One of the most important components of lawn maintenance is mowing. It directly affects the health and quality of the turfgrass. Improperly mowed lawns will suffer and develop an unsightly appearance. Proper mowing consists of cutting the grass at the correct height and frequency. Doing so will create a healthy lawn by encouraging the development of a dense stand of turfgrass which helps reduce weeds and other pests.
The proper mowing height is determined by the particular type of grass. Zoysia should be mowed at one to one and one half inches. Hybrid Bermuda prefers a height of a half an inch to one and one half inches while common Bermuda should be cut one to two inches high. Centipede needs to be maintained at one to one and one half inches while St. Augustine and tall fescue should be cut at two to three inches. When adjusting the mowing height, measure the distance of the mowing blades to the ground and make sure all four wheels are set at the same height. During hot dry periods, raise the mowing height by one-half of an inch. The longer leaf blades will shade the soil, keeping the grass roots cooler and reducing moisture loss.
Mow frequently enough so that no more than one-third of the grass blade is removed. For example, if you want to maintain the lawn at a height of two inches, mow when it is three inches high. Removing more than one-third of the grass blade will increase the lawn's susceptibility to pests and environmental stress. If the grass becomes too high between mowings, increase the height of the cut and then gradually lower it until the recommended height is reached for the particular type of grass.
The blades should be kept sharp at all times. Dull blades will shred the ends of the grass, causing the lawn to develop an unsightly brown to white appearance. This makes it more prone to diseases and water loss. Sharpen the mower blades as needed or replace.
The question arises as to whether or not the grass clippings should be collected in a bag or allowed to drop back to the ground. The best course of action is to let them fall back into the turf where they will break down and release nutrients. This will help provide organic matter for the soil and reduce the need for fertilization. Some people are concerned this will increase thatch, a layer of dead roots, stems, and grass blades which have accumulated between the surface of the soil and the green blades of the turf grass. Thatch can lead to increased pest problems and other stresses. If the lawn is cut on a regular basis by removing no more than one-third of the leaf blade, the clippings should not form a thatch layer.
Remember, correct mowing is an important factor of lawn care. Make sure the lawn is mowed at the correct height and frequency using a sharp blade. Doing so will help ensure a healthy and attractive lawn.
Timothy Daly is an Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent with Gwinnett County Cooperative Extension. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.