Mowing best practices
How often do you mow your lawn during the spring and fall compared to the summer? What type of equipment do you use? What heights are the blades? Do you already feel overwhelmed by the thought of mowing the lawn despite doing so for years now?
Don’t be shocked! Many of us have mowed our lawns so often that it’s now become an afterthought. But that doesn’t mean we’re doing it correctly. Poor mowing techniques can actually damage your lawn no matter how nice it looks and how fresh it smells when cut.
If your lawn is in poor shape, and you’ve been watering and fertilizing regularly, examine your mowing practices.
Unlike watering –which we recommend decreasing the frequency– we suggest that you increase the number of times you mow. Of course, this depends on a number of factors such as the type of grass and time of year.
During the spring and fall you’ll notice grass grows more than it does in the summer. This happens because cool-season grass blades (shoots) are more likely to grow when air temperatures reside between 67 to 75 degrees.
The roots begin growing when soil temperatures are between 55 and 65 degrees. When temperatures soar during the summer, cool-season grass growth slows as it fades into summer dormancy. At this time of year, mowing frequency will also drop.
Those who mow often will have thicker grass blades than those who mow less frequently. In turn, this will increase the surface areas of the blades which is pertinent to photosynthesis (feeding) and results in healthier blades and roots.
Does your lawn have a lot of dips? Or is there at least one area that rests on a steep hill? Be extra careful when mowing these areas. In the case of the latter you might even consider nixing cutting the grass with a mower and using something more precise such as a weed-wacker. This will not only increase the lifespan of your blades but will also ensure your grass isn’t ripped up.
A lawn’s height depends on the type of grass present. As you can imagine this becomes inherently more difficult when a lawn contains a mixture of different grass species. Because this is typically the case with most cool-season grasses, the best advice we can give is to set your mower height at a range that satisfies the most common species present.
As an example, most cool-season lawns predominantly contain kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and ryegrass mixes. It’s best to cut these grasses around 4 inches throughout the growing season. On the last cut of the year, you can drop the mower’s blade about a ½ inch to protect the blades from developing winter diseases due to matting.
Benefits of lawn clippings
This is a personal choice – some people bag lawn clippings while others leave the clippings on their lawn after mowing it. Those who remove the clippings typically do so for aesthetic reasons or because it causes a mess (if kids are playing in the yard.) Those who leave the clippings do so because their nutrients promote turf growth and improve the lawn’s overall health. If left, clippings can provide upwards of 25 percent of your lawn’s total fertilizer needs, according to the University of Missouri Extension. Broken down further, clippings have 1 percent phosphorus, 2 percent potassium, and 4 percent nitrogen.
It’s crucial, however, that you leave only the correct amount of clippings. If you leave too much of the grass blade the clippings will smother the turf and prevent critical sunlight from reaching it. Over time you may notice your grass actually thinning out and dying despite completing all of the other necessary steps for survival.
Benefits of mowing
There are numerous benefits to mowing the lawn. Here are a few of them:
- Mowing your lawn consistently helps it grow thick. Mowing infrequently does just the opposite.
- A thick lawn keeps weeds out of your property by essentially suffocating them as they struggle to obtain the necessary light for proper growth. You’ll also remove weeds and seed heads which will reduce reproduction.
- Moisture is retained due to a thick lawn’s ability to shade the soil. Lawns naturally dry out during the summer. By shading the soil you help them retain water. More so, thick lawns prevent runoff. As the soil drys and hardens water is less likely to penetrate beneath the surface and more likely to stream off the lawn into streets, sewers, or waterways.
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