Mowing & Scalping Your Lawn
Mowing is one of the single most important aspects of lawn care. How you mow your lawn will greatly affect the way it looks, no matter what we do. Proper mowing will improve the quality of your lawn, increase the health of the turf and decrease weeds.
- Mow often enough that you only remove 1/3 of the grass blade each time.
- If you get behind in mowing, raise the mowing height so that you don’t remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade, and then gradually lower the height on the next mowings.
- Mow often enough that you don’t have to bag the clippings.
- Mow at the proper height (see table below).
- Keep your mower blades very sharp.
- Mow in a different pattern each time.
Mow often enough that you only remove 1/3 of the grass blade each time. If you remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade, your lawn will likely look brown after mowing. Also, the grass plant will redirect energy and nutrients away from the roots in order to produce new leaves, resulting in a weaker root system. If you mow too short, the grass plant doesn’t have enough leaf tissue surface to effectively make food for itself through photosynthesis. For mowing frequency, check the mowing height chart below for your grass type and then check that mowing height on the mowing frequency chart below.
If you get behind in mowing, raise the mowing height so that you don’t remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade, and then gradually lower the height on the next mowings. We’ve all done it! Just didn’t have time to mow, and now it’s REALLY high. It’s very tempting to just mow it down all at once to where it needs to be. But mowing off several inches at a time is detrimental to your lawn. Just raise your mower height to follow the “1/3 of the grass blade” rule above and then lower it a little with your next mowing, until it’s back to the correct height.
Mow often enough that you don’t have to bag the clippings. Mowing is a lot of work during the summer, but your reward will be a nicer looking lawn! Many people have a schedule, like mowing every Saturday. Unfortunately, the best time to mow is when your lawn needs mowing! During the growing season, that could be every 3-4 days. You can get a general idea of how often you need to mow by looking at the grass chart below and finding the recommended mowing height for your grass. Then, find that height on the mowing frequency chart. Bear in mind that this is during the growing season only, and that it will vary somewhat since weather and rainfall will affect the rate of growth of your grass. When you mow often enough that you don’t have to bag clippings, you are also “recycling” your fertilizer. Most of the nutrients in the grass blades are concentrated in the tips. When you leave them on the lawn, the nutrients are returned to the lawn, and it will stay greener. When you’re mowing often enough, leaving clippings on the lawn does not contribute to thatch, as previously believed.
Mow at the proper height (see table below). Proper mowing height is essential for the health of your grass. You can’t mow fescue at 1” during the summer or it will die. Likewise, if you mow your hybrid Bermuda at 3.5”, it will quickly become straggly and unsightly and will be more susceptible to weed problems.
Keep your mower blades very sharp. If you don’t keep your mower blades sharp, you will be tearing the grass, rather than cutting it. Not only will this result in a browning effect after you mow, but it also leaves the grass wide open to fungus and other diseases as well as insect invasion and water loss. Grass cut with a sharp blade will recover more quickly, have better water retention, and enjoy increased photosynthesis. Mower blades should be sharpened at least twice each season.
Mow in a different pattern each time. Mowing in a different direction will reduce wear and tear on the lawn from the lawnmower wheels, reduce compaction, and eliminate visible “mowing lines.”
|Mowing Height||Grass Height||Amount Removed||Mowing Frequency|
All Bermuda and zoysia lawns (only) should be scalped each spring. Scalping is the removal of dormant, straw-colored turf, and it promotes earlier green-up and helps prevent thatch and weed problems throughout the summer. March 15th through April 30th is a good time to scalp your yard.
To scalp your lawn, lower your mower blades to the shortest setting, mow the lawn, and bag the clippings. Depending on the height of your grass and the type of mower, you may need to mow more than once, gradually lowering the blade each time. If your lawn is uneven, you may want to raise the blades a little in the bumpy areas so you don’t gouge into the soil.
Do not scalp your lawn until all chance of frost is past. Do not scalp cool season grasses like fescue or bluegrass. Scalping warm season grasses like Bermuda or zoysia should be done only in the spring. If you scalp your lawn in the summer, even by accident in a bumpy area, it’s not good for the lawn and will look terrible. (We’ve all seen those places in people’s lawns where the mower wheels hit a low spot, and there is a big brown “scalped” area in the shape of the mower.)
Mulching mowers are great, but you don’t need to have one, as long as you mow frequently enough.
If you have further questions, please call your lawn technician for more help. If you would like to read about mowing practices in more detail, click here for an excellent article available on the University of Arkansas website.