The rains are here and so is the heat. This weather has the grass on the move upward.
While many of us consider mowing the lawn to be an unwelcome aspect of home ownership, good mowing equals a nice lawn. Your lawn is one of the most highly visible portions of your landscape, and mowing it correctly has a tremendous impact on its health and vigor.
Many times I have seen folks scalping their lawns by cutting them way too short. Typically the homeowner tells me, “I figure the lower I cut the grass the less often I have to cut it.” The concept is good, but the method is poor. You might be able to get away with occasional low mowing on hybrid bermuda lawns, which can be maintained at 0.5 to 1.5 inches in height, but low mowing or scalping stresses the lawn.
With a little TLC, bermuda can overcome injury from low mowing with adequate water and fertilizer, but it is not ideal. Zoysia can withstand relatively low mowing with mowing heights in the 1- to 2-inch range. Don’t try that trick with St. Augustine or centipede. St. Augustine likes to be cut at a height of 2.5-3.5 inches, while centipede can be maintained near 2 inches.
It is important to remember that during periods of drought stress, you should raise your cutting height slightly. I’d like to see most bermuda and zoysia lawns cut at a height of 1.5 inches during really dry weather. St. Augustine should be cut at a height of about 3.5 inches during dry weather.
All of us have at one time or another gone on vacation and fallen behind on chores and let our grass get too tall. You know the feeling. It seems like you’re cutting hay instead of mowing a lawn. Well, a severe reduction in grass height also stresses the lawn. Try to cut often enough that you only remove 1/3 of the total length of the grass blade each time you cut, and you won’t have to bale the clippings. If the lawn gets too tall, gradually reduce its height over a period of several mowings.
A dull blade can create problems as well. Dull mower blades leave ragged edges on the freshly cut leaves of grass. These ragged edges turn brown, which gives an ugly appearance to the lawn. This increased surface area can provide an entry point for disease organisms and that opens a new can of worms for lawn issues. Ragged cutting also increases water loss from the lawn.
Remember that grass mowing isn’t a race. Give the blade a chance to ride over the grass and cut it.
Quick turns on riding mowers will tear the grass out by the roots, especially when grass is wet. Rotate the direction you cut the grass as well. It will make the grass stand more upright.
A final question many folks have is whether to use a mulching mower or to bag their lawn clippings. Well, when cut regularly, grass clippings do not form a thick thatch layer. Also, mulching the grass clippings allows the nutrients they contain to be recycled in the lawn. Less fertilizer is needed.
Bagging your clippings may give a tighter appearance to the lawn, but it takes longer to mow.
According to a Texas study, at the end of six months, mulching mower owners spent seven hours less time mowing than the “baggers” in their test. Regardless of whether you bag or mulch, don’t cut corners when you mow your lawn. Right height and sharp blade equals a good lawn.
Reach Campbell Vaughn, the UGA Agriculture and Natural Resource agent for Richmond County, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.