Few things compare to the beauty of a well-manicured lawn. Studies show that a home’s curb appeal can increase its resale value. You’ll also have a sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing that your lawn care routine is responsible for the positive results. In addition, there are environmental and health benefits of turfgrass lawns.
Curb appeal can increase your home’s resale value. Image: tab1962/Getty Images
However, the health of your lawn is dependent, in part, on proper mowing techniques. So, Freshome asked two lawn care professionals to provide best practices and tips for doing it right.
Warm season grasses grow faster in mid-summer. Images: kurham/Shutterstock
How often should you mow the lawn? “Many of us have heard the idea of mowing our lawn at least one time per week,” says Dr. Brad DeBels, Director of Operations at Weed Man Lawn Care. As a general rule, he says it’s an accurate level of frequency, but it all depends on the season and the type the grass you have.
“Warm-season grasses grow much faster in mid-summer than in the spring or fall, while cool-season grasses grow at higher rates in spring and fall than summer,” DeBels explains. “For your lawn to be the envy of the neighborhood, you should be mowing your lawn at least one time per week at the proper height.”
Are you scalping your lawn?
Scalping puts your lawn at risk. Image: SL-photo/Shutterstock
And the proper height is the cause of some confusion. “Most homeowners think if they cut their grass nice and short, it buys them more time before they need to mow again,” explains Chris McGeary at Lawn Doctor. “While mowing your lawn properly is one of the easiest ways to fight off weeds and diseases, many homeowners fall victim to mowing too short, or ‘scalping,’ which does more harm than good.”
But if mowing your grass fights off weeds and diseases, wouldn’t mowing it even shorter provide a greater level of defense? Apparently not, according to McGeary. “Scalping can have some pretty serious repercussions as a result of cutting off essential energy sources for the grass blades.” So, when you’re mowing, he says it’s important to pay attention to the height of your grass to ensure you’re not hindering its growth. “You’ll notice if you are scalping your lawn when the grass turns a yellowish color or becomes frayed,” he says.
How to avoid scalping
Dull blades can also cause scalping. Image: PPA/Shutterstock
To avoid weakening and other lawn issues, McGeary recommends cutting most warm-season grasses down to 1 inch, and he says most cool-season grasses should be 2.5 inches high.
“Scalping can also occur as a result of keeping your mower on its lowest setting and having a dull blade, so be sure to regularly check in on your equipment.” If you’re worried about your grass being too high, McGeary says longer is always better so you shouldn’t be afraid to let your grass grow. “Pairing your mowing habits with maintained irrigation will allow you to enjoy your glorious yard in no time.”
Observe these mowing guidelines
DeBels recommends that you never mow more than one-third of the leaf blade off at any one time. “For example, if your desired grass height is 3 inches, you should mow the grass before it has reached a height of 4.5 inches.” This means that you may need to mow your lawn every four to five days during peak growing seasons. “If you mow more than one-third of the leaf blade off, you initiate a growth response in the plant that causes excess shoot growth, reduced root growth and can leave many unsightly leaf clippings on the surface,” DeBels explains.
Keep your mowing height as high as possible
A higher mowing height contributes to a healthier lawn. Image: PPA/Shutterstock
If you choose a higher mowing height, DeBels says you can also prevent weed growth. “Aesthetics and utility are strong considerations when choosing a mowing height, but generally the highest setting on your mower is a safe place to be,” he says. However, you don’t want your lawn to be too high, lest it provide cover for various pests and critters.
Sharpen your blades
The effectiveness of your lawn mower is dependent on the sharpness of your mower blades. “When dull mower blades are being used to cut your lawn, they cut less and tear more,” DeBels explains. And this results in frayed leaf blades, and DeBels warns that it can lead to lawn disease. “Depending on your lawn size, you should consider sharpening your mower blades two times per year.” You may want to add this item to your fall lawn maintenance list.
Leave your clippings
Clippings are your lawn’s friend. Image: Nick Beer/Shutterstock
Don’t bag your clippings; leave them on the lawn. “Not only is collecting clippings labor intensive, but you are removing needed nutrients from the lawn that are contained in those leaf blades,” DeBels says. “These returned leaf blades can provide 25 percent of the yearly nitrogen the lawn needs, meaning they’re free fertilizer.”
Change up your mowing patterns
Repeatedly mowing in a circle around this well well caused thinning. Image courtesy of Weed Man Lawn Care.
Repetition is a bad thing as it relates to mowing. “Be sure to alternate your mowing pattern every time you cut the lawn,” DeBels says. “Be creative. Don’t simply create the same masterpiece each time.” If you continue to mow in the same direction or pattern, DeBels warns that you could create thinning and rutting, which you can see in the photo above.
Still have questions about mowing or your yard in general? Contact a lawn care professional to find out more.
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