Who doesn't love the smell of freshly cut grass? Though you may love the smell of freshly cut grass, how does one know if they are mowing properly?
Foremost, mowing is a stress. Mowing removes tissue that would otherwise be undergoing photosynthesis, thus reducing production of carbohydrates needed to maintain the plant. Understanding mowing can help reduce plant stress and increase plant health.
Removing more than one-third of plant tissue results in a weaker plant. The turfgrass will be less able to withstand heat and drought stress, resulting in reduced turf density.
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Mowing height can have a large impact on turfgrass health. Low mowing heights often look very nice but place much stress on the turfgrass. Lower mowed turfgrasses have shorter root systems than turfgrass mowed at a higher height. The larger root system of higher mowed turfgrass allows the turfgrass to withstand more stress, however, it may appear more shaggy than a lower mowed turfgrass. Another benefit of higher mowed turfgrass is less frequent mowing. Following the one-third rule, mowing at a higher height reduces the total number of mowings in a season. Overall, 3-4" is generally a good lawn mowing height for many turfgrasses in our area.
Clippings should be mulched, that is returned to the lawn, whenever possible. Removing the clippings removes nutrients from the lawn. Over the course of a season, removing the clippings each mowing can be the equivilent of removing one fertilizer application.