When you look at your lawn what do you see? Do you see a nice green lawn that’s a pleasure to look at, sit or play on? Are you content as long as it stays green most of the summer and you don’t mind a few weeds as long as it still looks okay?
These questions can only be answered by you, but one of the best ways to determine if you have been successful with your lawn area is if it’s meeting your needs and expectations in appearance.
There are numerous levels of care for your lawn, but basically we’re all busy and we want to have the best looking lawn we can, while putting only the minimum amount of time, money and effort into it as possible – right?
The good news is that improper mowing is one of the most common causes of lawn problems which can easily be changed. So follow the tips below to change your mowing habits and you’ll get a huge boost towards having your best lawn ever.
The Pros and Cons of Mowing
Now I just mentioned that improper mowing is one of the most common causes of lawn problems, and I said that was good news. It’s is, because instead of having to figure out a disease, or a pest problem, you can just change how and when you mow. Let’s take a look.
What If You Didn’t Mow At All?
No matter how often you have dreamed about it, your lawn would not look better if you never mowed it because depending on what kind of grass you have it would grow anywhere from 4 to 24 inches (10 to 60 cm) tall.
In addition, it would start to set inconspicuous flowers which are high in allergy-producing pollen, and in time the grass would fall over and being to thin out giving a neglected appearance.
So right away we can see that by even doing the minimum amount of mowing, our lawn is going to look much better than if we did nothing at all.
This is because mowing actually helps make your grass grow thicker because the tip of each blade of grass contains hormones that suppress horizontal growth. So when you cut the lawn, you are removing the tips and the hormones which then allows the grass to spread and grow outward faster.
Mowing also removes any brown or damaged tips and it also helps deter weeds by keeping the lawn thicker with fewer holes for weeds to take hold.
But Mowing Also Damages The Grass Plant
Conversely, the very nature of mowing is actually injuring the plant leaving a cut end for pathogens to invade, and every mowing shocks the plant to put its energy into growing new leaves rather than the roots.
So the roots of mown grass can be less extensive and robust than unmown grass, and mown grass tends to store fewer carbohydrates which it needs to help combat stress.
That’s Why Proper Mowing Is So Important
So the pros and cons of mowing have a huge influence on how healthy a lawn is, and this is why mowing your lawn correctly is so important. In fact, in many ways it’s the key, so let’s take a look at some mowing techniques that will help your grass look better and yet stay healthy.
Long Uncut Grass
Long Uncut Grass
Mowing Height Is Important And Easy To Do
You hear it all the time, people talking, even arguing about, correct mowing heights. It does seem silly, but in fact, every grass variety does have its preferred mowing height.
It has to be tall enough for the grass to be able to recover from mowing and maintain a healthy root system, and also be short enough so the lawn doesn’t get stemmy and rough looking.
Most grasses have a balance between the size of their root systems and length of their grass blades. When the roots and the grass blades are in balance the plants will be their healthiest and be able to handle all kinds of stress.
Try Not To Scalp Your Lawn
The best way to keep your grass in balance is to keep it at its correct height. Try to avoid scalping your grass too low because this forces the plant to tap into its food reserves which will in time stress the grass which will make it thin out, be more susceptible to heat, cold, drought, pest attacks and disease.
When grass is severely cut back the growth of the roots and the plant comes almost to a complete stop until the leaves can recover. This places a huge amount of stress on the plant which is often visible in a yellow to brownish look to the lawn after mowing. It just doesn’t look healthy because it isn’t.
When the grass is mown at its correct height however, the roots can keep growing and the grass thrives.
If You Have Long Overgrown Grass
Now if for some reason your lawn has gotten really long and overgrown, don’t try and mow it all back at one time. Just mow one-third of the grass or less and then let it recover for three or four days and then take off another one-third.
By slowly getting your lawn back to its optimum height, you won’t stress it as much.
So What’s My Correct Mowing Height?
Some Basic Rules of Thumb
The most important rule of thumb is the rule of one-third. The one-third rule says: Never remove more than a third of the grass blade at any one time.
So for example: If you have a bluegrass lawn, which does best with a 2-inch (5 cm) cut, then let the grass grow to 3 inches (7.5 cm) and cut it back by 1 inch (2.5 cm) to get the grass back to its optimum height.
A Couple More Rules Of Thumb
Cool season grasses like Blue Grass, Fescue, and Rye should be mowed as high as possible. The best is around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm) and no higher. If you cut any taller than that, the grass can flop over, and if you cut it too short, the grass is more susceptible to weeds, it dries out faster, and over all does poorly.
Warm season grasses like Bermuda should be cut around a height of 3/4 to 1 inch (1.9 to 2.5 cm) tall, which may require mowing one to three times per week.
Mowing at this height will encourage a dense, thriving turf that naturally blocks weeds. If Bermuda is cut any taller than 1 inch (2.5 cm), it will be thinner and straggly looking which isn’t what you want. A good healthy lawn of Bermuda should look like a big, green, dense mat.
For more information about Bermudagrass and specific mowing heights for each type of grass go to: Grass Types
Lawn Mowing Techniques and Tips
How and when you mow your grass depends upon the type of grass you have, the season, and the amount of water and fertilizer you apply throughout the year.
For example: cool-season grasses are mowed more in the spring and fall, while warm-season grasses are mowed more in the summer.
You may have to mow once to twice a week during peak growth times or only twice a month during slow growth times.
1. Determine Mow Times By Height, Not The Calendar
Rather than mowing on a calendar schedule, it’s much easier to pay attention to the height of the grass.
- Find the optimum mowing height for your type of grass. If you don’t know, go to our Grass Types Section which has the optimum heights for each specific grass type
- As soon as your lawn greens up in the spring, allow it to grow one-third taller than its optimum height. Then cut it back by no more than one-third to bring it back to its optimum height
- Continue mowing at this height until fall, when the grass slows in growth or goes dormant
2. Always Vary Your Mowing Pattern
Try not to mow your lawn in the same direction every time. Shake it up a bit. When you mow in the same direction all the time you can compact the soil into actual ruts. Plus, grass leans and grows in the direction it has been mowed.
By mowing in a different direction each time, you will help the grass grow more upright and avoid developing ruts in your soil that in some cases are quite visible.
3. Try Not To Cut Wet Grass
Try not to cut grass when it’s wet. This is because the cut tends to be very uneven, the clippings clog the mower and can mat on the grass blocking light.
4. Enven Areas
If you have ground that is uneven, avoid scalping the high spots by either raising the deck on your mower, or regrading your area. Also, if you need to mow on a slope, do it on a diagonal, it’s just safer.
5. Get Good Overlap With Your Mower
While we’re all in a hurry, don’t skimp on mower coverage. When you mow, overlap each pass by at least 3 inches (7.5 cm). This ensures an evenly mowed lawn with no missed strips.
6. Make Sure Your Mower Blades Are Sharp
At the first of the season, make sure your mower blades are sharp. If they’re not, they won’t make a clean cut and will rip and tear the grass. This creates an injury for diseases and pests to invade your grass. For more read: How to Sharpen Lawn Mower Blade.
7. If Your Lawn Has Sharp Corners
On your first mowing pass, round off the corners, leaving them unmown. After you’re finished mowing, go back and mow the corners. That way you only have to deal with them once, and not on every pass around the lawn area.
If you’ve never paid attention to your mowing habits, now is a good time to start. The weather is warming up and your grass is going to start actively growing with it.
Within a few weeks of proper mowing however, you are going to see a huge improvement in the health and appearance of your lawn.
The next great thing you can do for your grass is compost it. There is a link to a full tutorial on how to do that in the article list below.
Good luck and happy mowing!
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