden sickle
  • Sacrifier
  • Broadfork
  • Sand
  • Lawn fertilizer
  • Lawn seed
  • Work gloves
  • Safety goggles

1. Remove the Top Layer of Grass

This first step is the hardest. It will be a workout no matter what tool you use. I suggest using either a strimmer "string trimmer" or scythe. Many people are afraid of scythes, but in my experience, an Austrian scythe will cut through grass that is up to a meter tall without any trouble.

Many people will not have access to a scythe. Depending on the size of your garden, you can either use a sickle or strimmer. Both of these tools are available from at garden centers. Of the two, I think a strimmer is the best choice.

When cutting your lawn you will want a strimmer with a plastic wire attachment rather than a steel blade. I find that strimmers tend to tear the grass a lot, and the grass can get caught up in the tool. I recommend taking off a small section at a time and removing the waste.

Once you have removed the top layer of grass, you will need proceed until you can access the lawn. If the lawn has been left unattended for more than a year, the grass may have bent over, in which case you will have to keep on going over it with the strimmer until you have a lawn that can be cut with a mower.

After you have removed the first layer, I generally recommend watering the lawn thoroughly and leaving it as it is for a week or so to recover.

Don't Sweat It!

Caring for an overgrown lawn is a big job. Stay hydrated, and take a break if you find yourself getting too rattled. Remember to have patience, and adopt a gradual approach.

2. Trim a Second Time

Once you have left the lawn to recover for a week, it is time for the second trim. By this stage, you will probably have a lawn that is short enough to cut with a conventional lawn mower. However, before starting you need to set the lawn mower to the highest setting. Then, cut your lawn with the mower and try to make sure everything is even.

The reality is that after you are finished mowing it, the lawn will almost certainly look dreadful. Don’t worry about that. Things will improve over the next few weeks.

Which Lawn Mower is Best?

In general, if you are mowing a really tough patch of lawn, or a large lawn, you will want a gas mower. But if you have a small yard, an electric mower is best. I often use an electric mower in my own garden, in the tricky areas near the house, and it works very well.

Flower Border Edges

It is often best to strim or use your mower up to the flower border, and then use a trimmer to make the edge of the flower border nice and neat.

Your lawn may look dreadful after the second trim. Give it patience, and it will recover.
Your lawn may look dreadful after the second trim. Give it patience, and it will recover. | Source

3. Scarify (or Score) the Lawn

The next step is to scarify or score your lawn. This requires a lot of effort. Get a scarifying rake, and rake the lawn roughly one metre at a time. Get all the moss and weeds off the lawn. Once you have done this, have a cold drink and try not to look at the mess—it won’t be pretty.

Alternatively, if you have a really large garden, you can hire a machine that will do the job for you.

4. Deal With the Drainage

If you have any area in your lawn that is persistently wet, prod it over with a fork, and then brush sand into the lawn to fill holes and create drainage. You can speed this process up by renting machines to do it, but the machines work the same way. All you are doing is adding drainage holes to the lawn.

5. Feed the Lawn

If it's spring, buy a package of lawn fertilizer, and follow the directions on it. Remember that fertilizer shouldn’t normally be applied in autumn, since you don’t want to encourage green growth just before the frosts.

6. Reseed the Lawn

If you have any really bare patches, you can buy a bag of lawn seed and follow the directions on the packet. It can be a good idea to cover the seeded areas with prickly branches to stop birds eating the grass seedlings.

After you have done all this, the lawn may look pretty bad for a while. Thankfully, it will start to grow back, and you will be amazed how rapidly it begins to look like a well-maintained lawn. After that, all you have to do to keep the lawn serviceable is mow it regularly.

Tips for Treating an Overgrown Lawn

Keep these points in mind when managing your overgrown lawn.

  • Properly prepare your lawn mower for the heavy job ahead. Sharpen your blades to handle the heavy stress and tune up the engine if you have a gas mower.
  • Pause frequently when tending to an overgrown lawn. Electric motors can easily overheat due to the extra strain of tall grass. Gas mowers have a tendency to bog down and stall out.
  • Use a mulch collector to ensure that your lawn's vital nutrients are added back into the soil.
  • Taming an overgrown lawn should be done in the spring or summer. Winter is a risky time to mow your lawn because it may not cope with the cold weather and the stress of regular trimming.
  • Never cut more than one-third of your grass at any given time. Cut in different directions and avoid mowing when your lawn is wet.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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