The secret to a great looking lawn lies in the mowing. Sure, you may need to fertilize or use a herbicide from time to time, but proper mowing can help your lawn look lush and healthy all season long while reducing the need for chemical applications. Follow my mowing guidelines (riding or pushing) to stay on the cutting edge:
- Mow at 3 inches
- Mow frequently
- Return the clippings
- Fertilize in the fall
Let’s break it down…
There are many benefits to keeping your mowing height between 2.5 and 3.5 inches. Chief among them is weed control.
It may seem counterintuitive, but mowing too short will increase weeds in the lawn. Like most plants, weeds want and need sun to grow. If you mow your lawn really short, you’re just giving them what they want. Consequently, weeds such as crabgrass and dandelions will proliferate. So set your mower at 3 inches and leave it there. It will minimize weed population.
Most species of grass do well with a mowing height anywhere between 2.5 and 3.5 inches. I think 3 inches looks great and is easy to remember. If you have a play area for children, I recommend you mow at 3.5 inches. It will feel luxurious and help soften their fall.
Lawns that are mowed at the recommended height will have deeper, stronger root systems and better color overall.
Follow the one-third rule. Mow as frequently as needed but never remove more than one-third of the leaf blades at once. Removing more than one-third may cause root growth to cease while the leaves and shoots are regrowing. You may need to mow up to twice a week in the spring, but only once every 2 to 3 weeks in the summer.
Return the Clippings
Ok, I’ll admit that I don’t always follow this guideline when I mow the front lawn in early spring. The back yard always gets the clippings returned. It doesn’t matter if you have a “mulching” mower or not, a discharge mower returns clippings just fine.
You return up to 25% of fertilizer nutrients back to the lawn in the clippings. And contrary to popular belief, clippings do NOT contribute significantly to thatch build-up. You will also help reduce water evaporation by returning the clippings. Bagging the grass takes a third more time to complete the job. Who wants that?
One final point: if you must bag your clippings, please do not throw them in the trash. This can increase your trash by up to 10% and take up unnecessary space in landfills. A better option is to use the clippings as a mulch.
Fertilize in the Fall
This is an easy one. Like most people, I’m mowing frequently in the spring and don’t need to increase the need for mowing by adding fertilizer. Fall fertilization promotes a healthy turf without stimulating excessive leaf growth.
If you’re inclined to fertilize only once a year, do it in September. If you would like to fertilize twice a year, do it in September and early November. And as always, read all labels and follow the instructions.
Final Mowing Guidelines
- Use a different mowing pattern each time you mow
- DO NOT bump trees
- Do not mow when there is drought stress
- Do not mow when it is excessively wet
- Pick up all debris before mowing
- Keep hands and feet away from the blades
Be Environmentally Friendly
- DO NOT discharge clippings into the street
- Follow ozone alerts
- Keep mowing equipment in good working condition
- Have mower serviced prior to the heavy spring mowing period
- Mower blades should be sharped each spring and as needed throughout the season
TIP: A dull mower blade frays the ends of the blades and results in brown tips which are unsightly. Have mower blades sharpened prior to the heavy mowing season.