Cutting Grass 101

Cutting Grass 101

Cutting Grass 101

The A, B, C’s of Cutting Grass – Everything You Need to Know

Cutting grass is essential to the overall health and proper growth  of your lawn.

Mowing correctly has the biggest impact on how your lawn looks and it’s health.  If your lawn already has a problem, a bad mow job either caused the problem or will make the problem worse.

One can also say that it is one of the most time consuming steps in your lawncare regiment. I’m a “glass is half-full” kind of guy. Think of it this way… are killing two birds with one stone.

  • Creating/maintaining a beautiful and healthy lawn.
  • Creating/maintaining a healthy you. Cutting grass can be your exercise for the day.

It doesn’t matter whether you decide to cut your own lawn or hire a lawn mowing service. This step can be your lawn’s best friend by attaining a lawn that is:

  • dense
  • has fewer weeds
  • actively grows
  • looks great

The Importance of Cutting Grass

When the grass is cut it has the ability to grow new grass plants. This enables the grass to become denser (thicker). The grass plant is also able to replenish and improve itself.

Mowing properly allows you to spend less time on your lawn.  Extra time, is something we can all use in our busy lives.

Improper lawn mowing is one of the most common turf problems a homeowner will encounter. Approximately 70% of lawn problems are caused by mowing wrong.

If you mow the lawn too short, the grass plant’s root system will weaken. If you mow the lawn too often, the stress on the root system makes it too hard to produce new grass plants.  A weak grass plant is highly susceptible to lawn weeds, lawn diseases and drought.

From Cutting Grass to Lawn Maintenance.

When to Cut Grass

Frequently mowing your lawn the proper way makes it grow laterally which creates that thick, lush grass we all want.

The frequency with which you mow your lawn is dependent on:

  • Time of year
  • Weather conditions
  • Lawn’s growth patterns
  • Frequency you feed your lawn

On average, you should cut your grass every 6 – 7 days. If it rains a lot or you just fertilized it, you need to mow more often. During a drought you only need to cut the grass every 10 days.

You should not be regimented and cut your grass every Saturday at 2pm though. Know when your grass has grown just outside of it’s optimal height. That is the right time to cut your grass.

Knowing which specific grass type you have is important. All grass types have an optimal minimum and maximum growing height. Be familiar with this and you will reap the full benefits of a well maintained lawn.

What Length to Cut Grass

The length of your grass is an important ingredient in growing that healthy lawn that is free of weeds, disease and destructive insects. In general, when your grass is at a longer length the results are:

  • more grass plants
  • upright growth
  • more shade tolerance
  • deeper roots
  • better drought tolerance

Changing your mowing height even a little can impact how often you need to water and feed your lawn.

The height of the grass blade and the length of the grass root are directly correlated.  If the grass is cut too short, the roots won’t grow deep.  Lawns with shallow roots can’t fight off weeds, dry out faster, need more water and are less able to spring back from drought situations.

When cutting grass, you want to make sure you reduce each blade of grass by approximately 1/3 of it’s original length.   That means if you like your grass 2 inches in height, you want to cut the grass when it is 3 inches long.

Scalping the grass can hurt the crown of your lawn.  The crown is important because it is near the root system.  Scalping your lawn causes the following problems:

  • You will have to water more often
  • It is more vulnerable to crabgrass and disease
  • Gives weeds light to grow because the grass is sparse rather than dense

Don’t worry if you accidentally cut it too short once or twice. It is only when you routinely scalp your lawn that you will begin to have lawn problems.

Longer grass allows you to:

  • Stretch the time between mowings
  • Less watering is required
  • Strengthens your lawn’s pest tolerance

If you want to mow less frequently, plant slow growing grass and keep it’s height at the higher end of the scale.

A common problem occurs when people go on vacation. They come home only to find the lawn is over grown due to excessive amounts of rain. The worst  thing you could do is to immediately cut the lawn back to it’s normal length. This can cause the grass plants to go into shock. Instead, remember the “1/3 Rule” and get it back to it’s optimal height over the next 2 – 3 mowings.

Grass type also factors into the equation. Every type of grass has a range with an optimal minimum and maximum height. However, during the height of the summer when it is really hot and there are drought conditions, your lawn should be at it’s optimal maximum height. This will encourage slower regrowth after mowing, fewer lawn weeds and fewer lawn pests. This is a sure recipe for a beautiful and healthy lawn.

Cutting Grass – The Optimal Length for Your Grass Type

Cool Season Grasses

  • Kentucky Bluegrass: Active Growth: 2 ½ inches & Height of Summer: 3 ½ inches
  • Fescues: Active Growth: 2 inches & Height of Summer: 4 inches
  • Rye Grass: Active Growth: 2 inches & Height of Summer: 3 1/2 inches

Warm Season Grasses

  • Bermuda Grass:Active Growth: ½ inches & Height of Summer: 2 ½ inches
  • St. Augustine Grass: Active Growth: 2 inches & Height of Summer: 4 inches
  • Buffalo Grass: Active Growth: 3 inches & Height of Summer: 4 inches
  • Zoysia Grass: Active Growth: ½ inch & Height of Summer: 2 inches
  • Bahia Grass: Active Growth: 2 inches & Height of Summer: 4 inches

True Story –

My neighbor has a beautiful lawn and he spends very little time and money maintaining it.

He keeps his lawn on the longer side, approximately 3 – 4 inches in height. The longer length helps when it hasn’t rained. The grass becomes more drought tolerant.

I have never seen him water or fertilize his lawn. He has only applied insecticide twice in that time.

He does not bag his grass clippings. The nitrogen rich grass clippings act as a fertilizer to feed his lawn.

Who says you can’t have a low maintenance lawn that looks beautiful and costs next to nothing.

Free Advice – Lawn Mowing Tips You Can Use

Before the grass cutting season begins and throughout the season, be sure to exercise proper lawn mower care.

Also, it is important to make sure when cutting grass that your lawn mower blades are sharp enough. Dull blades rip the grass and can cause an uneven cut. Instead of standing tall, your lawn will look uneven and scraggily.

Assuming your lawn mower is properly maintained, it is time to cut the lawn.

Follow these simple steps…

  • Set the mower deck at the right height. You can test a small patch of grass to be sure the setting is correct.
  • The mower’s gas tank should be ¾ full. Never completely fill the gas tank, you want to allow venting.

Lawn Mower Safety Tip –

Remember, don’t ever fill the gas tank up on the grass. This will prevent chemical burn to your lawn. More importantly, you won’t accidentally ignite a fire on your lawn.

  • Walk around your entire yard and pick-up anything that will obstruct your path (i.e. toys, branches, garbage, etc.) while cutting grass. This is also a great time to use the pooper scooper. You do not want to step in or have the lawn mower’s wheels roll over any little presents that Fido left for you in the yard.

Tip –

Even if you hire a lawn mower service to cut your grass, you should still make sure you don’t forget this step. The professional is there to cut your lawn. They are not there to clean up after you, your kids and pets.

  • Mow around the perimeter of the yard twice. You need to give yourself the room you need to turn around with the mower when you are cutting the straight lines.
  • Mow the remainder of the yard back and forth in straight lines. Overlap each line you mow by one tire width of the lawn mower.
  • Next cut the grass around the tree rings and planting beds. If you are not using a bag to catch the grass clippings point the mower’s chute away from the tree rings and planting beds. If you don’t follow this step, you will have a mess to clean up. Trust me on this one.

Tip –

Remember to change the direction that you mow at least twice a month. It is healthier for your lawn because the soil won’t become compacted and you won’t have wear spots.  Also, it won’t be the same boring routine for you week after week.

When Cutting Grass Should You Bag the Grass Clippings?

That is a decision you need to make for yourself. Feeding your lawn is important for the overall health of it. The grass clippings act as a nitrogen rich fertilizer which helps give the grass that healthy and beautiful green color.

This practice will not only save you money (fertilizer can be expensive), but it is also good for the environment. You are basically recycling material that already existed. It is an easy way to practice organic lawn care.

On my own lawn, I only bag the clippings 5 – 7 times a year (2 – 3 times in the Spring and 3 – 4 times in the Autumn when the leaves fall).

Beware, there are a few reasons why you should bag the grass clippings. First of all, if you have weeds you don’t want them to spread and re-germinate on your lawn. Secondly, some believe that leaving the grass clippings on the lawn can cause a thatch build-up. Lastly, some believe the grass clippings attract vermin. I personally do not agree with the second and third points. I believe this is a natural way to fertilize your lawn without spending a lot of money. In today’s economy, who doesn’t want to save money?

Why Cutting Wet Grass is Never a Good Idea

  • Having been in the landscaping business for over 30 years, nothing irks me more than seeing someone cutting grass when it is soaking wet. Lawn mowing services may do this so they don’t fall behind in their weekly schedule. There are many reasons why this is not a good practice.
  • It tears the grass blades instead of cutting grass blades.
  • The lawn mower will leave rut marks exposing the soil. The grass looks sloppy instead of neat and well manicured
  • One could consider this to be an unsafe practice. You can lose your footing, slip and hurt yourself on the wet grass.
  • Grass may clog the discharge chute of the lawn mower. It is an expensive piece of lawn equipment and you want the machine to last as long as possible.
  • The clean-up of the lawn, sidewalks, driveways and patio takes considerably longer. You will have unattractive clumps of wet grass all over the place. Not to mention, you spend quite a bit of time cleaning under the deck of the lawn mower.

Cutting grass when it is wet is very unattractive and should be avoided. Your overall goal is to make your lawn look beautiful, well manicured and healthy. Believe me when I say, no one will be envious of your lawn and you will definitely not get the results you are looking for when cutting grass that is wet.


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