Cutting Your Lawn: How High Should I Cut

Proper mowing management is an essential part of keeping a lawn healthy and green. With proper thought and planning, great amounts of time and effort are saved and your lawn will thrive, remaining lush and green throughout the growing season.

How high should I cut my grass? The first mowing in the spring should be thought of as the "cleanup" mowing. At this time the correctly determined amount of lawn should be removed to guard against the growth of fungus diseases. A power rake may be necessary.

Set your lawn mower to an inch in height, taking time to cut out and remove dead grass. Never leave the lawn mower at a one-inch setting for more than the first two or three cuttings. As the weather gets hot, the blade should be raised to anywhere from 1% inches to 2 inches, depending on climate, variety of grass, and personal preference. With most varieties of grass, the higher you can stand to cut, the healthier the lawn will look.

The height to which grass should be cut depends chiefly on the kind grown. Yet over the long period, higher cutting gives you the following benefits:

  • It encourages deeper rooting.
  • It reduces surface evaporation and lowers your water bill.
  • It takes some of the force out of the water drops from large-volume sprinklers and thereby prevents erosion.
  • It keeps roots shaded and weed seeds from sprouting.
  • It is the most effective and inexpensive way to control crabgrass because crabgrass has a difficult time seeding and sprouting in the shade of a thick mat of grass.

How Often Should I Cut? Frequent cutting is essential if you want to keep your lawn uniformly green. If the grass grows too tall between mowings, the green foliage will be mowed off, leaving mostly stems that are yellowed from being shaded. Grass that is mowed frequently always has sufficient foliage remaining to keep it looking freshly green and to aid the growth of deeper, more abundant roots.

Ornamental gardens are mowed as often as twice a week during the height of the growing season. But regular homeowners need cut only once a week. Some lawns can go for as long as two weeks, but generally these do not look as good as a lawn that is cut on a more regular basis. So even if a lawn is slow growing, it is recommended that it be cut no less frequently than every ten days.

Should I Leave the Clippings? This is a hard question to answer. Many case histories can be cited to prove that either leaving or removing clippings is best. So the real question is, do you have a particular lawn that will or will not benefit from leaving the grass clippings?

If your lawn is deep and flexible with a good thick thatch base, it would be better to catch the clippings. If your lawn is sparse, with dirt showing in between, or even if the dirt is well covered by green grass but the thatch base is thin and you have lots of traffic, it would be beneficial to leave the clippings. Clippings only do harm when they are left in clumps and piles. These clumps burn the grass when the sun comes out and leave yellow spots just as if a dog had left his calling card. If you wish to let the grass clippings remain on the lawn, be sure to do this when the clippings are short so they can work down into the grass and form a light mulch to feed the lawn.

In a low-humidity climate, grass clippings do not readily decay but rather settle around the stolons (main moisture-absorbing roots), forming an impermeable thatch that resists penetration of water and fertilizer. Also, under summer conditions of moisture and heat, matted grass clippings foster the development of fungus diseases and form a breeding place for sod webworms.

So, the question still begs to be asked, "Should I mulch clippings or should I bag them?" In most lawn care experience, after weighing in on all of the facts listed above, you should usually mulch whenever possible. Just make sure that the conditions for mulching are right and that absolutely no clumps of cut grass blades are left anywhere. If your mulcher mower cannot do the job without leaving clumps of grass, bag the grass instead.

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