Should You Mow or Edge Your Lawn First? (Revealed)

Top-notch lawn care is hard (but rewarding) work that involves proper planning and an efficient approach. Watering and applying fertilizers are on one side of this equation while regulating the height of your grass is on the other. But does the order in which you mow or edge matter? Which one should you do first?

Most homeowners and professional crews will normally mow first in order to get the bulk of the job done and leave edging to afterward as one of the final dress-up procedures. If mulching or bagging grass clippings is the goal, edging will be done first in order to catch those clippings as well.

Today we will be focusing on that issue in more depth. More specifically, we will be discussing the best approach when it comes to mowing and edging a lawn. Which one comes first?

Let’s find out.


Should You Edge Before Or After You Mow?

For many people, this “debate” may seem a little unnecessary. In all honesty, does it even matter what you do first?

To know exactly the length the lawn will be in order to match it with edging techniques, mowing should be done first. In order to catch all clippings for bagging or mulching purposes, edging should be done first. If it is just a routine mow and these are not important, either can come first.

But is there some benefit to doing one or the other first for the health of the lawn? Does one help with making the lawn better or does the order have to do more with preference?

To be frank, no…it doesn’t really make much of a difference what you do, at least as far as the health of the lawn is concerned. The order may affect the overall look of the lawn. However, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and a few considerations.

That said, the usual practice is to mow first then edge and manicure, especially when maintaining an otherwise well-kept lawn. A neglected lawn that has grown in a jungle-esque fashion may warrant a different approach, though.

In overgrown situations, mowers can quickly become bogged down due to excess grass clippings. It is sometimes necessary to use string trimmers or even scythes to knock down some of the height and even create the boarders before mowing can begin.

Do you hate the hassle of weed eaters, or have such a small amount that you would like another option. Here is what I actually use on my yard since the weed eating is minimal. I got this from Amazon and it works great… Japanese Weeding Sickle

Edge First?

Are there times where it is important to edge before you mow? Is there a reason why we should?

There are some different scenerios that could call for string trimming, shovel edging, or grass whipping before mowing begins. Let’s look at a few.

Professional Lawn Crews And Edging First

Interestingly, many landscaping professionals swear by the “edge first” approach, and for good reason. I know when I worked for years with Jerry McMillan (my father-in-law and a landscaper for over 40 years) I would many times go a couple of jobs ahead of a crew and do the trimming before they would arrive.

This seemed to speed up the process since I would be done with trimming and have to wait to to any final blowing of walks and drives until the mowing was done. This is a consideration mainly for those doing many lawns in one day, and may not apply to the average homeowner.

Another thing to note here is that this requires a good deal of knowledge of all areas of a lawn and what equipment will be used. I my case I knew our mowers well and the jobs I was preparing. I knew the corners, areas, and inclines that our bigger mowers couldn’t handle without sod damage or reach due to space restrictions.

Mulching And Bagging Can Call For Edging First

But let’s get back to more general mowing situations like someone mowing their own lawn. When would edging first before mowing apply?

For starters, a lawn edger will toss most of your clippings back into the lawn as you go along. If your lawnmower has a collection bag, this approach will save you a great deal of time and hassle as the edged clippings will also be collected when you mow the lawn. Tending to your lawn in this fashion makes it easier to achieve a clean, clump-free look.

Of course, not all edge clippings will fall into the lawn. Some will end up in surrounding plant beds, pathways, or your driveway. However, this is not much of an issue as these can easily be swept or blown away when you’re done.

On the other hand, if you prefer to mulch clippings back into the lawn, edging first may or may not be necessary. Most of these clippings will already be small enough with some exceptions.

If edge trimming has been put off for a while or tall cuttings from overgrown sections make it into a lawn, then edging first can serve them up to mowers to be further mulched.

So lets look at this as a table to make it easier to remember. What are the reasons to mow first.

Situations For Edging FirstFor Professional CrewsFor Homeowners
Edging first to speed up job completionCan help in some situationsWon’t speed up the process
Edging first to collect clippings for baggingAdvisableAdvisable
Edging first to collect clippings for further mulchingCan help in some situations Can help in some situations

So, now that we have looked at some of the reasons for edging first, let’s move on to mowing first.

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Mow First?

As we’ve already seen, mowing first is the most common approach here, and there could be a few reasons why.

The Psychology Of Mowing First

Firstly, a lot of laypeople may consider tasks like weed whacking, edging, and mowing to all be under the umbrella of “mowing the lawn”. As such, the actual mowing may be viewed as the proverbial “main course” here and executed first as it is usually the most time (and energy) consuming.

From a psychological standpoint, some people may relish the sense of accomplishment after mowing and thus do it first. Such people tend to regard edging as a final touch-up and the satisfaction of cleaning up edges and other areas is fulfilling.

As one researcher from the State University of New York, Albany noted in his published piece in the journal Contemporary Aesthetics, watching or participating in mundane activities that become ‘oddly satisfying’ is akin to a form of artistic appreciation. Aesthetics matter to us as humans, and some find it in the oddest places.

Clippings And Mowing First

You may also opt to mow first if you aren’t worried about collecting your clippings. Mulching clippings back into the soil will return nutrients to the soil, which benefits the lawn.

I have an article that talks more about this here… Should I Bag Or Mulch After Overseeding?

Mower Size And The Terrain

Another great reason to mow first is if you are unsure of your mower’s reach. Some mowers (especially walk-behinds) can get close to the edge of a lawn and deliver top-notch precision cuts. 

However, some machines may not be as well designed or they may be difficult to maneuver due to their sizes. Professional crews often have to deal with using machines meant for larger spaces in smaller ones.

Lawn tractors and zero-turns, for instance, are excellent for dealing with wide open swathes of grass, but they may be limited by obstacles or maneuverability in some cases. In such cases, mowing first would be the practical thing to do, and any inaccessible spots can be dealt with using an edger or trimmer.

Mowing First To Maintain Grass Height

Mowing first also enables you to set a certain height for your grass, which in turn gives you a real guideline for your edging. Edging first without any consideration for mowing height may result in inconsistent grass heights, which isn’t ideal aesthetics-wise.

So, let’s look again at this in a chart format to help get a handle on when mowing first is more appropriate…

Situations For Mowing FirstFor Professional CrewsFor Homeowners
For psychological benefitsThere is no real benefit for professional crewsMowing can be therapeutic for some and the ‘main event’
If not bagging clippingsGood optionGood option
To know where to do edging and trimmingCan help in some situations Can help in some situations
Maintaining even grass height Can help in some situations Can help in some situations

Things To Consider When Mowing And Edging

No two lawncare scenarios are the same. Therefore, when determining whether you should edge or mow first, you need to consider a few things.

1. Mulching Vs Bagging

The first thing to think about is where you lean with regards to mulching vs bagging. As a general rule, you ought to edge first if you wish to collect your clippings afterward. If you want to mulch your clippings, you can do what you prefer.

Bagging also reduces your clean-up time significantly as you would only have to worry about clippings that land away from the lawn.

2. Type And Size Of Lawn Machinery

The second consideration is the type of machinery you’re working with. If you use a nimble push or self-propelled walk-behind, you can start by edging first or go by preference. However, if you are using a large mower that cannot reach the edges efficiently, you ought to edge first lest you end up edging twice.

The type of edger also falls under this consideration. Multi-purpose edgers are versatile tools that can even be used to mow certain bits of the main lawn that you may miss when you mow first.

You also need to think about how your tools are powered. For instance, if you have a manually-operated reel mower and a powered edger, it would make sense for you to mow first since this is the more laborious task. The opposite is true if your edger is manual and your mower is self-propelled or ridden.

3. Mowing Height

The third consideration is your preferred mowing height. If you can edge first in a manner that is consistent with this height, then have at it. For most beginners, though, this ability will have to be gained through experience, which means that mowing first is the way to go in the interim.

4. Time

Finally, we have what may be the most important consideration of all…how much time you have on your hands.

Lawn care can be pretty demanding of your time, doubly so if your schedule is especially hectic. Heck, it can also be an annoying time suck even if you have nothing else to do that day.

As such, if time is of the essence, you can start with the more demanding task. Typically, mowing is the most time-consuming. However, depending on the work area and tools in question, edging might be the most demanding task. You will have to carefully assess your circumstances to determine which is which.

Do You Edge Every Time You Mow?

Now that we’ve looked at how to decide what to do first, let’s look at how frequently you should be edging the lawn.

It is not necessary to edge every time you mow…unless you are the ultimate perfectionist or you have some particularly fast growing groundcover on the edge of your lawn. This can even be extended for edges of beds, walks, and driveways by using a shovel to create small edge trenches.

Though, if you are in the running for “Lawn of the Year”, or in competition with your neighbors on an unofficial basis, you may opt to do it every time you mow. 

For this section, we’ll assume mowing happens weekly to every other week and you are not in search of a trophy for your mantel.

As a general rule, you always need to inspect your lawn’s edge lines every time you wish to mow. If the grass on the edge lines begins encroaching on the surrounding areas, you will have to bring the edger out and trim.

Edge line grass will do this frequently during peak growth periods (spring and summer for warm-season grasses, spring and fall for cool-season grasses) or shortly after fertilizer application. During these periods, you may find yourself edging your lawn every second mow. 

During other periods, you can get away with edging once every three or four mows. This is especially true if you tend to do edging ‘to the dirt’. There are areas away from main walkways and doors that many won’t see up close. A professional trick is to trim these lines closely with a weed trimmer to reduce the need to do it for weeks to come.

The Final Touches On Mowing Or Edging First…

When it is boiled down to a simple answer, whether you edge or mow first really doesn’t matter for the health of your lawn. Where it could matter is if mulching and/or bagging of grass clippings is the goal.

For speed or time saving benefits, which one is done will really only help slightly in professional crews doing multiple jobs per day.

For the average homeowner, just pick the one you like to do first and get to work!

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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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