how to mow on a steep hill

How To Mow On A Steep Hill

There aren’t many of us that can say with 100% confidence that we have a perfectly flat lawn. Yes, there are properties out there that have super level lawns but most homes have some sort of slope or incline. In a lot of cases, these are very minor and won’t really affect how we approach mowing our lawns.

But in some instances, gardens can have very steep slopes and that leaves us wondering how to mow on a steep hill.

If you don’t take the right approach to cutting grass on a steep hill then this can be a very dangerous activity. You’ll need to make sure that you wear suitable footwear with good grip and always mow laterally as opposed to up and down the slope.

While it can feel intimidating when mowing on a steep slope, these things along with some other effective strategies can make it much safer.

Mowing on a hill is not the same as mowing on level ground. There are some situations where it would be too dangerous to mow and you’ll need to employ the use of your brushcutter and other tools. However, on slopes less than 20 degrees, you can take the following precautions.

1. Keep Your Cutting Height To A High Level

If the cutting height is set too low then this will increase the difficulty of pushing it around the hill. It’s already going to be quite a challenge to mow on a slope so there’s really no point in making it any more pressing.

On top of this, keeping the mower deck slightly raised will prevent it from getting stuck on any bumps on the ground and it won’t bounce around as much as when it’s on a lower setting.

While a lot of people prefer to keep their grass short, there are advantages in having it a little longer. For example, longer grass improves irrigation which has a direct impact on the health of the lawn. Moreover, the thickness of the grass will ensure good traction for the mower wheels and will stop it from sliding as you move around.

2. Mow Along The Hill Laterally Instead Of Going Straight Up The Slope

Mow Along The Hill Laterally direction

It is incredibly easy to lose your feet from underneath you when pushing a lawn mower straight up a steep slope. For this reason, it’s very important to make sure you mow in a lateral direction. If you don’t, and you slip then there’s a very real chance of the mower coming towards you with the blades still running. You don’t need us to describe what might happen!

Additionally, you will likely find that mowing from side to side is far less effort that trying to lug a heavy mower up a hill. Not to mention how difficult it would be to control on the way back down.

There are some people who prefer to mow laterally but with a slight lean towards a more vertical angle. One of the main benefits of this is that you have far greater control over your lawn mower and will be able to keep it more steady.

If you have a riding mower, keep in mind that this will be dangerous on a slope even if you mow from side to side. There is a serious risk of the mower tipping over which could leave you with a devastating injury. For this reason, it’s always preferable to ditch the riding mower and stick with a push mower for the hilly parts of your yard.

3. Use Appropriate Footwear

It’s super important to make sure that your feet have excellent traction when mowing on a hill. There’s a lot of talk around the internet about wearing a pair of cleats when tackling slopes and this is an excellent idea. These sports shoes are designed to give the wearer extra grip on the ground which converts into greater control over your lawn mower. Not to mention, the lesser risk of slipping.

Of course, if you don’t have a pair of cleats or can’t get your hands on any then there are other types of shoes out there that provide good grip. You want to look for thick rubber soles with deep lugs for the best grip.

4. Never Mow Hills When It’s Wet

If you know anything about lawn mowing then you’ll probably be aware that mowing the grass when it’s wet isn’t the cleverest idea. Even when you’re mowing on level ground, cutting the grass when it is wet can clog up your mower and make mulching a nightmare.

Not to mention the fact that you’ll never get as good a cut when mowing wet grass as it simply won’t cut as well as when it’s dry. The individual blades tend to lay down so they aren’t exposed to the blade which could leave you with a very patchy cut. It may even look as though all of the blades are standing upright ready to be cut but there will be a lot of blades that are lying flat but aren’t immediately obvious when you look at the lawn.

If this all happens when you are mowing on level ground, imagine how much more difficult it’s going to be on a hill. Not only will it be very challenging but you’re also increasing the danger levels and the chances of slipping are incredibly high. That’s even when you’re wearing appropriate footwear.

If you do mow your lawn when it is wet, it may look as though everything is going OK. But once the job is done and when the grass dries off, that’s when you’ll start seeing the patches coming through.

If all of that wasn’t enough to put you off then you have to consider the impact that mowing a slope when it’s wet will have on the soil. When you put a heavy lawn mower across wet ground, this will mark the soil and there’s even a potential of pulling up the grass from its roots. Again, this is going to make for a patchy, unattractive lawn.

When the weather is wet, it’s already hard enough to mow the grass without throwing in a steep slope. While it can be tempting to do it anyway because you want to get it out of the way, we would strongly urge you to wait until things have dried up.

The Best Mowers To Use On A Hill

You should only ever use a push lawn mower on a hill as using a riding lawn mower can be incredibly dangerous. There is a risk of the mower tipping over even if you mow from side to side and this can result in you ending up in the emergency room. It simply isn’t worth the risk.

But even then, you can’t just use any old push mower as those that work best when cutting grass on a steep hill have some special features.

For starters, you’ll want to look for a self propelled mower with an excellent rear wheel drive. The reason for this is that it will massively improve the traction, especially over uneven or sloped ground.

Secondly, you’ll find that mowers with a wider cutting width are better for mowing on a hill as it’ll mean you can get things done a lot more quickly.

Finally, you should opt for a lightweight machine as this will make the work less of a strain on you. The last thing you want is to have to haul a hefty lawn mower up and down a hill. Save yourself the trouble and go for something light and nimble.

Slopes vs Inclines

It’s important to realize that there is a difference between a slope and an incline. Slopes are pieces of ground that go up (or down, depending on where you’re standing) at an angle. When you use the term slope, you’re normally talking about something with a gentle angle rather than something incredibly steep.

On the other hand, the word incline refers to a bend and this can mean either horizontally or vertically.

However, when it comes to mowing, both terms are used equally and in any case, when you are mowing on a hill, you’ll need to take extra precautions.

Faqs About Mowing On A Steep Hill

What is the steepest slope that can be safely mowed?

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t attempt to tackle a slope that is more than 20 degrees as this could cause some serious damage to your lawn mower. This applies mainly to gas powered mowers whose oil reservoirs could spill when mowing a steep slope. As a result of this, you’ll get flooding between the air filter and muffler which will likely cause the lawn mower to smoke.

What direction should slopes be mowed?

It is important to always stick to a lateral direction when you are mowing on a hill. The main reason for this is that it is far safer than trying to mow up and down where there is a possibility of losing your footing. What’s more, mowing from side to side will mean that you have to exert less energy and that’s never a bad thing.

How do you cut a hill without scalping?

In order to avoid scalping your grass, it’s vital that you increase the cutting height when cutting grass on a steep hill. This will ensure that the mower does not get stuck on any high spots or lumps and bumps when moving over the incline.

mowing on a steep hill

Final Thoughts

Not many of us are lucky enough to have a totally flat garden which means that we need to find the right tools to make maintaining it easy. If you have any steep hills or slopes on your lawn then these can be incredibly difficult and dangerous to mow.

Using a push mower is always the best option and making sure that you mow from side to side rather than up and down will make it safer and easier. Also try to choose footwear that’s going to give your feet the best grip on the ground and never mow the lawn either on a hill or on the flat when it is raining.

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Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher

Andrew is a dedicated father of three who really takes pride in his lawn and garden. You'll find Andrew behind the scenes of almost everything Edge Your Lawn produces. When he's not helping readers find all the information they need, he's in his backyard working on his lawn and garden landscaping. This year he hopes to build an outdoor deck and sort out his veg patches.

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