The one activity that we perform on our lawn more than anything else is mowing, yet it is most often done with lack of attention to mowing height, regularity, leaf wetness, sharpness of blade and mowing patterns. Any of these factors could cause undue turf stress and provide less than desired results.
Every turf species has its own optimum mowing height and any extremes from this may cause scalping, turf thinning, and even loss of the lawn. Recommended cutting heights (inches) for our warm season turf species are as follows: bermudagrass 0.5-1.5; zoysia 1.0–1.5; carpetgrass 1.0-2.0; centipede 1.5-2.0; and St. Augustine 2.5-3.0.
Regardless of the turf species, mowing regularity should follow the one-third rule. This means never remove more than one-third of the total turf height at a single mowing. When the one-third rule is followed, leaf clippings will fall into the canopy of the turf and decompose rather quickly. With irregular and improper mowing, excess leaf clipping collect on the turf canopy shading the turf below, increases disease and insect incidences, and creates excess thatch.
Blade sharpness will determine the quality of cut and aesthetic appearance of the turf. A dull mower blade will tear rather than cut leaving leaf tips split, ragged and brown. A sharp blade will also improve the efficiency of the mower engine. Over the course of the growing season, that can be a considerable savings.
It is best to avoid cutting the lawn when there is leaf wetness from rain or heavy dew especially when disease pressures are prevalent. Changing mowing patterns, especially with riding mowers, will help reduce soil compaction and turf wear.
Published April 30, 2012
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org