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(Information found on Weekend Gardner)

The Pros and Cons of Mowing

Now I just mentioned that improper mowing is one of the most common causes of lawn problems, and I said that was good news. It's is, because instead of having to figure out a disease, or a pest problem, you can just change how and when you mow. Let's take a look.

What If You Didn't Mow At All?

No matter how often you have dreamed about it, your lawn would not look better if you never mowed it because depending on what kind of grass you have it would grow anywhere from 4 to 24 inches (10 to 60 cm) tall.

In addition, it would start to set inconspicuous flowers which are high in allergy-producing pollen, and in time the grass would fall over and being to thin out giving a neglected appearance.

So right away we can see that by even doing the minimum amount of mowing, our lawn is going to look much better than if we did nothing at all.

This is because mowing actually helps make your grass grow thicker because the tip of each blade of grass contains hormones that suppress horizontal growth. So when you cut the lawn, you are removing the tips and the hormones which then allows the grass to spread and grow outward faster.

Mowing also removes any brown or damaged tips and it also helps deter weeds by keeping the lawn thicker with fewer holes for weeds to take hold.

But Mowing Also Damages The Grass Plant

Conversely, the very nature of mowing is actually injuring the plant leaving a cut end for pathogens to invade, and every mowing shocks the plant to put its energy into growing new leaves rather than the roots.

So the roots of mown grass can be less extensive and robust than unmown grass, and mown grass tends to store fewer carbohydrates which it needs to help combat stress.

That's Why Proper Mowing Is So Important

So the pros and cons of mowing have a huge influence on how healthy a lawn is, and this is why mowing your lawn correctly is so important. In fact, in many ways it's the key, so let's take a look at some mowing techniques that will help your grass look better and yet stay healthy.

Mowing Height Is Important And Easy To Do

You hear it all the time, people talking, even arguing about, correct mowing heights. It does seem silly, but in fact, every grass variety does have its preferred mowing height.

It has to be tall enough for the grass to be able to recover from mowing and maintain a healthy root system, and also be short enough so the lawn doesn't get stemmy and rough looking.

Most grasses have a balance between the size of their root systems and length of their grass blades. When the roots and the grass blades are in balance the plants will be their healthiest and be able to handle all kinds of stress.

Try Not To Scalp Your Lawn

The best way to keep your grass in balance is to keep it at its correct height. Try to avoid scalping your grass too low because this forces the plant to tap into its food reserves which will in time stress the grass which will make it thin out, be more susceptible to heat, cold, drought, pest attacks and disease.

When grass is severely cut back the growth of the roots and the plant comes almost to a complete stop until the leaves can recover. This places a huge amount of stress on the plant which is often visible in a yellow to brownish look to the lawn after mowing. It just doesn't look healthy because it isn't.

When the grass is mown at its correct height however, the roots can keep growing and the grass thrives.

If You Have Long Overgrown Grass

Now if for some reason your lawn has gotten really long and overgrown, don't try and mow it all back at one time. Just mow one-third of the grass or less and then let it recover for three or four days and then take off another one-third.

By slowly getting your lawn back to its optimum height, you won't stress it as much.

So What's My Correct Mowing Height?

Some Basic Rules of Thumb

The most important rule of thumb is the rule of one-third. The one-third rule says: Never remove more than a third of the grass blade at any one time.

So for example: If you have a bluegrass lawn, which does best with a 2-inch (5 cm) cut, then let the grass grow to 3 inches (7.5 cm) and cut it back by 1 inch (2.5 cm) to get the grass back to its optimum height.

A Couple More Rules Of Thumb

Cool season grasses like Blue Grass, Fescue, and Rye should be mowed as high as possible. The best is around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm) and no higher. If you cut any taller than that, the grass can flop over, and if you cut it too short, the grass is more susceptible to weeds, it dries out faster, and over all does poorly.

Warm season grasses like Bermuda should be cut around a height of 3/4 to 1 inch (1.9 to 2.5 cm) tall, which may require mowing one to three times per week.

Mowing at this height will encourage a dense, thriving turf that naturally blocks weeds. If Bermuda is cut any taller than 1 inch (2.5 cm), it will be thinner and straggly looking which isn't what you want. A good healthy lawn of Bermuda should look like a big, green, dense mat.
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