When it comes to lawn care, one of the most frequently asked questions is what time of day is best for mowing the lawn. The short answer is that the ideal time to mow your lawn is in the early morning, right after the dew has dried. But why is the morning the optimal time for lawn mowing? There are several factors to consider when determining the best time to cut your grass.
One of the main reasons mornings are ideal for lawn mowing is because of the morning dew. Dew forms on grass blades overnight as temperatures drop and moisture condenses on the grass. Cutting wet grass can lead to a poor cut. It also allows disease organisms to enter the grass blades. Wait until the dew has dried completely before mowing for a clean, even cut.
Early morning is also when grass is the most hydrated. The grass blades are full of water, which makes them more rigid and upright. This leads to a more even and consistent cut compared to later in the day when the grass blades are dry, limp, and prone to bending over. Hydrated turf in the morning means you’ll get a crisp, clean cut.
Temperature is another factor that makes the morning the prime grass cutting time. The heat of the day can cause grass blades to dry out very quickly. Hot temperatures may scalp or burn the lawn. It’s best to mow early before the sun gets too strong and heats up the lawn. Lower temperatures in the morning are easier on the grass and provide a comfortable environment for you to work in.
Avoid Afternoon Heat
Mowing in the intense midday sun and heat should always be avoided. Aside from the scalding lawn temperatures, the hot sun can quickly lead to heat exhaustion, sunburn, and dehydration for the person mowing the lawn. Late mornings and afternoons are the peak sun and heat periods that should be avoided when cutting the grass.
Morning Air Flow
Air flow is greater during the early morning hours than later in the afternoon. More air circulation allows for faster drying and discharge of clippings. Thicker grass and damp clippings left in the lawn can lead to fungus and disease issues. The increased air movement in the morning lifts and blows away cut grass pieces.
Morning dew and cooler temperatures also mean less evaporation. After mowing, some evaporation of moisture occurs where the grass blades are cut. Lower evaporation decreases water loss and stress on the freshly cut grass. Less moisture loss helps the turf stay vibrant and recover faster.
Avoid Intense Sunlight
Exposing freshly mowed grass to intense direct sunlight right after cutting should always be avoided. The hot sun will dry out the clipped grass blades, increase evaporation, and cause extra stress on the lawn. Give newly cut grass some time to recover without direct sun beating down on it.
Good Lighting Conditions
Early morning sunshine provides ideal lighting conditions for mowing the lawn. The angle of the sun in the morning casts shadows that make it easier to see missed patches and uneven spots. Bright overhead sunlight washes out the lawn and makes it hard to notice uneven turf. Take advantage of the helpful early morning lighting.
Less Lawn Traffic
Mowing early in the day means fewer people, pets, bikes, etc will be passing over the lawn. After cutting, foot traffic on the tender grass can damage the turf. Less early morning activity means less compaction and trampling of the freshly cut blades.
Avoid Wet Grass
A general rule of thumb is to avoid mowing wet grass at all costs – whether it’s from morning dew, recent rain showers, or irrigation. Mowing wet grass can leave clumps, create an uneven cut, and is bad for the mower blade. Let the grass fully dry first before running the mower over it.
Morning Prep Work
Prepping a lawn for cutting by clearing debris, sticks, toys, hoses, etc is much easier in the morning light.Tidying up the lawn area first thing prepares it for a smooth, unobstructed cut when it’s time to mow.
Humidity levels tend to be lower during the morning and rise as the day heats up. Lower humidity provides a more comfortable environment for mowing. Thick humidity in late mornings and afternoons can create a sticky, muggy yard cutting experience.
Avoid Hot Surfaces
Hard surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, stone patios, etc can get extremely hot in the afternoon sun. These surfaces then radiate more heat. Mowing in the cooler mornings prevents hot surfaces from further raising temperatures in the lawn.
Ground level ozone is typically worst in the afternoon and early evenings on hot, sunny days. This pollution can damage plant health. Mowing in the mornings avoids peak ozone periods and reduces plant stress.
Avoid Afternoon Storms
In some climates, daily afternoon thunderstorms are common. Getting caught mowing in a popup storm can be dangerous. Scheduling lawn cutting for the mornings circumvents unpredictable afternoon showers.
Research shows mornings are the best time for grass recovery after mowing. The lawn has all day to rebound before the temperature drops in the evening. Cutting later in the day gives the grass less time to bounce back before night.
Weather and lawn conditions are often more consistent in the mornings than later in the day. Taking advantage of stable early morning temperatures, moisture, and humidity leads to uniform mowing conditions.
Morning Work Scheduling
Mowing first thing allows you to get the lawn work done early and out of the way. The chore is finished so you can move on to other yard tasks, jobs, family time, etc for the rest of the day.
Avoid Bees and Wasps
Bees forage most actively mid to late mornings and afternoons. They remain in their hives early in the day. Mowing then avoids disturbing these pollinators during their peak activity periods. It also prevents aggravating wasps that get more defensive as the day heats up.
Less Lawn Stress
All of the factors that make mornings ideal mowing times add up to less stress on the turf. Less heat, evaporation, traffic, etc creates healthier growing conditions. Less stressed grass recovers faster and stays greener.
Disadvantages of Mowing at Night
Mowing at night may seem like a solution for avoiding the intense midday heat. However, nighttime cutting comes with its own set of disadvantages:
- Poor visibility and lighting make it harder to see lawn debris that can damage blades.
- Cooler temperatures increase dew formation which leads to wet grass.
- Tall grass can fold over rather than get cut cleanly at night.
- Disturbing neighbors with late night mowing noise may cause complaints.
- Hard to notice if any adjustments need to be made to mower settings.
- Increased risk of slips, trips, and falls in the dark.
- Night mowing headlights disturb pollinators and nocturnal wildlife.
To avoid all of these issues, the ideal timeframe for mowing is during the AM hours when conditions align for success.
How Early is Too Early?
Mowing extremely early while neighbors are still asleep is also inconsiderate. A general guideline is to hold off until after 6 or 7am. Here are some other factors to help determine the ideal early morning mowing window:
- Wait until sunlight is sufficient to see clearly and evaluate lawn conditions.
- Allow dew to fully evaporate – this is typically within 1-2 hours of sunrise.
- Grass should be dry from any previous evening watering schedule.
- Morning traffic and activity levels around the lawn should be light.
- Temperatures should still be cool, under 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
With all these points taken into account, the prime time for mowing is usually from 7 to 10am. But this may vary based on season, location, and weather.
Ideal Mowing Windows by Season
The best mowing window shifts throughout the year as day length changes. Here are the ideal times based on season:
8am to 11am
Spring has mild temperatures but lots of growth with spring rains. Dew dries fast with low humidity. Target 8 to 11am to avoid midday heat buildup.
7am to 10am
The heat arrives early in summer. Start by 7am to beat the worst heat. Humidity also picks up so dew dries faster.
8am to 11am
As temperatures cool in fall, the prime window shifts later again. Mow from 8 to 11am once dew lifts but before peak midday sunshine.
9am to Noon
Colder temperatures push the ideal mowing time even later. Wait until 9am or later for sun to fully thaw lawns. Finish by early afternoon before it starts cooling again.
How Frequent is Mowing Needed?
In addition to when to mow, the next key question is how often your lawn needs to be cut. Mowing frequency is determined by:
- Grass type – Fescue vs Bermuda for example
- Season – Faster growth in spring means mowing more often
- Weather – More water and fertiziler results in faster growth
- Shade levels – Grass in full sun grows quicker than shaded areas
- Lawn health – Thicker, vigorous lawns need more mowing
As a general rule, mowing twice per week is recommended for very active lawns, and at least once per week for average home lawns. But monitor your specific grass and climate and adjust mowing as needed. If grass gets too tall between cuts, avoid cutting more than 1/3 of the blade height at a time to prevent scalping.
Lawn Mowing Equipment
Having the right mowing equipment for your lawn size and terrain is key to an effective grass cutting. The most common options include:
Manual push mowers powered by the operator are ideal for small, flat lawns under 1/4 acre. Look for good wheels, adjustable heights, and easy starting.
Self Propelled Mowers
Self propelled power the mower forward without pushing. These are perfect for moderate sized, relatively flat lawns up to 1/2 acre.
Riding lawn tractors allow mowing larger properties efficiently. Consider a riding mower for lawns 1/2 acre and above, or with slopes or hills.
Zero Turn Mowers
For maximum mowing speeds, zero turn mowers have a zero degree turning radius using dual levers. They work well for larger yards over 1 acre.
Robotic mowers automate the mowing process through battery powered, programmable units. They independently cut the lawn area on set schedules with no effort needed. While expensive upfront, robotic mowers save time in the long run.
Adjusting mowing heights is another key factor depending on seasons and grass types:
|Grass Type||Cut Height|
|St. Augustine||3-4 inches|
|Kentucky Bluegrass||2-3 inches|
Also cut lawns slightly higher in shaded areas and the hot summer months. Lower heights work when lawns are dormant in winter.
Mowing patterns can also create a more uniform cut. Avoid erratic mowing:
- Pick a set pattern and stick to it
- Stripes, zig-zags, and checkerboards work well
- Alternate direction between mowings
- Overlap each pass slightly for complete coverage
Deciding whether to bag or mulch lawn clippings is another important mowing decision. Bagging provides a clean cut but removes nutrients in the grass. For greener lawns, mulching chops clippings into the soil as a natural fertilizer. Just be sure to mow often so clippings don’t get too thick.
Watering After Mowing
Allowing the lawn to completely dry after morning cutting before watering again is recommended. Then set sprinklers to run in early afternoon to avoid wet nighttime conditions. Let grass blades fully heal and seal before rewetting.
Mowing Safety Tips
Always keep safety foremost when operating any lawn mowing equipment:
- Wear eye protection and closed toe shoes
- Keep hands and feet away from moving parts
- Watch for debris, holes, stumps, or uneven ground
- Set blade heights with the motor off
- Refuel with a cool engine away from ignition sources
- Pick up sticks, rocks, trash, and other objects beforehand
- Allow equipment to cool before performing any maintenance
- Keep children and pets away from mowing areas
Morning is considered the best time to mow grass for many reasons – dew evaporation, lower temperatures, less lawn traffic, ideal growing conditions, and consistency.Aim for the 7 to 10am mowing window based on your climate and season. Mow frequently enough to keep grass 1/3 its height and alternate mowing patterns. With the right mowing strategy and equipment, you’ll achieve a healthy, thriving lawn.