5 Tips for Mowing on a Steep Hill

A mower cutting across a steep slope.

When the time comes to cut the lawn on a steep hill, there are a number of precautions you should take, depending on your type of mower. A steep hill is never an easy thing to mow, but the following will provide you with some tips to make the job just a little bit easier.

Note: If your slope is fenced, sheep (or goats) can be a good way to keep the grass down instead. They will even provide you with wool and lamb chops as an added bonus.

1. Don’t Mow Wet Grass

Mowing when the grass is wet is never a good idea. It becomes harder to cut through, debris can get clogged up in your mower (which will make the mower require frequent cleanings or it will cause permanent damage), and a damp yard increases the chance of slipping. Before starting, always check the grass to be sure it is dry. Even on a bright, sunny day, if the slope is shaded, it may retain moisture from the previous night’s frost or the morning dew.

2. Adjust to Maximum Height

Keeping the mower set to cut as high as it can go will keep from “scalping” the yard. If the grass is still too long, move it down just enough to cut the long spots.

3. Use a Self-Propelled Mower (for Push Mowers)

A self-propelled mower is easier to handle on a slope, especially for turns, and not needing to push it can help keep you from slipping. If your mower has variable speeds, that’s even better.

4. Mow Side to Side (for Push Mowers)

If you try mowing up and down the hill, even on dry grass, you will compromise your own safety. Going up hill, the mower could end up rolling back down on you; mowing down hill, you could still end up slipping under the mower, or the mower could get away from you and speed down the hill.

If you move from side to side instead, there is still a slim chance of the mower tipping, but it isn’t as likely to roll as far or as fast. Mow with the bag side down if your mower has one attached. If the bag is on the high side, it is more likely to topple over, and the grass will be continuously falling out and back into the mower blades.

5. Mow Up and Down (for Riding Mowers)

Unlike push mowers, it is a bad idea to mow side to side with a riding mower, as you are much more likely to topple down the hill. This is even more dangerous because you could be crushed if you're still in the seat when the machine flips. That is why it is best to mow going up and down the hill with a riding mower. Between the tire design, power, and sheer weight of the mower, you aren’t likely to slip going up and down.

Safety should always come first when working with power tools and equipment. Be sure to take all of these tips into consideration for mowing slopes.