Proper mowing practices are important in helping to maintain a healthy and sustainable home lawn. Mowing is a destructive process that injures the grass plant. Each mowing temporarily stops root growth, decreases carbohydrates production, increases water loss, decreases water absorption by the roots, and creates entry routes for diseases. Sound mowing practices help minimize these stresses while enabling the attractive appearance of a lawn after it is mown.
How often should I mow my lawn? As a general rule, mow as often as necessary so no more than 1/3rd of the total leaf is removed. For example, if you maintain a Kentucky bluegrass lawn at a 3-inch height, the lawn should be mowed when the grass reaches 4 ½ inches. Removing more than 1/3rd of the leaf is detrimental to the health of the grass. A Kentucky bluegrass lawn maintained at a 3 inch height will need to be mown about every seven days.
How high should I mow my lawn? Generally higher mowing heights result in healthier grass that is better able to resist drought and limit the occurrence of weeds. The mowing height also depends on the turfgrass species and environmental conditions. Iowa lawns that consist of Kentucky bluegrass or turf type tall fescue should be maintained at 3 inches. If the lawn contains perennial ryegrass or fine fescues, it should be maintained at 2 ½ inches. Maintaining these mowing heights for these cool-season grasses during the stressful summer months is very important. Mowing below the recommended height can scalp the turf and lead to rapid deterioration of turfgrass quality. Grasses can also be mowed too high. Mowing above the recommended height reduces tillering and causes matting of the grass.
Should I remove the grass clippings? A common misconception about grass clippings is that they contribute to thatch. This is not true. The need to remove grass clippings depends upon the mowing frequency. Clippings only need to be removed when poor mowing frequency lets the grass get so tall that you are making hay. Returning grass clippings to the yard releases nutrients back into the soil and can reduce fertilizer applications.
How often should I sharpen the mower blades? A sharp mower blade is vital to a quality cut. Mower blades need to be sharpened at least once a year. Dull blades shred the grass, which increases the ports of entry for disease. A dull mower blade leaves a uniform whitish cast to the lawn. Sharp blades are especially important for ryegrass and tall fescue.
How can I stripe my lawn? Many homeowners like the visual appearance of a striped lawn. Stripes are created when the grass blades lean in different directions creating the illusion of stripes. Dark colored stripes appear when the grass blades lean toward you and light-colored stripes appear when the grass blades lean away from you. Commercial mowers use metal rollers to create stripes. Stripes can be created using a standard mower by mowing back and forth across the lawn in opposite directions. The rear skirt on the mower helps bend the grass blades in different directions.
What mower safety precautions should I follow?
- Review the operator’s manual.
- Remove debris from lawn.
- Keep children and pets at a safe distance.
- Keep feet and hands away from blade.
- Wear sturdy shoes and long pants.
- Operate mower at low travel speed.
- Watch footing on wet areas and slopes.
- Do not leave engine running unattended.
- Do not disconnect any safety switches.
- Refuel engine only when it is shut off and cool.
- Stop engine and disconnect spark plug wires prior to working on blade or engine.