Is now the time for the first lawn cut of the year? The experts have their say

A person pushes a blue lawn mower with a red engine top across a grass lawn that is half mowed
The first lawn cut of the year should never be when the grass is wet (Image credit: Getty)

Has the milder weather got you thinking about making the first lawn cut of the year? It's important not to jump the gun on this crucial task as mowing the lawn too early can cause damage to the grass.

With lawn mowing, we go by weather and conditions rather than specific dates on the calendar. Particularly as climate and seasonality is becoming more difficult to predict. Depending on where you live the question of when to make the first lawn cut of the year will give a different answer.

As well as knowing when to do this, even with the best cordless lawnmowers it's important to know how. So we approached some lawn care experts to shed some light on when and how to make the first mow after winter.

How to make the first lawn cut of the year

If you're asking yourself: can I cut wet grass?, the answer is that it is important to wait for a dry day to make the first lawn cut of the year, or indeed any lawn cut. 

"The best time to mow your lawn ideas is in the late morning or early afternoon when the grass is dry. Mowing wet grass can lead to uneven cuts and can also spread diseases," says Aleksandar Kolarov, garden maintenance specialist at Fantastic Gardeners.

Gardener taking wet grass out of lawn mower

Not only can mowing very wet grass be bad for your lawn, it can also damage your mower — it can block the underside of the deck or the grass chute (Image credit: Zoonar RF / Getty Images)

1. Prep your lawn and mower

Even if you're using the best petrol lawn mower, it may need a bit of love after a season in the shed. "Just like any pruning activity, the sharpness of your tools is paramount. Ensuring your mower blade is sharpened, ideally at least once per month, is crucial," says David Hedges Gower. 

"Additionally, it's essential to clear your lawn of any unwanted materials such as twigs or stones. Avoid the temptation to stripe the lawn too early, as excessive turning can damage already thin areas," he explains.

Gardener raking up dead leaves from a lawn

(Image credit: Sebastian Condrea / Getty Images)
Portrait shot of David Hedges Gower, a lawn expert
David Hedges-Gower

David is one of the UK's leading lawn experts, with over 30 years' experience in the industry. He is Chairman of the Lawn Association, an educational platform for homeowners and professionals, and founded the world's first lawn care qualification.

2. Give it a light trim only

"Use the 'one third' rule for the first lawn cut of the year. To do this, you should set your lawnmower to its highest setting for the first cut, then never cut down more than one third of the grass’s total height each time you mow," says Timothy Green.

"It’s worth mentioning that the lawn type and grass seed you’ve used will also determine what mowing height is best for prolonged growth over time. For example, a 20-40mm mowing height is ideal for general use and family lawns, whereas 10-20mm is perfect for ornamental lawns."

Man mowing the lawn for the first time after winter

(Image credit: Yon Marsh / Alamy Stock Photo)

3. Gradually decrease the length

"Over time you can cut your grass shorter until you get it to the height you want. But this is best done over several weeks because cutting it too short in one go, especially at the start of the season, will weaken your grass and invite weeds and moss to move in," says Timothy Green. 

"Typically, after the first mow in February, you may not need to mow again until March. After that, as temperatures warm up, aim for mowing every two weeks, gradually transitioning to a weekly mow as the season progresses," says David Hedges Gower.

If you find bare patches in your grass then you should take a look at how to overseed a lawn.

A mowed lawn in the garden

(Image credit: Andrii Shablovskyi / Alamy Stock Photo)

FAQs

When should I do the first lawn cut of the year?

"Start mowing only once the grass has begun to actively grow. Cutting too early can result in damage to the grass blades, which may prevent the lawn from being able to grow back properly," says Ryan Patterson, Product Specialist at Husqvarna UK.

"Historically, the average time when you should aim to mow your lawn in the UK is around mid-March (when warmer weather is arriving and your grass is starting to show signs of growth)," says Timothy Green, lawn expert at iCANLAWN.com.

However there are many factors which could see you mow your lawn earlier or later. "There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to this question," explains David Hedges Gower, the chairman of the Lawn Association. "Generally, aim to mow your lawn as conditions begin to warm, which could be as early as February in some parts, particularly with warming weather patterns," says David. 

The solution here is to check your local weather forecast. "If you live in the south of England, the perfect grass-cutting conditions will likely come sooner than in the highlands of Scotland, so be sure to check your local forecast before pulling the mower out of the shed or garage," says Timothy Green.

Ryan Patterson headshot
Ryan Patterson

With multi-year experience in product management and marketing in garden, his knowledge and experience spans across all forest and gardening tools including robotic lawn mowers, chainsaws, and a range of smart garden tools for both homeowners and professional users. 

How short should I mow my lawn in the spring?

'When first mowing your lawn, avoid cutting more than 20% off the top of your grass at once,' say Flymo. 'Grass is a living organism, and lasting damage can occur if it’s cut too short. To achieve the grass height you’d like, it’s better to reduce the cutting height gradually over a few weeks to minimise stress and damage to your lawn.'  

However, other experts suggest using your common sense and just bearing in mind that you don't want to go too short with the first cut.

'There’s a rule of thumb people quote – I’ve used it myself many times – never cut more than one-third off the current length,' says David Hedges Gower. 'But this actually comes from the sports turf world and isn’t actually very helpful to gardeners — how often do you want to go around with your ruler before cutting?'

Finally, if you are wondering how to get rid of moss in lawns, you should know that cutting your lawn too short is amongst the possible causes of excessive moss growth. 

Can I mow wet grass?

You've decided that your grass is crying out for its first cut of the year, wake up, open the curtains and its pouring down — what do you do? Most experts agree that the best course of action is to delay the job until another day.

"Cutting your lawn when it’s wet is never recommended if you plan on using an electric lawnmower," says Flymo. "As the saying goes: water and electricity never mix! Apart from the obvious safety concerns regarding grass becoming slippery when wet, especially when cutting banks or slopes, mowing your lawn when it is wet can also damage your lawn and prevent it from looking neat and tidy."

The RHS' experts agree saying that you should never mow if the ground conditions are very soft, wet or frozen.

How often should I cut my grass?

Once that first grass cut of the season has been made, just how often should you aim to mow thereafter?

In order to keep your lawn in the best condition, minimise weeds and encourage denser turf, the RHS say that you should mow either weekly or fortnightly between the months of March and October. 

Flymo's experts agree. "By the end of June to early July, you should mow the grass once a week to maintain a pristine lawn," they say.

And finally, once you do get back into the swing of mowing your lawn regularly, be sure to take good care of your mower to get the best results.

"As with sewing or hair-cutting scissors, you get the best result from a sharp blade, and a progressively poor result each subsequent cut until you sharpen it again," warns David Hedges Gower.


If you are landscaping your garden after a renovation of self build project, take a look at our guide to garden design as well as our landscaping tips.

Teresa Conway
Deputy editor on Homebuilding & Renovating

Teresa was part of a team that launched Easy Gardens in 2018 and worked as the Editor on this magazine. She has extensive experience writing and editing content on gardens and landscaping on brands such as Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors and Living Etc magazine. She has developed close working relationships with top landscape architects and leading industry experts, and has been exposed to an array of rich content and expertise.

In 2020 Teresa bought her first home. She and her partner worked alongside architects and builders to transform the downstairs area of her two bedroom Victorian house in north London into a usable space for her family. Along the way she learned the stresses, woes and joys of home renovation, and is now looking to her next project, landscaping the back garden. 

With contributions from