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Grass-cutting Tips for a Healthier, Happier Lawn

Mowing is one of the most fundamental practices for keeping your lawn happy and healthy. Keeping your lawn short and attractive, however, is more complicated than just running a lawn mower over the grass; factors such as grass height, mowing frequency, and type of mower used play an important role in the health of the grass. In addition to looking good, the denser grass that results from proper mowing also aids in the prevention of weeds, diseases, and pests. Follow the grass-cutting tips listed below to maintain the best lawn for your home:

Cut off one-third of the grass blade

Cutting off more than one-third of the grass blades’ height hinders your lawn’s ability to grow and remain healthy. If you let your grass grow too high and consequently cut off more than one-third of the blade to get it to the desired length, you may damage the root growth—this forces the grass to grow slower and work harder to recover, leaving your lawn vulnerable to weeds, diseases, and pests.

In instances when your grass grows too tall, it is recommended to mow the lawn more frequently than usual and slowly reduce the cutting height until you reach the desired height.

Scalping looks like tan-colored patches on your lawn and results from cutting more than one-third off the height of the grass blades. Especially during a hot summer or a drought, this practice can allow diseases and weeds to intrude upon your lawn, giving it an unsightly look. Scalping is only recommended prior to the growing season in order to prep the lawn for a fast spring green-up.

Listed below are some grass-cutting recommendations for popular grass types:

Kentucky bluegrass: This type of grass should be cut at around two inches because it cannot produce an adequate amount of leaves at low heights. So that you don’t have to cut more than one-third of the blade height, plan to mow your Kentucky bluegrass lawn once a week.

Bermuda: The Bermuda grasses are leafier than other grasses and therefore need to be maintained at one-half to one-and-a-half inches. Allowing this grass to grow too high will make it springy and loose, and it will subsequently not provide a solid footing or an attractive, thick turf. Lawns with Bermuda grass should be mowed every five to seven days.

Fescue: The two different types of fescue, tall fescue and fine fescue, grow differently and therefore require different types of care. Tall fescue grows relatively fast and should be mowed every five to seven days, and it cannot easily tolerate a short cut; maintain a tall fescue lawn at around two to two-and-a-half inches. Fine fescue, on the other hand, grows more slowly and can be cut at two-and-a-half inches every two to three weeks.

Zoysia: Mow zoysia grass at least once a week to a height of one-and-a-half inches. A zoysia lawn that is mowed more frequently will achieve a better-quality, denser look.

Additional lawn-cutting tips to consider:

-  As a general rule, grass should be mowed more often in the spring (every three or four days) when it’s actively growing than in the summer (every seven to ten days) when heat or droughts slow growth.

-  Don’t forget that with any grass type, removing too much leaf mass stunts grass growth; the plant won’t be able to make enough food to maintain a healthy growth.

-  Check your lawn for large rocks, sticks, and other debris before mowing.

-  Cut your grass when the leaf surface is dry—this will eliminate clumping.

-  Occasionally vary the mowing direction to reduce wear patterns; grass leaves tend to lean in the direction they’re cut, so mowing from different angles will reduce wear on the lawn.

Grasscycle!

If you mow your lawn frequently enough to keep it healthy, you should be able to leave any resulting clippings in the grass. Clippings are generally good because they decompose quickly and return nutrients to the soil, with a few exceptions: if your lawn has a disease or contains a lot of weeds, or if a large amount of clippings is produced, it’s best to discard clippings until the grass is healthier.

If clippings are removed—and they are from healthy grass—they can be used as mulch or in compost piles. Many gardeners use clippings in their vegetable or flower gardens to serve as a natural fertilizer.

Reel vs. rotary mowers

The key to mowing a healthy, attractive lawn lies in the type of mower you use. Also, if you don’t use a sharp, properly adjusted mower, you will tear your grass as opposed to cutting it, giving your lawn a poor appearance and affording diseases an opportunity to attack. It’s recommended to change your mower blade about once a month during the growing season when it’s getting regular use.

Reel mowers: This type of mower works best on grass with short heights of one inch or less, such as Bermuda or zoysia grass. It uses a shearing action to cut the grass. Features of the reel mower include running quietly and following the contour of the land more easily than other mowers. However, it does require special care when sharpening the blades.

Rotary mowers: The rotary mower, which is the primary type of mower for many homeowners, is most effective at cutting grass to a height of one-and-a-half to three inches. It works by using a high-speed, rotating blade to cut the grass. These mowers are noisy, but they are easier to sharpen and maintain than reel mowers.

Proper mowing practices are fundamental to achieving a healthy, green lawn. A properly mowed lawn will have healthier, denser grass and fewer weeds. Complement your mowing with proper irrigation, fertilization, and applications of weed- and pest-control products to get the quality lawn you desire.

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