Should you stop mowing your lawn for winter? Experts explain when to stop cutting the grass

Knowing when to stop cutting the grass before the colder months will help maintain a healthy lawn. These experts explain why

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When should you stop mowing your lawn for winter? It's a question most of us ask ourselves year after year, but we're really none the wiser. In most cases, the weather gets cooler, the days get shorter, and there simply comes an arbitrary time when you put the lawn mower away in the garage and decide it's staying there until spring. 

This laidback approach to lawn care might have seen you through countless winters so far, but knowing when to stop mowing your grass really helps to keep your backyard's health in check. Although you might assume you can ignore your lawn completely come the fall, our lawns actually deserve some serious attention this time of year to guarantee luscious green grass when the weather warms up again. 

When it comes to your backyard, some of us aren't as clued up on nature's ways as others. If you're in the less green-thumbed camp, we've compiled some expert advice from gardeners and lawn care experts to help you decide when to stop mowing your lawn depending on your climate, as well as tips on how to improve the quality of your grass. 

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Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. She's committed to helping readers make the best choices in their homes (and gardens) through sharing practical tips and guides. For this piece she asked gardeners and lawn experts for their advice on when to stop mowing your lawn for winter. 

 Why should you stop mowing your grass during winter?

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Before we address the question of when to stop mowing the lawn, we need to understand why it's important. Most of us know that the growth of our grass slows down in winter, so, naturally, it doesn't need cutting as often. However, even if it does look like your grass has grown, you should still avoid cutting it as you could cause damage to its health. 

'It's important to avoid mowing during wet, weather conditions as this can damage the turf and cause erosion,' explains Jon Callahan, Founder and CEO of blog, OwtDores (opens in new tab). 'When the weather starts to cool down, the blades of your lawnmower become less efficient and will not cut as well.'

What's more, regular mowing during cooler damp weather can cause your lawn to become bogged with water. Not only does this run the risk of turning your backyard into a mud bath, but it can really damage the soil under your lawn too. As Jon explains: 'Too much continuous moisture in the soil caused by regular mowing becomes locked up and causes dampness that can lead to pests, diseases and even lawn heaving.' 

 When should you stop cutting your grass?

Exterior shot of a modern home with a small lawn in the backyard

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The deciding factor when it comes to stowing the lawn mower away for another year really boils down to one thing - the temperature. For this reason, it's difficult to give a precise time of year to stop mowing your lawn as it depends on your area's climate as well as the weather conditions.

In general, mid to late fall is the best time to stop cutting the grass. Check the temperature around mid October and use this as a guide. 

'If you're cutting your grass regularly, it's usually best to stop by the end of November, when the temperature is between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit,' explains Jon. 'This is when the ground has had a chance to thaw out and properly bind the soil together.'  

When it comes to lawn care in winter, it's vital that you stop cutting the grass before regular ground frosts. If a frost occurs within the new few days after cutting your grass, it can cause long term damage to your lawn's health. There won't be any need to cut your grass once temperatures have plummeted this low anyway, since growth will have slowed down significantly. 

As Jeremy Yamaguchi,  CEO of Lawn Love (opens in new tab) explains: 'Once temperatures are below the 50 Fahrenheit mark, most species of grass naturally go dormant and thus no longer need to be mowed.'

He adds: 'In areas like the Midwest where winter comes earliest, this usually happens in around early October, and in other areas like the Southwest, this can be as late as late November or early December.'  

Is it better to cut the grass short or long before you stop mowing?

Garden by Jo Thompson MSGD

(Image credit: Garden by Jo Thompson MSGD)

Once the time for that final mow rolls around, you might be wondering whether it's best to set your mower's cutting height to a high or low setting. 

Really, this will depend on your landscaping and how much shade your lawn has. If your backyard is in lots of shade through the winter, adjusting your mower's setting half an inch higher than usual will allow the grass to photosynthesize better when it is in the sunshine. You might want to adjust your setting for different parts of your garden depending on how much sunlight those areas get. 

Jon thinks a good idea to cut your grass short, though, in most cases. 'Cutting your grass short before winter can reduce its water needs as well as help preserve moisture in the soil during cold weather months,' he explains.

But gardeners are divided. If you live in an area that experiences lots of frosts, keeping your grass longer can help it cope with the cold weather, preventing the frost from penetrating too deep. And since the larger the surface area of a plant's leaves, the more sunshine it can get, longer grass through winter is likely to help long-term health. We'll leave it to you to decide whether to cut long or short, but it won't be the be all and end all of your lawn's health. 

 When should you start mowing your lawn again? 

A garden with two red chairs and a wooden table on a small lawn surrounded by foliage and a hydrangea bush

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It might be a while off now, but knowing when to start mowing again is really important, too. As a good rule of thumb, your should wait until there are no more signs of frost. 

'Early in the spring is usually the perfect time to start mowing your lawn again,' says Jon. 'The harsh weather has subsided and there will no longer be a frost, creating the necessary conditions to start the care again.' 

Start mowing your lawn in the spring with your blades on the highest setting, and never cut if your lawn is moist. It's always safer to cut your grass too late than too early, so don't be hasty! 

How can you promote lawn health over winter?

You might think fall means a low maintenance garden, but it's actually a pivotal time of year when it comes to tending to your lawn. 'Although this ideally the last time you should mow, it's not the last time you need to do lawn work,' Jeremy reminds us. 'Make sure you rake up those leaves, pine needles, and other debris as the decaying organic matter actually won't be good for your grass surviving its dormant period.' 

You should scarify your lawn by removing moss and other debris, and aerate by spiking your turf using a rolling lawn aerator or a garden fork this time of year too. This will promote growth in the spring, improve drainage and reduce compaction.

You should consider using fertilizers to keep you grass healthy, too. A moss killer (like this one from Amazon (opens in new tab)) 'is a good idea. 'Use water-soluble fertilizers that work well in cool weather conditions (such as fish emulsion) rather than general fertilizers which may not be effective if it gets too cold outside,' says Jon.