Mowing techniques greatly affect the health and well being of the lawn. Improper mowing can damage a lawn; proper mowing techniques will aid in bringing it back to health and vigor. Mowing and maintaining turf is covered in depth under Turf Areas of this website, Appropriate Turf Care. Because of its importance, I'll include the mowing tips here as well:

  • Mow according to the lawn's growth rate. To decrease the frequency of mowing, practice efficient methods of watering and feeding turf. Turf that is over stimulated with excessive water and fertilizer requires more frequent maintenance in the form of mowing, weeding, thatch removal, pest and pathogen problems. Growth rate of turf varies throughout the growing season. Cool season grasses grow more robustly in early spring and fall; warm season grasses in late spring and early summer. The extreme heat of summer and periods of drought slow the growth rate, decreasing the frequency of mowing.
  • Mow high, mow often. Mow to the proper height, mowing not more than a third of the blade at any single mowing. If mowed too low, the surface area is reduced, weakening the plant during times of heat, cold, chemical or drought stress. If turf grass dies or declines during this period, we wrongly conclude it died from extreme weather, when in fact, it died of carbohydrate shortages due to cutting the grass too low. Mowing low decreases shading of the soil, increasing evaporation. Mowing high shades the soil and cools the crowns, the temperature sensitive growing points of the turf grass. Mowing at the higher levels permits the grass blades to act as a living mulch.
  • Mow by growth rate of the blade, rather than by schedule. You may elect not to mow yourself, but hire a lawn service. Lawn services enforce their schedule on the lawn (refer to design theories, control oriented gardening). Unfortunately, lawns rarely grow just a third taller in a week's time, especially when combined with excessive watering and fertilization. Most urban lawns should be mowed every 4-5 days, rather than every seven days. Proper mowing itself can go a long way towards a healthy lawn. If lawn growth jumps ahead of your schedule, gradually reduce the height back down to normal with several, spaced mowings - not all at once.
  • Alternate mowing patterns to lessen soil compaction.
  • Don't bag it, use a mulch mower. Mulch mowing is so much easier (less maintenance) than using the bag and dispose type of mower, and it is better for the turf. Mulch mowers do not cause thatch - over watering and over fertilizing causes thatch by over stimulating growth in grass and by killing the beneficial microorganisms whose job is to decompose this matter. When bagging lawn clippings, you will loose 50% of the nitrogen laid down with the first two mowings after fertilization. Mulch mowing returns the nitrogen to the soil and spares landfill space.
  • Choose a lawn service that uses mulching mowers.
  • Keep mower blades sharpened. Mulch mowers with blades sharpened periodically will not leave visible clippings. Grass blades are finely chopped and forced down to the soil level for decomposition. Sharpen the mower blades monthly. Jagged leaf blades cause disease, heat and drought stress and cause leaf die back below the cutting point, thereby giving your turf a lower cut than intended. With extra thick turf during rapid blade growth, increase the frequency of mowing.
  • One advantage to buffalograss as a turf grass is its infrequent need for mowing. Normally once a month is sufficient. Mowing more often is damaging and can lead to killing it out. In hot and dry conditions, buffalo grass goes dormant, but greens up quickly with rain. A buffalo grass turf with minimal maintenance may consist of an early May, mid summer and fall mowing, or even just a late April or early May mowing to a height of 3 -4 inches to remove old growth.

Turf Grass

Blade Growth Height

Blade Mow Height

Bluegrass, Poa pratensis

2 to 3 inches

3 to 4 ¼ inches

Tall Fescue, Festica arundicea

2 to 3 inches

3 to 4 ¼ inches

Common Bermuda Grass

Cynodon dactylon

½ to 2 inches

¾ to 3 inches

Hybrid Bermuda Grass

Cynodon sp.

½ to 2 inches

¾ to 3 inches

Buffalograss, Buchloe dactyloides

2 to 4 inches

3 to 5 inches

Perennial Ryegrass, Lolium perenne

2 to 2 ½ inches

3 to 3 ¾ inches

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia japonica and Z. matrella

¾ to 1 ½ inches

1 1/8 to 2 ¼ inches

Angie Hanna