9 Tips for Cutting Grass on a Hill

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A lot of people have yards that are not level. You may have areas with a slight incline or hills where the grade is sharp.

If you do have sloped areas in your yard, you’ll already that know that trying to mow the grass on it can be a real challenge. You may be wondering what the best approach is to do it more efficiently and safely. Of course, the best strategy will depend on the hill and the equipment you have.

I’ll start of by saying that I don’t recommend trying anything mentioned below until you have with consulted the instructions on the manual. Please make sure that you are following the guidelines that the manufacturer provides. The last thing you need to do is get hurt trying to mow your grass. In actual fact, it’s quite common for people to get injured from mowing grass.

This study shows there are tens of thousands of mowing related injuries each year in the US.

You’ll want to take extra precaution when trying to mow hills.

Below are some things that I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully you can use some of these tips to make mowing on a hill a little bit easier!

Mow in the Right Direction

There’s no one way to mow your lawn and this is especially true when it comes to cutting grass on hills.

You’ll need to adjust your strategy to suit the incline you have and the equipment you’re using.

For example, it’s better to mow side-to-side with a push mower rather than trying to mow downhill. It’s going to be far easier to lose your footing going up and down the hill than going from side to side. Also, if you slip your feet could potentially fall underneath the mower.

If you’re using a push mower, its best to start at the bottom of the hill and then push up and down to cover the first few feet of the slope. You can do this while your feet remain flat on the ground. Once you’ve covered the bottom area, you’ll want to move up and start mowing side-to-side perpendicular to the hill.

If you’re trying to mow on a slope with a zero-turn mower, you’ll want to keep the front of your mower pointing uphill at all times. If you try and mow with the front facing downhill, you may start to lose control of your mower and it will start to slide. Not only is this dangerous, you’ll also be left with skid marks.

Avoid mowing sideways with riding mowers, especially on the steepest parts of the hill. It’s a good chance to practice your backwards striping. This is not easy to do and certainly takes a lot of practise.

I recommend mowing in a direction that gives you angle stripes on a long sloping lawn that has a moderate incline.

Use Equipment That’s Right for the Job

Know that you don’t have to use the same mower for every area of your yard. If you have multiple mowers then now is the time to make use of them. In general, the steeper the hill, the smaller mower you should use. This may not be suitable if you have a very large area to cut, but smaller mowers tend to be more lightweight so you’ll have greater control.

Whichever style of mower you choose, try and get one that gives good traction. Getting a mower with differential locking and tracks will help it to hold onto the slope and avoid slipping.

Think about your footwear too.

Never mow the lawn barefoot.  

You’ll want to wear suitable shoes that will stop you slipping. I’ve found these yard shoes provide good slip-resistance. They have an outsole with aggressive lugs.

If things get too awkward, you can always switch over to using a string trimmer. Although it might take a lot more time to cut your grass with it, a string trimmer will be far easier to control.

Don’t Mow Wet Grass

Only mow the hill when it’s dry. It’s never good to mow a wet lawn anyway but if the lawn gets too wet and muddy, it’s really easy to lose your footing. It’s also more likely that your lawn mower will slide down the hill too so never mow then the grass it wet. You’ll probably end up tearing up your grass leaving skid marks all over the place.

Keep an Eye on Your Back Tire

If you’re using a riding mower, you’ll want to keep any eye on your back tire to make sure it’s not slipping. Keep on the lookout for turn marks too!

Slow Down

Mowers are heavy so even you’re not going that fast, your mower can have a lot of momentum. Make sure you don’t let your mower get out of control when going down hills. Have a plan just in case this does happen.

Be Careful of Water and Other Obstacles

You’ll often find inclines leading down towards water. Even if the incline isn’t too steep, it’s best not to take any risks so don’t get up too much speed on the downhill and try to mow side-to-side if you can. No one wants to tear down an engine and rebuild it after it gets soaked.

Watch out for any holes, rocks or debris that could get in your way and through you or your mower off balance.

It’s a Lot Easier to Scalp When Mowing Hills

In general, it’s best to keep your mower on the highest setting when tackling hills. This will help prevent the blade from scalping your ground. Not only is this not good for the look of your lawn, you’re more likely to lose control of your mower too.

If you’re using a riding mower, make sure you’re paying close attention to the grass when making your turns. To avoid your mower from digging in too much, raise your foot pedal on the turn to ensure the grass gets evenly cut. You can then do your outline pass after you even it out.

Don’t Mow Too Fast

Always take your time when mowing the lawn, especially up hills. This applies to all mower types, especially riding mowers. You want to avoid accelerating too fast up a hill when the weight is distributed towards the back of the mower. There is a chance that the front wheels could pop up of the ground. I have seen this happen before so make sure you move slowly.

Consider Investing in a Robotic Lawn Mower

If mowing your hill starts to become too much of a worry, you might want to consider purchasing a robotic lawn mower.  Some robotic mowers have great manoeuvrability can cut grass on slopes with inclines greater than 50 degrees. It’s also 100% safe for you because you’re not in contact with the mower.

Final Thoughts

Mowing hills can be challenging so it’s good to take extra care when trying to do this. Don’t take any unnecessary risks.

Generally, I’d recommend using a self-propelled mower where you can adjust the speed. They tend to be light and therefore they are easier to control on hills. Most of them have safety release that cuts the power if you let go too.

You never want to be in a position where a mower is on top of you so take the necessary safety precautions and you’ll be more comfortable cutting the grass on those hills.

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