Mowing Your Lawn

By   October 25, 2015

Mowing your lawn might seem like a no-brainer task. Just set the mower height low so that the clipping will last as long as possible and push the mower around the lawn. That’s definitely not the case.

Your lawn isn’t like your hair. On your head, only the roots are living. Everything else is dead tissue. And it’s not really easy for outside weeds to begin growing on your head.

In your lawn, everything is alive. The roots grow deep searching for moisture and nutrition, the crown directs growth, and the blades are living and breathing things, although they may breathe a bit different than you do. Provide optimal conditions and your lawn will grow thick and green. Beat it up or torture it with starvation, poor soil, heavy traffic, or bugs and it will wither and die.

Mowing Higher

Mowing your lawn higher for green heath

Mowing your lawn higher for green heath

The true fact is that, even though it’s an investment of a bit of time, proper mowing of your lawn is one of the primary steps towards having an easy lawn. Don’t believe me?  Check out what the US Department of Agriculture says! Let’s look at how this happens:

Tops on the list are setting your mower to the right height. Surprisingly, mowing higher is usually better. A close crop may not leave enough of the grass plant living to nourish the plant. Granted, it might slow growth to stretch the times between mowings, but it accomplishes that by weakening the grass plants so they can’t grow or grow slow. Unfortunately, there are other types of lawn plants that stand up well to close mowings and may even prosper. They’re called weeds! And extremely low cuts encourage weed growth by exposing bare ground to help weed seed germination at the same time that it weakens your lawngrass’s ability to fight them. My top recommendation for easy lawn care is to cut your lawn to the high end of the recommendation scale. The USDA recommends that cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass should be cut to 1 1/2 to 3 inches Warm season grasses like Bermudagrass and Zoysia can be cut close to a half inch, and Bahiagrass, carpetgrass, and centipedegrass should be cut to 1 to 3 inches. Saint Augustine grass likes to be tall in the 3 to 4-inch range.

Early in the growing season, or when a lot of moisture is expected, mowing towards the lower end of the range is best. This will allow for better air circulation and inhibit fungus and mildew damage. As the weather warms and the dry season approaches, let it grow to the high end of the scale. Longer blades of grass will provide better shade, keep the soil cooler, and help keep moisture in.

There’s also one big advantage to longer grass. It looks greener! You’ll see a lot more green grass and a lot fewer crowns, roots, and bare soil.

How you mow your grass is also important. If you’re using a rotary power mower, a piece of steel swishes over the blades and chops it off. If your mower is running well and the blade is sharp, it cuts, actually it rips, the top off clean. If your blade is dull or your mower isn’t spinning it fast enough, your grass gets shredded. Or worse yet, it gets pulled out by the roots! Shredded grass gets disease easily, looks brown, and is not healthy. Keep your mower blades sharp. There are inexpensive home sharpening kits available, or bring the blade into the shop for professional sharpening, or buy a new blade at least yearly. Blades for standard mowers are inexpensive and easy to replace. Blades for premium or commercial mowers are made of higher quality and harder steel and higher priced.

Keep your mowing blades spinning fast! Always run your mower at full speed to keep the blades spinning and cutting effectively. Running the cutting blade at reduced speed doesn’t help the grass or the mower. It needs speed to cut clean.

Plant scientist work to breed plants with different traits. Stay away from fast growing grass unless you like mowing.

Plant scientist work to breed plants with different traits. Stay away from fast-growing grass unless you like mowing.

Scalping your lawn with an extra short-cut hurts your lawn. Mowing off large amounts of greenery hurts it even more. The general rule is to never cut more than 1/3rd of your grass of at a time. Any more can shock the plants and cause permanent damage. Shorten it a third at a time if your lawn went crazy while you were away on vacation or the weather kept you inside. Bring it back to normal over time. Of course, this means that you can stretch out your cuttings during the dry season when growth is slowest.

Mowing Forever

There’s one more important point to be made here. You are going to be cutting your lawn for many years. Don’t torture yourself by taking shortcuts. Choose your seed carefully when planting or reseeding. If it says “quick grow”, walk away quickly. You’ll be cutting your quick grow grass more often than should be needed. Picture a plant scientist in a lab crossing lawn grass with fast-growing weeds to make it grow faster!

Instead, choose a quality turf blend. Fast germination ( the speed that the seed sprouts) is ok, fast growth is for hayfields.