Posted: May 24, 2015

Did you know that mowing your lawn incorrectly can damage your lawn? Your lawn mowing habits can play a major role in whether your lawn is healthy or hurting. Here in the Rochester, Winona and Southeast Minnesota area, there are specific guidelines to follow when mowing to get the best lawn care.

Number one on the list of mistakes people make when mowing is having their mower set too low. Mowing height depends on the type of grass and time of the year. Here in Southeast Minnesota, the dominant grasses are fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass as well as a few other cool weather grasses. Cool weather grasses need to be cut at the taller settings on your lawn mower. Recommended height is 3-4 inches. Why so tall?

    • Longer grass blades lose less moisture and grow longer roots. That helps grass survive better during hot and dry weather.
    • Keeping grass longer allows grass to grow thicker and doesn’t give weeds the space they need to flourish.
    • When grass plants are in the 3-4 inch range they provide shade for sprouting grass and keep the soil cooler.
    • Scalping, or cutting grass excessively short, gives weeds everything they need to grow: bare dirt for seeds to sprout, room to spread and plenty of sun.
    • Cutting too short promotes greater moisture loss and a more shallow root system.

Of course, it isn’t good to let your lawn get too tall either. Grass that isn’t cut regularly can create a habitat for pests like insects, grubs, moles, voles and even mice. Grass that is allowed to get too tall is also more difficult to mow and can leave excessive amounts of clippings that can kill the grass underneath if not raked up and bagged.

This brings up a very important point: Do not cut more than one third the height of your lawn at a time. Just like pruning off too much of a tree or shrub causes undue stress to the plant, cutting off more than one third of your lawn’s height stresses the grass plants. When you mow, you are essentially pruning your grass plants.

You may not think much about the pattern you follow when mowing, but it is important to vary the path. Mow north and south one week, east and west the next. Some people like the look of a diagonal pattern. Even that should be alternated between upper left to lower right corner and upper right to lower left corner. When a lawn is mowed in exactly the same pattern week after week it can cause compaction of the soil, which inhibits grass growth or, in extreme cases, ruts. Besides, varying the pattern helps make a sometimes tedious task less boring.

The final point many people don’t take into consideration is to make sure the mower blade is sharp! A sharp blade cleanly slices the ends off grass blades. A dull blade tends to rip and tear at the grass, resulting in excessive moisture loss and browned grass blade tips. A lawn mower blade should be sharpened two or three times per season, depending on frequency of use. It also helps to avoid mowing over sticks and rocks.

There is one exception to when lawns in our climate should be mowed at a higher mower setting. The last mowing of the season should be done with a lower setting of no more than two inches. Keeping grass shorter during the winter and months of snowpack will deter the occurrence of brown patches known as snow mold in the spring.

If you have any questions about mowing practices for your lawn, contact the lawn care professionals at Maier Tree and Lawn. Our specialists are trained in the best practices to achieve optimal health for your lawn. We are committed to keeping the communities we serve looking green and healthy and love talking about what we can all do to promote a healthy growing plant environment.

For matters concerning your lawn, shrubbery or trees, contact us at Maier Tree and Lawn at 507-286-8733 in Rochester, or 507-454-7000 in Winona.

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