For many people, mowing hills is one of the most challenging lawn care tasks. Mowing a hill with a riding lawn mower can be especially a scary task, but it doesn’t have to be.
You just have to follow a few key steps and take it slow. With a little preparation and the right technique, you can make quick work of any hill.
Here are a few tips to help you get started. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about mowing a hill with a riding lawn mower. By the end, you’ll be an expert! Keep reading for our top tips.
Prepare Before Mowing
Before you hope on your riding lawn mower, there are a few things that you should check on and prepare in order to stay safe and make sure that everything goes smoothly when you’re mowing.
The first thing you want to do is remove any large, foreign obstacles from the mowing path. This is particularly if you have long grass on a slope, since it’s harder to see anything within it. Mowing on a hill, and especially riding a mower on a hill, can easily turn dangerous with even the smallest object disrupting the flow of your mowing.
Keep an eye out for any uneven areas of the grass; ridges, bumps, and pits might all contribute to the mower tipping over. Additionally, never mow on a slope that goes down to a pond or other body of water, as the soil might not be able to hold the weight of the mower.
It’s never a good idea to mow wet grass, because it becomes weighty and clogs the machine. This is true for grass on a flat lawn, and mowing a wet slope is even worse; mowing with a riding lawn mower on a hill is even more dangerous when it has been raining.
Wet grass makes it more difficult for a riding mower to keep its traction, as well as increasing the chance that it will slide or roll over.
Surprisingly, extremely dry grass isn’t particularly secure and can be slippery and dangerous to cut. When the terrain is extremely solid and hard, it does not have the same traction grip because the tread of the mower can’t indent into the ground enough to gain traction.
And once you start to slip or roll over, it is very difficult to course correct and right the mower, so the best thing is to not slip in the first place.
Use The Right Mower
The next step is to make sure you have the right type of riding lawn mower to use on a hill. For example, a tractor style riding lawn mower is not a safe mower to use on anything steep. They feature a pivoting front axle that allows the machine to automatically tilt over a little and then lose traction on one of the back wheels when it is on a slope.
Additionally, due to the fact that the engine is in front, when going down a slope, the center of gravity shifts as compared to when you’re going upwards. Because most tractor style ride on mowers have only rear brakes, you therefore lose your capacity to brake and slow down.
You also don’t want to use any attachments on your riding lawn mower when operating on a hill. For example, an attached mulcher or grass catcher might make mowing easier on flat ground, but it also exposes the user to danger when on a slope. Attachments reduce the stability of a riding lawn mower, because it changes the center of gravity.
Any loss of stability makes it more difficult to maintain traction and levelness on a slope. Extra weights to prevent tipping is something that some riding mowers have as an option. This could help, but only weights that are specifically recommended for your specific model should be used.
Finally, consult your operating instruction to determine what slopes you can safely mow. If your hill is too steep, you can use an alternative method of mowing, such as string trimming or using a push mower, that is more appropriate for steep slopes.
We have a post specifically about the best riding lawn mowers to use on hills, if you are interested in learning more.
When actually mowing on a hill, make sure to put your riding lawn mower in a low gear, and go very slow. You want to maintain a steady pace, and provide enough torque to the machine to power it up the hill (hence the low gear), but going slow is particularly important as well.
When operating any riding mower at high speed, it’s easy to lose control of the vehicle. Because quick changes in speed increase the risk of tipping, drive the equipment at a constant, slow pace. Also, don’t coast down a hill with the mower in neutral. This just gives you less control of the machine as well.
It’s also dangerous to stop while on a hill. If the mower loses traction or comes to a stop at any point, disengage its mowing blades and go back down the hill with it facing backwards.
Mow Up and Down – Not Side to Side
In addition to operating the riding lawn mower at a slow but consistent pace, clearing any objects out of the way and avoiding any ruts or bumps, and choosing a mower that is capable of handling a sloped part of your lawn, there is one more tip you should take note of, and it’s likely the most important one.
You don’t ever want to go side to side on a hill in a riding lawn mower – only ever drive it straight up and down the hill. While it is best practice for a push mower to go side to side, this is much more dangerous for a riding mower because you could much more easily tip and barrel roll to the side than you can pitch forward or backward.
When operating a lawn tractor on a slope, it’s best to avoid any change of direction, including turning around. Instead, drive the lawn mower all the way down (or up) the hill and back onto flat ground before directing it back to the hill to make another go.
If the slope is too steep, do not mow up the hill, but rather only mow down hill. This could mean that you’ll need to find an extra long route to return to the top of the hill, but it is worth the time and effort to make sure you don’t tip over.
Lawn care is an important part of maintaining a beautiful home, and although it may seem like a difficult task, mowing a hill can be done with the right preparation and the proper tools. Follow these tips for mowing hills and you’ll be able to get the job done quickly and easily.
Be sure to prepare before starting by reading through these tips and make sure you have the right tools for the job. Then, take your time as you go slowly up and down the hill. Finally, always mow side to side – never up and down.
By following these simple steps, you can easily tackle even the most challenging hills on your property. If you have any questions or need help with lawn care, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re always happy to help!