Mowing is a no-brainer right? Don’t you just start the mower, go over the grass and that’s it?
Well, yeah, pretty much, but believe it or not some people really screw up their lawn through weird mowing practices. Other people have a great lawn because they keep a few simple principles in mind.
Here are the secrets to the magic of mowing. Just remember H-O-M-E…
Mow high for healthy grass. Tall grass grows deeper roots. Deeper roots means you can water less often, saving you money and leaving you with better looking grass.
Set your mower so that after you mow, your grass is 2.5 to 3 inches tall if you have Kentucky bluegrass. For most mowers, that’s the highest setting. Mowing high also chokes out many pesky weeds. Although you’ll still have a few, you’ll get much less weeds than if you mow short.
Also, don’t bother cutting is short in the early spring or late fall. This older generation practice has been shown to cause more harm than good. So mow high and never cut it short.
The one exception to this rule is if you have a lot of brown blades mixing with your green blades in early spring. Every once in a while, I like to mow a lawn very short in spring to cut the brown blades off. However, if you decide to do this, it’s important to really baby your lawn after this by watering it regularly. It will take it a little while for it to start growing again. So, if you can avoid doing this, it’s better for your lawn, but sometimes mowing short once in spring makes it look greener throughout the summer.
Mow often for healthy grass. Mowing is cutting part of the grass blade off. If you cut just a little bit off, no problem, the grass can handle it just fine. If you cut too much off at one time, the grass is shocked into regrowing its blades, which means it has to stop growing its roots for a while to redirect its energy.
How much is too much to cut off? Turf specialists recommend never cutting more than 1/3 of the grass blade off. That means if you mow to a height of 2.5 to 3 inches, you don’t want to let the grass get more than 3.75 to 4.5 inches (4 inches more or less) before you mow.
What’s surprising is that sometimes that means the lawn would be better off being mowed twice per week rather than once a week. This sounds like more work, but if you can do it you’ll see a big improvement in your grass. Plus, it’s actually easier to mow.
The good news is that you only need to do this during peak growth periods, which is really only a month in spring and rarely a couple weeks in fall.
Mulch your clippings. Most mowers come with a bag to catch the clippings. Ditch this. Instead, let your mower blade shred the clippings into tiny bits, which is called mulching, and let them fall back into the grass.
By mulching the clippings, you have to fertilize less because you’re recycling the nutrients back into the soil. You also don’t have to bag and dispose of the clippings, so it’s better for the environment. Old school thinking use to say that you shouldn’t mulch your clippings because it would cause a thatch problem. Turfgrass scientists have shown repeatedly that this is nonsense, so don’t let that worry you.
Mow a different direction Each time
Change your mowing pattern each time you mow. If you mow in the same pattern week after week, the grass will bend over and not be evenly cut. Changing your pattern helps you get a more even cut across the lawn so it looks nice and uniform.
String trim before or after?
My last tip is that it’s easier to string trim around the edges before you mow. Doing it this way means the mower can mulch any trimmings and you get a nice even appearance around the edges.
To review, effective mowing practices are one of the secrets to a great lawn. Remember H-O-M-E, mow high, mow often, mulch your clippings, and each time change your mowing pattern.