Can A Lawn Mower Go Over Sticks And Pine Cones?

While lawn mowers are specifically engineered to keep your lawn neat and trimmed, they will likely encounter more than just grass. Your lawn, like most, may be littered with debris, dead leaves, and sticks. How will the mower cope with these objects?

It is perfectly fine for most mowers to go over small sticks and pine cones in your yard. If sticks are larger than your index finger, they should be removed from the lawn or damage could be caused to the mower or bystanders. Excessive amounts of pine cones can eventually dull mower blades.

That is the question we aim to answer today, with a particular focus on whether a lawn mower can go over sticks. We will also go over some basic lawn mower safety tips to help you minimize the risk of an accident. Let’s begin!


Can You Mow Over Sticks In Your Lawn?

The relationship between you and your lawnmower can only thrive if you help it help you. Oftentimes, this involves clearing your lawn of any potentially troublesome debris to minimize the risk of damage to the mower or injuries to yourself.

It is not safe to mow over sticks larger in diameter than your index finger. This goes for you, bystanders and even your mower. Along with injures to soft tissue and eyes in humans and animals, damage could also happen to the mower blades, deck, or clutch.

Of course, it’s not always possible to rid your lawn of everything that isn’t grass. Many times, sticks and twigs can fall off nearby bushes or trees and land right in the path of your lawnmower. 

Luckily, in most cases, you do not have anything to worry about. A lawnmower will make quick work of small sticks that are scattered across your yard, especially if they are dry. For the sake of this article, we’ll classify “small sticks” or “twigs” as any stick with a diameter of ½ an inch or less.

Mowing Over Larger Sticks And Branches

Larger sticks and branches, however, should be removed from the lawnmower’s path, or avoided altogether if that’s not possible. Attempting to run your mower over these sticks is not only a hazard to your safety, but it may compromise the longevity of your lawnmower. 

When struck by the blade, large sticks and branches could break off violently and hit you. Let’s not forget the fact that repeated collision with thick branches could eventually dull or even damage the blades. You can even damage the lawnmower’s clutch and blade adapter if you persist.

Mowing Over Small Brush And Twig Bunches

While sparsely scattered twigs are not much of a threat, beware of bunched-up twigs and small sticks as these can also dull your lawnmower blades or even get caught in the mower deck mechanisms. Bunched-up twigs also pose a safety risk to the operator, and any other nearby people or pets, because they can easily fly off in random directions and potentially cause injury. 

The best way to deal with scattered twigs is to use a mulching mower, which will feed the chopped-up sticks into the lawn for nutritional benefit. Bunched-up twigs should be picked up or moved out of the lawnmower’s way. You can remove twigs by hand, or with tools like rakes, yard vacuums, power brooms, or lawn sweepers.

Can You Mow Over Pine Cones In The Yard?

Like with sticks in your lawn, pine cones could be a potential hazard for bystanders. To ensure that they don’t become unintended projectiles, it is a good idea to clear them from the mowing area.

Pine cones could be either cut by the mower blades or propelled out of the shoot and become a potential danger to humans or animals. If chopped up repeatedly, the blades could be dulled. Though not as dangerous as sticks, pine cones could cause injuries if thrown by the mower.

To be honest, these are not as important to take out of the yard as much as larger sticks are. We would remove a large portion of them if there were excessive amounts in an area, but for the most part we would usually run over them without a problem.

The one caveat here is to make sure you pay attention to what your grass shoot is pointed at or which direction the pine cone could be launched. It is not the majority of the time that this will happen, but it is important to be ready if it does.

Tor read more about what to watch for in your lawn I recommend my other articles…

Safety Measures For Lawn Mowers

According to U.S. government data, there were over 930,000 lawnmower-related injuries in the country between the years 2005 and 2015. That’s nearly 85,000 injuries per year! Lawnmowers can be incredibly dangerous tools. Add poor maintenance and negligent use to that, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for trouble.

Luckily, there are a few measures you can take to prevent these accidents or, at least, minimize the risk.

The first one is that lawnmowers should be operated by competent adults or well-trained teenagers. Young children should not use lawnmowers or garden tractors, and, wherever possible, they should be taught to steer clear of them. 

The recommended minimum age for operating a walk-behind mower is around 12 years old. For riding mowers, 16 is the minimum age. You should also factor in things like your child’s height and maturity level before letting them run a mower.

Pick Up Sticks, Pine Cones, and Rocks Before Mowing

Special note: Young children are great stick and pine cone gatherers. Tell them what to look for in the yard and where to place them and you might find that they are actually a big help. It will also be a good laugh if you have a smaller downed limb as they struggle to pull it across the lawn.

As we’ve discussed above, you should avoid mowing over bits of debris as much as you can. This includes large sticks, branches, rocks, pieces of litter, ornaments, and all other obstacles. Rocks, especially, have the potential to shatter or detach your mower’s blade, and the consequences can be horrific.

These objects can also turn into missiles if they are struck by the blades at certain angles. This can result in injury or property damage and it is a much more common occurrence than you would think. 

In the same vein, always ensure the mower’s blades are disengaged if you have to move the machine across a gravel surface or a pebbled driveway. Mowing over gravel can lead to projectiles being flung in all directions.

Protective Clothing Can Protect Against Flying Debris

Protective clothing is another thing to think about. A significant number of lawnmower injuries affect the lower extremities, including feet and ankles. Protective boots will help protect your feet from any missiles fired from under the mower deck. Grippy shoes also minimize the risk of potentially dangerous slips while operating the machine.

It’s also a good idea to don a pair of safety goggles when running your mower over twigs and sticks as these can easily hit you in the eye otherwise. Ear protection wouldn’t hurt either. Research has found that overexposure to noise beyond 85 decibels can lead to serious hearing problems. Combustion mowers can easily go beyond 100 decibels.

Other Mower Safety Precautions

If you are using a riding mower to tackle grass on an uneven or hilly surface, make sure to mow up or down the hill. Mowing across the steep gradient increases the risk of the mower tipping over on its side. Riding mowers are quite heavy, so you definitely don’t want one landing on you…with its blades still spinning!

Speaking of the blades, make sure you (or any other curious cats) stay away from the underside of the mower while it is in operation. If you must inspect the mower deck or blades, ensure that the mower is off. You should also disconnect the sparkplug to prevent an accidental start. 

Electric mowers also have inherent risks. Battery-powered machines have been known to catch fire because of aged batteries. Regular battery tests and replacements are the best way to reduce this risk

Corded mowers, on the other hand, carry an electrocution risk. To be on the safe side, you will have to avoid exposing any extension cord sockets to water or wet grass.

One often overlooked precaution is reading your lawnmower’s instruction manual. You’d be surprised how many people overlook this before firing up their machines for the first time. The manual provides all the necessary safety information you need. Even the most experienced lawnmower owners should spare a few minutes to go over safety features and protocols.

To read more articles about lawn mowers, take a look at some of my other articles…

The Final Touches On Hitting Sticks And Pine Cones With A Mower…

If you are looking at a yard full of debris, it is a good idea to clear the grass before mowing. If it is only small twigs in your way or small pine cones, then it is not a big deal. Just be careful if this if happening every mowing.

Mowing over even twigs and small pine cones with too much frequency and you may find yourself sharpening your blade more than normal. Don’t forget about the kids and grandkids. Send them on a super secret treasure hung to make the biggest pile of sticks and pine cones they can.

It could be a big help and all of you just might have a blast in the process.


Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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