Should You Mow Your Lawn Clockwise or Counterclockwise?

Does mowing in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction really matter? It could, depending on the length of the grass that you have to mow.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Mowing the lawn is a recurring task of spring and summer. Keeping your lawn short and tidy is ideal from an aesthetic perspective, and it can also help minimize the populations of annoying insect pests. For hobby farmers, mowing can be a particularly time-consuming task because the amount of grass that needs mowing on a farm can be extensive. In these cases, a quality riding lawn mower is a necessity.

For the most part, mowing grass isn’t very complicated—you just mow in circles or rows until all of the ground has been covered, right? In essence, yes, but if you do even a little research into proper mowing techniques, you’ll enter a whole world filled with theories on the most appropriate mowing patterns and whether you should alternate patterns to ensure the long-term health of the grass. Even the time of day that you mow can make a difference.

A common question involves whether to mow in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. While I don’t claim to be an expert on mowing, I’ve certainly done a lot of it and have developed a few thoughts of my own on this debate.

Assuming that your mower discharges its clippings from the right side of the machine, it’s generally best to follow the widespread advice to cut the perimeter of your mowing area in a clockwise direction. This will discharge the clippings toward the middle of the mowing area, which is much more desirable than discharging them into a non-mowed area, where they will just get tangled up in unmowed grass (or matted against buildings and other obstacles), creating a mess that must be cleaned up later.

Once the perimeter has been mowed, determining the best mowing direction for the remainder of the area can be a question of whether the grass is short or long. If you’re just maintaining a manicured area, then continuing to mow in a clockwise direction will allow the mower to move back over the discharged clippings, cutting them into smaller pieces and moving them closer and closer to the center of the mowing area, where you’ll end up with a fairly tidy pile of clippings that can easily be cleaned up.

However, if you’re mowing longer grass, I strongly recommend mowing in a counterclockwise direction. The clippings discharged from long grass can be substantial, and mowing back over them can interfere with the blades and make it difficult for the mower to do its job correctly. At best, you’ll be left with a ragged looking lawn, and if the grass is particularly thick, you risk choking the lawn mower on too much grass.

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Of course, every yard is different with its own issues, and depending on how many items you need to navigate (trees, buildings and so on), you might find that a mix of directions is most efficient, or maybe that no pattern at all is the best fit for your lawn. But in any case, understanding the basic advantages and disadvantages of clockwise- and counterclockwise-mowing patterns can help you determine the best strategy for every mowing job you encounter.

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