Posts Tagged ‘mowing height’

Late fall lawn tips: mowing and raking

You know the lawns, the ones that stay buried in leaves from October until Memorial Day or the perfectly clean ones where not a single leaf can be found by Thanksgiving.  Although these two kinds of lawns are at opposite ends of the autumn leaf removal spectrum, the point is made.  You should do something about those leaves before the snow flies.  Heavy leaf cover acts like mulch and remember we mulch to keep weeds and seeds from germinating in our landscape.   The deeper the leaf cover and the larger the piles, the more likely this lawn will thin out or end up as bare ground come late spring.    The best solution to lots of leaves is a late season cleanup in November, well after foliage season has passed.  While obtaining a perfectly clean lawn is not necessary, a good raking or professional cleanup will go a long way toward protecting your lawn come winter.  This way, next spring when things starting growing, your lawn can join the green up and not be inhibited or damaged from heavy leaf cover left over from the prior year.

Fall leaf removal is important to your lawn.

Fall leaf removal is important to your lawn.

Another important item on the fall checklist is the final mowing.  I get this question asked a lot, “How short do I mow my lawn and when should the final cut be?”  Generally, the final cut should be in November in our geographic area.  The final mowing should range right around 1.5”, depending upon grade, because an uneven lawn may be severely scalped if cut this low. So be sure to just mow short without kicking up soil!  A short cut can help minimize snow mold, winter kill, ice damage, and even mouse damage.  This is the only time of year I recommend a short cut! A lawn that is left long (over 3”) is in jeopardy and greater peril for damage from the aforementioned issues.  Add to that excessive leaf cover and your lawn can soon turn into a parking area versus a green space to enjoy.  The moral of today’s blog post is to cut your lawn short and keep it clean before the snow flies for a happier and greener lawn next spring!  


July is rough on your lawn


A dry lawn can mean improper mowing or lack of irrigation

Correct mowing is the absolute most critical factor when it comes to high summer temperatures and not adding stress already present due to heat and reduced rainfall.  One low cut below 2” can nearly instantly brown-out a lawn within hours.  The lower the cut, the more damage is done as the cut lets lose massive amounts of moisture in the hot sun causing the soil to heat up and weeds to germinate.  Nothing will set off an awful course of bad events more than a short mowing cut in July.  A dull mower blade adds to the dilemma by shredding the ends, predisposing the grass to disease and causing a displeasing tan or white tint.  Proper mowing means an am or pm cut, a sharp blade, and at least a 3” cutting height; anything less spells trouble for your lawn for weeks, if not months.

Although watering is nice, it is not the end all to saving a lawn in the month of July.  Dry lawns should not be mown unless necessary and not in the mid day.  A lawn in mild to severe stress will show mower tracks days after a cut.  Since the grass blade is mostly water, it may come as no surprise that without rainfall the lawn will lose its green color and not even have the ability to grow all that much.  Driving a tractor over a lawn in drought stress is like shoveling your driveway with a head cold in shorts in the winter, a less-than lovely combination.

Fertilizing in the summer should be to control damaging insects and be blended with slow release fertilizers, or nothing at all should be applied.  Since lawns do require at least an inch of rain per week to stay actively growing, anything less means growth will slow and the color will fade.  A normal dry period might last a few weeks to even a month in July or August.  If three weeks have gone by without rainfall, then a light watering can help keep your lawn alive, if only dormant.  Once the moisture runs out, grass will shut down and go to sleep like a bear hibernating.  This is a protection mechanism and helps most turf withstand a typical summer.  The extent of long term damage can be measured in early fall with normal rain and cooler temperatures.  How well your lawn faired will be dependent upon the initial health going into the summer, your mowing habits/height, and supplemental irrigation if you have the ability to do so.

Any irrigation is preferable in the early morning throughout the day.  Late afternoon to evening watering is not desirable because disease issues can quickly develop causing damage ranging from small to large patches.  Watering times vary from the thatch thickness, sun to shade ratio, slope, and turf varieties present.  One can imagine that a sunny lawn with a thick thatch layer would require significantly more water than a thin, shaded lawn out back next to the woods.  When in doubt, any water is better than none, but is not necessarily required in the big picture.

We created a mowing height gauge that’s a magnet so you can easily stick in on your mower, gas can or work area. No more excuses for mowing too short!  If you want a free mowing magnet, just send me an e-mail at and I would be pleased to send you one as a way of saying thanks for reading this blog!



Preparing your lawn for summer

Published by JKeefe on June 20th, 2011 - in Cultural Practices, Misc.


Proper mowing height is the single most important thing you can do to your lawn

As June fades into July, there are definite guidelines on what you, as a homeowner should do and not do as it relates to your lawn.  The most important and often discarded piece of valuable turf information is mowing height.  Like a doctor speaking with a patient, mowing is one of the most important pieces of advice a homeowner can follow.  Even if you have your lawn professionally cut, this does not automatically mean the job will be done right.  I have seen too many commercial lawns scalped or mown below 2” during the summer, only to become stressed weakened and prone to both weeds and crabgrass.

So what is the ideal summer cut?  For most lawns, sun or shaded situations call for a high cut at 3” or maybe a little higher.  Sunny areas are prone to stress when cut in the middle of a hot day, predisposing them to all kinds of heat and mower stress.  As the grass is cut, depending upon the sharpness of the blade, the leaves lose water and can brown with the increased moisture demand.  Said another way, if you cut something, it bleeds – in this case a grass blade is mostly water.  When a mower cuts it, especially during the day, and below 2”, the lawn loses moisture rapidly.  If the soil is dry and cannot support replacing this moisture loss, you can see browning the same day or shortly thereafter.  These areas can appear as brown patches, yellowing, or widespread discoloration depending upon the time and day temperature.

The shorter the mowing height, especially as it approaches the 1” level, the more substantial damage can be caused from June through August.  The shorter the cut, the hotter the soil becomes, causing weed seeds to germinate.  Any pre-emergent barrier that may have been put down pre-maturely degrades, allowing weeds to germinate unnecessarily.  Removal of grass clippings may provide an aesthetically pleasing view, but it removes critical organic matter week after week.  There may be an occasion for this procedure, but on the whole, grass clippings should be mulched and returned to the lawn surface like leaves falling in a forest.  This way, whatever energy and professional care you are putting into your lawn will not go to waste but will provide the most benefit possible.

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