Lawn Mower Height Settings: Which One is Best for My Grass?

Once you know how high you should mow your lawn, the next step is to adjust your lawn mower’s height settings to match your preference. 

Mowing your lawn at the correct height and adjusting your lawn mower’s deck to match that height can be very beneficial to your lawn and reduce some risks associated with mismanagement. 

Your lawn mower’s height should be adjusted after considering several factors. These factors include your type of lawn, the type of lawn mower and how often you mow the lawn. Whilst certain height settings are advised for most lawns, it’s important to take these factors into account when deciding for yourself.

How High Should I Cut My Grass?

The length of your grass can impact its health dramatically, particularly if you’re mowing a new lawn for the first time. When adjusting your lawn mower deck, it’s important to remember the effects on grass that are caused by an improperly mowed lawn. 

It’s a common misconception that lawns should be mowed short (less than 2 inches). Whilst it may be a popular aesthetic, particularly in modern culture, it can actually have long lasting effects on the grass and the roots beneath it. 

Short grass can have many negative effects on the soil, as well as the roots. Unless the type of grass you have is designed to thrive when cut short, it’s always advised that under 2 inches can lead to afflictions such as compaction of soil, which can leave your lawn susceptible to certain diseases. It can also lead to a lack of air circulation, and can require frequent aeration in an attempt to combat it.

Before you decide to mow your lawn, you should have a good idea of what type of grass you have. There are different types of grass, each with its own requirements and differences. Whilst this guidance is generalized, it’s important to double-check what type of grass you have in case it is an outlier or has different needs.  

a red lawn mower trims the grass as it is walked

What are the Benefits of Tall Grass?

The ideal length of grass is between 2-4 inches tall. This is because it is most beneficial to the grass at this length. Tall grass is likely to be healthier, likely to maintain its green coloring better and likely to suffer less from lawn disease. This is due to the grass’ roots, which also grow in accordance to the length of the grass. For example, grass that is taller will have longer roots. Roots often extend underground 2-3x the length of the grass above. Longer, denser roots are more likely to promote a healthier, greener lawn due to their robust nature.

How to Change a Lawn Mower’s Height Setting

In order to adhere to the ideal grass length, it’s vital that your lawn mower’s height settings are adjusted to reflect it. 

Depending on your lawn mower, there are different ways you can successfully adjust the height of the deck. 

Make sure you read the manual before making any adjustments to your lawn mower. Lawn mowers are all built differently and each manual will outline different mechanisms that your lawn mower will possess. Whilst this advice is all generalized, it’s safest to also check your lawn mower’s manual for additional steps or clarification.

Different types of lawn mowers each have their own different ways of adjusting the height of their blades. 

Adjusting Height on a Rotary Lawn Mower 

Rotary mowers are amongst the more common types of lawn mower available, so their height adjustment process is fairly straightforward. There are a couple of different mechanisms that these types of mower may have to alter their heights. 

Make sure that your lawn mower is turned off before making any adjustments to it to ensure safety. If adjusting a gas mower, make sure that nothing is touching or pressing the safety catch. 

Axle Adjustment

The axles help hold up and support the wheels of any automobile. They are used for this purpose on lawn mowers as well. The easiest way to adjust the height of a lawn mower is to simply adjust the axles holding the lawn mower up. It may be slightly primitive compared to some other methods mentioned, but this is typically the way in which cheaper or older lawn mowers are adjusted. 

In order to do this, it may mean physically taking the wheels off the lawn mower and reattaching them on a higher setting.

Wheel Levers

Each individual wheel may have a lever next to it which can adjust the height of the lawn mower. These levers are easy to find by looking, and this is often the most common way in which lawn mowers offer the ability to adjust height. To ensure that the lawn mower is even, each lever will need to be adjusted to a uniform setting. 

Single Levers

SIngle levers are becoming increasingly popular in lawn mower designs. This method works the same way as multiple individual levers, but it is just one lever controlling all four wheels. This mechanism doesn’t look too dissimilar to a shift stick and is often located near one of the axles on the side of the lawn mower. This adjustment method is used often on high end lawn mowers and ride-on lawn mowers. 

Adjusting Height on a Ride-On Mower

Ride-on mowers are much more complex due to their top-end prices and advanced machinery. These mowers are often used for areas that have a lot of grass to cut, and speed the process up a lot. Whilst most ride-on mowers offer a single lever solution to height adjustment, others can be more complicated. If your ride-on mower doesn’t have a single lever function, it’s likely that it has individual levers for each wheel. 

As ride-on mowers are larger and more complex, it’s important to double check the manual before attempting any maintenance or adjustments. 

Whilst you are maintaining your lawn mower’s deck, perhaps it would be a good idea to take the time to also sharpen your lawn mower’s blades. 

Unsure How High to Leave Your Lawn Mower?

If you’re still unsure of what height to leave your lawn mower at, it may cross your mind that the mid-tier is the best as it is in the middle. However, this is a poor choice to make. It’s always better to trim your grass higher rather than lower when you’re unsure. The highest setting is the best to leave it at for your grass’ sake. 

How Often Should You Mow the Lawn?

As established, the lawn should be kept fairly long in order for it to remain healthy and green. In order to accomplish this, you may need to adjust your mowing habits. 

How often you mow the lawn should depend on the height, type and quality of your grass. It shouldn’t be done on a timely basis as these factors could potentially change depending on the time of year and health of the lawn itself. Instead, it’s advised to follow the ⅓ rule. This rule dictates that when you mow the lawn, you should be doing so to only remove ⅓ of the blades. This means that, if you were to keep your lawn at a 2” height, you would need to mow it once the grass had grown to 3”. 

Your grass’ type and health can play a key part in how often you mow the lawn.

Maintenance for a Healthy Lawn 

Simply cutting your lawn and keeping it at an adequate length isn’t enough to ensure its health- even though it can help. There are additional things you can do to help keep your lawn as healthy as possible. 

  • Fertilizers – Fertilizing your lawn correctly and fertilizing often can keep your grass strong and hardy. It can also prevent certain types of fungus such as lawn rust from becoming a problem. Always check to see which fertilizer works best for your lawn and can provide desired results. 
  • Aerate – Aeration may need to be done every now and then to improve the amount of air that your lawn has access to. Whilst needing to aerate your lawn often could be a sign that your lawn is unhealthy or growing incorrectly, it can sometimes be used routinely as a means of ensuring that your lawn stays healthy too. Take note that you should wait between two and four weeks after aerating your lawn before mowing for the first time.
  • Dethatching – Dethatching your lawn helps with the aeration process. It can be done with a rake or a specialist dethatching rake. Some grass has a habit of clumping close to the soil and trapping air in its entanglement. This can increase humidity, leaving your lawn at more risk of fungus or other disease. 
  • Irrigation – Installing an irrigation system is one of the best hands-off approaches to lawn maintenance. This ensures that the lawn is watered adequately during summer months, and leaves you with time to focus on other tasks. 
  • Make sure it is weed free – Weeds can strangle grass roots and cause problems for your lawn. Some weeds are also unsightly, and some can even produce irritants. 

Final Thoughts

Contrary to popular belief, a lawn shouldn’t be cut extremely short unless it is viable at that length. Most lawns are not made for this type of cutting, and are best left to grow a little longer before their next cut. Making sure that your lawn mower is adapted for these kinds of cuts is important, as it lowers the risk of certain lawn diseases. When mowing your lawn, make sure that your lawn mower has been adjusted to cut your grass long, to allow it to remain healthy and green. Most lawn mowers use one of the three most popular adjustment methods to heighten their decks. These include wheel levers, single levers or axle adjustments. The method that your lawn mower requires is dependent on the make, age and type of lawn mower you have. 

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