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How tall? What if your grass is really tall? Mulch or bag, wet or dry cutting your lawn won’t make it cry.

by John

MOWING YOUR LAWN — Lawns like to be mowed. Mowing makes them grow thicker and gives them an excuse to grow an entire season.

A Sharp Mower Blade

Does it really matter? Yesish. Dull blades tear grass instead of cutting and will give your grass brown tips.

The harder question is “when to sharpen” your mower blade. For an average size yard, sharpen once a year (about every 25-30 mows). If your lawn is thick (lucky you) or large (not so lucky you) then you may have to sharpen more frequently. Torn tips are a good indication of when to sharpen.

On a mulching mower, a dull blade will not mulch efficiently and a sharp blade on any mower allows you to mow faster. You might even be able to do the whole yard during halftime.

Lawn Mowing Height

Finally, a reason to use your new measuring tape that you got for Christmas. Mowing height depends on the type of grass you have and it is best gradually mow higher throughout the summer and then drop back to normal in the fall

  
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Mowing Your Lawn

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Buying New Plants

 

Let’s say you have Kentucky Bluegrass. I would start mowing at 2 inches in the spring and go up a notch in June and then up another notch in July so your mower is at 3 inches. Then you can drop a notch in September and another in October so you are back to 2 inches for the fall. This will help your lawn retain moisture in the hot months so you won’t have to add much extra water. You also want your grass a little shorter for the fall to prevent fungus growth during the winter.

Mow somewhere between these ranges depending on how you like your grass to look and your specific area and climate (i.e. if your grass browns easily you may want to mow higher).

Warm Season Grasses Mowing Height (in inches)
Bahia 1 - 3
Bermuda ¾ - 1.5
Centipede grass 1 - 2
St. Augustine 1 - 2
Zoysia grass 1 - 2
   
Cool Season Grasses Mowing Height (in inches)
Bent Grass 1/2 - 1
Blue Grama 2 - 3
Buffalo Grass 2 - 3
Fine Fescue 1.5 – 3
Kentucky Bluegrass 2 – 3
Ryegrass 1 - 2
Tall Fescue 2 – 3

As with any plant, whenever you trim or cut you should only remove less than one third of the biomass. If your grass is 3 inches tall, you should only remove 1 inch. If you were to cut more than a third you might “scalp” (cutting into the stock) your lawn which will dry out the plant and encourage weed growth and browning.

Wet or Dry

The ground should always be moist, but you don’t want to mow when your grass is wet. Wet grass will clog your mower and push over grass and may take twice as long which means you’ll miss the fourth quarter (“Sorry honey, I have to wait until the grass is dry”).

Mulch or Bag

Mulch as much as you can. The more you mulch, the less fertilizer you will need to add. Use the bagging feature when your lawn is tall, or for the first few weeks of spring to remove weed seeds, excessive thatch and other debris. Most mowers only have enough power to mulch when you are cutting about an inch off.

Mulching helps retain moisture and will add needed nutrients. Mulching is will also save you time because the mower will be lighter and you won’t have to stop and empty the bag.

Mulching is not the same as side discharge. If you are getting clumps on the mulching setting, then you are cutting too much grass at once or pushing the mower too fast.

Alternating Directions

Grass that gets run over repeatedly by the lawn mower wheel can lie at an angle and be exposed to too much sun. Grass that is pushed over will have stunted growth and can create brown lines or ruts in your lawn.

You can prevent tire marks by avoiding a repetitive pattern. Mow in an alternate direction each week: horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Alternating will also keep your weekly mow a bit more interesting.

Ruts usually appear along the border of your grass where it is most difficult to alternate directions. You can avoid mowing over the same tire mark each week by shifting your mowing track a few inches and use your trimmer to mow the small strip of grass you leave behind.

Mowing Really Tall Grass

For really tall grass you have to two options, you can charge an entrance fee to your “backyard safari” or you can mow it.

If you have procrastinated the start of the mowing season in your yard until May, or if you missed a cutting you probably have some really tall grass. Mow on the highest setting, wait 2-3 days and then mow again at your preferred height setting.

What if your mower can’t handle it? If your mulch setting won’t work, try bagging it. If the bagging feature on your mower isn’t work either because the clippings are too long, you may want to string trim it down to about 4-5 inches first before you mow on the highest setting. If your mower allows it, you can also switch to “side discharge” mode and rake up the clippings. Also, try mowing just a skinny strip of grass (6-12 inches) with each pass. It might take longer but at least it’s not choking the mower.

Let’s Get the Mower Started

The most frequent mower problem is the engine not starting (wheel problems are second). If your mower won’t start and you have already fiddled with the primer bulb, choke, throttle and checked the gas and oil then go **here for more help starting your mower.

Lawn Mower Safety

As always, be safe. Avoid running over anything but grass, wait for the engine and the blade to stop (and disconnect the spark plug) before you reach underneath the mower, and properly store your gas and oil in an approved container away from sparks or potential flames.

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