Mowing a lawn is a pretty simple task… but if you don’t follow a few important guidelines, you can damage your lawn and waste money. If you don’t want to risk it, knowing that there are landscaping resource management services available, this can make such a difference to keeping your lawn clean and looking presentable. If you plan on doing it yourself, be proactive this spring by developing a mowing plan that encourages healthy growth all season long.
How often you mow is a moving target.
It would be nice if we could say that you can count on mowing once a week or every 10 days. But, it is not that simple. The best way to know when to mow is to watch your lawn. When your lawn is growing faster, you have to mow more often to maintain proper height. When your grass grows slower, you can mow less frequently.
Cool season grasses (like fescue) grow fastest in the spring and fall. Warm season grasses (like bermuda, centipede, and zoysia) have a faster growth rate in the late spring and summer.
Check out the ideal mowing heights suggested by the University of Georgia Ag Extension Lawn Calendar.
A short cut is NEVER a short-cut for lawn care.
If you are headed out on vacation or trying to mow less often, it is tempting to just cut your grass very short. A word of warning… you may be causing irreversible damage to your lawn!
Each variety of grass has a recommended mowing height. This optimum height ensures the grass has the best chance to grow heathy, green shoots with a deep and effective root system.
The rule of thumb is to remove no more than 1/3 of the height of your grass in any one mowing. Chopping it too short can result in serious damage, increase the risk of disease, and stunt the root system.
The same rules apply if you’ve let your lawn grow a bit too high. Never cut more than the top 1/3 in one mowing or you could remove too much of the active photosynthetic part of the blades and put your lawn into carbohydrate shock (and yes, it’s as bad as it sounds…).
Optimal blade height varies with the weather.
You may need to keep your grass a little longer than the recommended height if you are growing it in shade to maximize the amount of photosynthesis happening in the blades. Warm season grasses can be cut shorter in the spring to reduce thatch and accelerate “green-up”. Come summer and fall, you can allow them to grow a bit longer to reduce irrigation needs. Cool season fescue can be kept longer in the summer to combat heat and drought damage. All mowing puts stress on your grass, so any time your lawn is recovering from injury or disease, let it go a little longer between mowings to give it time to return to health.
Sharp blades are a must!
The type or brand of mower you use has little effect on the health of your lawn… but the quality of the blades is critical. Dull blades shred your lawn instead of producing nice, clean cuts. Ragged tips increase water loss and make your lawn more susceptible to pests and disease. Always keep your lawnmower blades sharp for best results. Early spring is a great time to have your mower serviced.
For more turf care tips, check out our resources!