How to Mow a Steep Hill with a Riding Mower

Riding lawn mowers makes the mowing job easier since all you have to do is drive around the lawn, and they will cut the grass. Some even have a grass bag where they load the grass clippings for you to offload. On flat ground, they are fun to use.

However, it is hard to mow on a steep hill with a ride-on mower since there are risks of tipping over. Since you may be sitting on the mower when it flips, it could cause fatal injuries or even death. The good news is that, with proper techniques, this task is still doable. In this article, we show you how to mow a steep hill with a riding mower and some additional safety tips.

How To Mow A Hill

Take It Slow

The best way to mow on a steep slope is to go slow. When you move at a very high speed, you may lose control of the mower. When you need to stop, find a level ground. An excellent steep hill mower should have excellent breaks that enable it to stop promptly. 

The front wheels should be making grooves too. If they aren’t, you should go downhill. If you notice the front part of the riding mower being lifted, the backside may be too heavy and may cause the mower to roll backward. When you realize something’s not right, find a relatively level ground, turn, and go downhill. Avoid turning when you’re on the slope.

Mow Up And Down (Not Side To Side)

When using a push lawnmower, it’s always advisable to move horizontally along the hill. However, this may be risky with the riding mower since it may tip sideways, injuring the user. If the slope is too steep, mow downhill. This means you will need to look for a path that isn’t too steep to get to the top of the hill. As mentioned earlier, DO NOT when on the slope.

Scout The Hill

Before mowing, go through the lawn and check any holes, uneven ground, or even debris like sticks and stones. Ruts and rough terrain may cause the mower to tip over, while the debris may damage the blades, or end up being thrown at you.

Don’t Mow On Wet Ground

Dry ground with proper lighting is the ideal condition for mowing. When it’s wet, the debris may clog the mower, requiring regular maintenance and even damaging some parts. When it’s wet, it’s also easy to slip injuring the user in the process. Proper lighting, such as when it’s sunny, makes it easy to see any debris lying on the lawn. 

Look For Alternatives

When you find that your yard is too steep for a riding lawn mower, you can consider other ways for lawn care. For instance, if it’s fenced, you can place goats and other domestic animals to feed on the grass. You can also convert it to a farm with terraces, and you will not need to mow anymore. If the yard is smaller, a weed eater, or a push lawn mower may be a good idea.

Set The Deck To A Maximum Height

Setting the mowing deck close to the ground works best for relatively flat terrain. However, for steep slopes, you may end up scalping the yard, leaving some unpleasant marks. Just set to a height that’s enough to snip the tips of the grass.

Check The Manufacturer’s Instructions

The manufacturer will indicate the ideal angle that their model can comfortably mow without tipping. Pay attention to these details to avoid pushing your tool too far. And if you’re planning on purchasing one, consider the angles of your slope.

Choosing The Best Riding Lawn Mower For Your Hilly Terrain

There are many models of riding lawn mowers in the market, but there are three main types:

  • Front Engine Lawnmowers – As the name suggests, their engine is usually at the front. There are often more powerful, and they have large cutting widths. They also consume a lot of fuel. If you’re looking for a powerful hillside mower, this would be your best bet. They also support several attachments such as cultivators, aerators, and any other tow behind lawn maintenance tools. They are ideal for large lawns and are hard to maneuver in areas with a lot of obstacles.
  • Rear Engine Mowers – These are the cheaper and smaller version of the front engine mowers. Unlike the front-engine models, this model doesn’t support attachments since the engines are weaker. They are mainly built for cutting grass.
  • Zero-turn mowers – Unlike the other models that turn with the front-wheels, zero-turn mowers have their pivots on the back wheels. They are easier to maneuver even on lawns with obstacles. We believe these are the best mowers for steep hills since they are very stable thanks to the low center of gravity. They are also quite powerful. A good example would be the Husqvarna Z242F.

Below are some of the factors you need to consider when purchasing a steep hill mower:

  • Type of the yard – The gradient and size of your yard matters. Rear engine models are the safest, but they take too long, for they have a smaller cutting width. Front engine mowers are the best very steep hills, and zero-turn mowers are the best for lawns with several obstacles. So, understand your yard before choosing the mower.
  • Weight of the mower – The more massive the mower, the better. This weight ensures that it is stable and doesn’t flip over as you work on the lawn.
  • Turning – Always check the turning radius of the lawn on the manufacturer’s instructions. But as mentioned earlier, the zero-turn mowers are the best for maneuverability. 
  • Center of gravity – If a lawnmower has a high center of gravity, the chances are high that it will flip. Rear engine lawn mowers have a lower center of gravity than front engine mowers. It’s not hard to find a model with a low COG in all the types. So do your due diligence before purchasing. 
  • Transmission – There are two types of transmission, manual and automatic. Manual transmission is affordable, but it may be hard to maintain on a steep slope. Automatic transmission mowers are cheaper and easier to use, but they are often less powerful. In this case, both of them are applicable. It all depends on if you’re comfortable with either of them. 
  • An adjustable cutting height – When mowing a steep hill, you may need to adjust the cutting deck to the highest height for efficiency and to prevent scalping. The maximum height of the mower should match the size of the grass on your lawn. 
  • Safety – An ideal hillside mower should also have some safety measures such as seatbelts and headlights to protect the user from accidents and injuries.

Safety Procedures For Mowing A Steep Hill

  • Minimize the attachments on the mower. For instance, mulching and bagging tools are not necessary.
  • Do not start or stop the mower when on the slope. 
  • Zero-turn mowers are great, but not when the hill is too steep since you won’t be doing a lot of turning. Whenever you need to turn, always look for fairly level ground.
  • Carry out regular maintenance on the mower according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • Turn slowly. Turning suddenly may cause the mower to tip over.
How to Mow a Steep Hill with a Riding Mower
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How to Mow a Steep Hill with a Riding Mower
Most people make the mistake of mowing a hill sideways instead of up and down. We have compiled a detailed guide on how to mow a steep hill with a riding mower
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