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Proper Mowing Tips

Mowing in one of the most important factors in maintaining a good lawn. A good mower, regular maintenance checks and good mowing techniques all help to ensure a smooth, well groomed appearance for your lawn. Never mow lower than the accepted base height of the selected grass. A lawn's density, vigor, water consumption, weediness and resistance to weather stress are affected by how you mow. Never remove more than 1/3 of the height of the grass blades at one mowing. If more needs to be removed do it gradually over the next couple of mowings.

The effectiveness of all other lawn maintenance, i.e. watering, fertilizing, and weed control depends on proper mowing because improper mowing causes more lawn problems than any other practice. The old "adage" of "mowing low once a week" to minimize mowing chores is the worst possible single thing you can do to a lawn. This weakens the lawn and thins it out. The second most common mowing mistake is selecting a mowing height which is lower than the particular grass can withstand. This is a no-win situation, even if the grass gets mowed seven days a week. The tips on mower selection, maintenance, safety, and storage that follow will help you get the best performance from your mower for a beautiful, healthy lawn.

Mowing height and frequency go hand in hand. The closer you mow, the more often you must mow. This is necessary to avoid excessive leaf removal, which puts the plant in a stress-recovery situation. Again, never remove more than 1/3 the height of the grass at one mowing. Turfgrass clippings contribute very little to the development of thatch when proper mowing procedures are practiced. Excess clippings left on the lawn will weaken the lawn and perhaps contribute to thatch. But if you mow at the proper frequency and mowing height, clippings left on the turf do not cause thatch build-up. Clippings should be collected and removed when: (1) the clippings are excessive, (2) lawn is diseased, and (3) if weeds are setting seed. Mulching mowers may increase decomposition of the clippings, since they produce smaller size clippings which allows for faster decomposition.

Mowing tips

  • Mow your grass regularly. This encourages it to spread horizontally, to thicken and to choke out weeds.
  • Cutting grass short is not the answer to a good-looking lawn. Cutting grass to a uniform height is what gives your lawn a neat appearance
  • Remove no more than one-third of the grass blade in any one mowing. When you cut off more than one-third, you remove the green material that absorbs sunlight and manufactures food that is stored in the root system. The grass plant goes into shock and parts of the deeper root system die back
  • Mow at the highest setting recommended for your type of lawn. The taller the grass blades are above the ground the deeper the root system is below ground. A large, deep network of roots helps grass plants withstand stress during drought and hot weather.
  • Keep the mower blades sharp. Dull blades shred the tops of the grass blades and can make entry wounds for diseases. Shredded grass tips turn brown quickly and look unsightly. Mow in a different direction every time. Otherwise, grass plants tend to develop a grainy appearance, especially at low mowing heights. Overlap swaths by 2 to 4 inches to achieve a uniform cut.
  • Avoid mowing your lawn when the grass is wet. A dull blade can actually pull grass plants out of wet soil. Tires on heavier equipment are more likely to compact the soil on wet ground, thus impeding the movement of air and water into the soil.
  • During rainy weather, it is better to mow wet grass than to let it get too tall.
  • If you must mow overly long grass, take steps to avoid overloading the mower engine. Cut only a half to three-quarter swath rather than full width. A better technique is to mow the lawn twice, cutting only one-half the required amount on the first pass lower the mower and mow at the desired height on the second pass.
  • If you mow often enough, the short grass clippings will filter down into the grass and do not need to be removed. Clippings return about 25 percent of the required fertilizer to the soil when they decompose, and are a source of organic matter. Remove long clippings which remain on top of the grass, preventing them from excluding sunlight or encouraging disease development when wet.
  • Thatch is a layer of dead stems and roots that can act like a sheet of plastic to impede the necessary movement of water, nutrients and pesticides into the soil. A 1/2 in. thatch layer is beneficial. If you have more than one-half inch, use a dethatching machine with vertical blades that slice through soil and kick out thatch debris.
Mowing Height Recommendations
Mowing Height during..........
Species Normal Weather High temperature stress periods
Bermudagrass 1-1 1/2" 1 1/2-2"
Chewing fescue 1 1/2-2" 2-3"
Creeping red fescue 1 1/2-2" 2-3"
Hard fescue 1 1/2-2" 2-3"
Kentucky bluegrass 1 3/4-2 1/4" 2 1/4-3 1/4"
Perennial ryegrass 1 1/2-2" 2-3"
St. Augustinegrass 1 1/2-3" 2-3 1/2"
Tall fescue 2 1/4-3" 2 1/2-3 1/2"
Zoysiagrass 1-2" 1 1/2-2 1/2"