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"Mow high and often"

 

Lawn Mowing

Mowing is one of the most important cultural practices performed in lawn maintenance. Regardless of whether the lawn is fertilized, irrigated or receives applications of control products, proper mowing practices are essential if a high quality lawn is to develop. Properly mowed lawns will have fewer weed populations, better moisture stress tolerance and generally better quality than lawns not properly mowed.

Mowing Height is probably the most important parameter of mowing. Turfgrasses, like other plants, must manufacture sugars through photosynthesis in the leaves if they are collectively to develop into a high quality lawn. Turfgrasses mowed at low heights have limited leaf area to sustain photosynthesis rates necessary to maintain good plant vigor. In addition to leaf area, a direct relationship exists between the height of the turfgrass and the depth and total mass of the root system. Research with Kentucky bluegrass has shown that root growth was more than twice as great when the grass was mowed at a 2.0 inch height verses a 0.75 inch height. In general, shallow, weak root systems are most apparent during sumer stress periods. When soil moisture becomes limiting, the closely mowed lawns usually exhibit stress first and the loss of turfgrass plants is more likely. Higher mowing heights during the summer period will keep soil temperatures cooler, preserve soil moisture and help maintain turfgrass quality. We recommend lawns be mowed at the 3 inch to 3 1/2 inch height at all times. Mowing height can play an important role in prevention of lawn weed establishment. Research has shown that higher mowing heights result in fewer weeds per unit area. This is due to higher grass providing more shading and competition to the weed seedlings during the initial establishment phases.

Mowing Frequency
The lawn should be mowed frequently enough so that no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade lengh is removed during any one mowing. For example, if Kentucky bluegrass is normally mowed at 3 inches, the height should not be allowed to grow beyond 4 inches before it is mowed back to 3 inches. During periods of active turfgrass growth, many lawns will require mowing more than once per week if this recommendation is to be followed. Proper mowing frequency is a key to successful implementation of the "Don't Bag It" clipping return program. If extended wet periods prevent timely mowing and the turgrass gets excessively tall, move the mower height adjustment to the highest setting and mow the lawn. Once the clippings dry, lower the height adjustment to the desired height and then mow the lawn a second time in a different direction. This approach is termed "Double Cutting."

Mowing Directions
The direction of mowing should be altered every one to two mowings. Mowing at right angles (90 degrees) to the previous direction will help prevent the grass from repeatedly being pushed in one direction and laying over, an important consideration at high mowing heights.

Mow When Dry
Turf should be mowed when it is dry. Wet grass is more difficult to cut and has the tendency to clog under rotary mowers. Mowing should not, however, be delayed for long periods of time because the grass is wet.

Fall Mowing Practices
During the Fall period, mowing should continue as long as the turfgrass is actively growing. We recommend you do not lower mowing height during the Fall period.

Clipping Return
Turfgrass clippings contain measurable amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Research has shown that when clippings are removed, 20 to 25 percent more fertilizer was necessary to maintain comparable color and quality as areas where clippings were returned. Contrary to popular belief, turfgrass clippings do not contribute to thatch accumulation if proper mowing practices are followed.

Ref. - Destructive Turf Insects, Second Edtion
Harry D. Niemczyk, Ph.D., and David J. Shetlar, Ph.D.

 

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