Want a nice-looking long-lasting lawn with less watering and chemicals? Lush lawns start with knowing how to mow it. OK, so you’ve been mowing lawns for years. But are you mowing it properly? If you’re constantly fighting weeds and brown spots, you may not be mowing correctly. Properly mowed lawns will resist disease and slow weed infestation. They may even look greener and require less water.
How often you mow will depend on your soil, fertilizing, watering, grass species, weather and time of year. A basic rule is to not remove more than a third of the leaf surface at any one mowing. You may need to mow more often to stay within the 1/3 leaf rule.
For the first mowing or two in the spring, lower the cutting height of the mower to 1-1/2 inches and bag these clippings for removal. This will open up the grass for more sunlight, air, and warmth for spring growth. It also removes the old discolored grass and debris that is left from winter.
After the first mowing, raise your mower to 2-3 inches in height. Mulch your clippings back into the lawn to add nutrients. By July and August when the heat sets in, raise the mower even more to 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches in height and continue mulching. The higher grass shades the ground to help reduce water loss. The roots also go deeper which helps the grass to survive drought and winter. Taller mowed grass competes better resulting in less weeds like crabgrass, dandelions etc.
In the fall, lower the cutting height back to about 2 inches and continue mulching. Mow into late fall. Grass that is too tall may lay down and mat under the snow. Some grass may die as a result.
South Dakota State University (SDSU) at Brookings, SD, proved that mowing a lawn higher had great benefits. SDSU planted two plots of grass side by side using the same variety of grass and maintained both plots exactly the same.
The first plot was mowed short at 1 to 1-1/2 inches. The second plot was mowed at about 3 inches. In September after a hot dry summer, the grass on the taller second plot was lush, green and practically weed free. The first plot with the short-mowed grass was patchy with many weeds like dandelions. No herbicides were used on either plot. Both were watered the same. The only variable was the mowing height.
Mow frequently, follow the above height guidelines and (after the first mowing) recycle the clippings back into your lawn for nutrients. Another tip is to also shred and recycle your leaves back into your lawn. By doing all this you should have a beautiful lawn that needs less water and requires minimal use of chemicals!
By Penny Bower
South Dakota Master Gardener
(Reprinted with permission of the author.)