Mowing is necessary for a quality turfgrass. Mow frequently and at the proper height. The frequency and height of cut depend on the type of turfgrass, fertilization program, and the amount of rainfall.
The frequency of mowing depends on the growth rate of the turfgrass. The best rule of thumb is to mow enough that you never remove more than one-third of the leaf area per mowing. A common mistake is to allow the turf to become overgrown before mowing; this stresses the grass by removing too much of the foliage at one time.
When you mow turfgrass properly, it is not necessary to remove clippings for the health of the lawn. The only time you need to remove clippings for the grass’s sake is when they are so heavy that the uncut grass is not visible; then remove the clippings to allow the sun to hit the grass. Clippings are an excellent source of slow-release nutrients to the turf. If you remove clippings for aesthetic purposes, consider placing them in a compost pile rather than the trash.
Special Types of Mowing
After many years of high maintenance, some lawn grasses develop a spongy layer of stem and grass residue called “thatch.” All lawns have a little thatch, but when thatch layers reach more than 1 inch deep, they should be removed. Excess thatch is a haven for diseases and insects. In addition, heavy thatch layers interfere with proper watering, weed control, and fertilization programs.
Thatch accumulates most often on grasses that are heavy fertilizer users. Bermudagrasses and zoysiagrasses are notorious for developing thatch layers when overfertilized. In addition, St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass develop thatch over a period of many years. When thatch has accumulated, you should dethatch your lawn. The most practical way to dethatch warm-season grasses is to rent a mower especially designed for dethatching. This mower has vertical blades that thin the grass and throw out the thatchy buildup of stems and leaves. The operation usually leaves quite a mess of debris that you should remove from the lawn area.
The best time to dethatch is after the lawn has greened up and you have had to mow the turfgrass at least three times. The grass needs to have at least a month after dethatching to reestablish itself and renew the energy stored in its below-ground portion.
Don’t dethatch during the spring transition or green-up period. However, once the grass has come through spring transition and is actively growing, a lawn can be dethatched in the active growing season and up until September 1. Don’t dethatch warm-season grasses in late fall or early winter.
If you think your lawn needs dethatching, you need to find a vertical mower. Nurseries, garden centers, and rent-all stores usually have vertical mowers for rent with advanced notice.
General Rules for Mowing Turfgrass
1. Be sure the mower blade is sharp. This saves wear and tear on the engine and also prevents damage to the turfgrass.
2. Don’t let lawn grasses become overgrown before mowing. Follow recommended mowing heights and frequency of mowing to avoid removing more than one-third of the leaf area.
3. Before mowing, always walk over the lawn area in search of rocks, wire, and other debris that could be a hazard to the operator or bystanders.
4. Wear safety equipment recommended by the manufacturer of your mowing equipment.
5. Always check the oil level before starting the engine.
6. Always adjust the mowing height of the equipment before starting the engine.
7. In general, mow coarse-textured grasses higher than finer-textured grasses.
8. Mow grasses grown in the shade one-half inch higher than the recommended cutting heights.
9. Grass clippings make excellent additions to the compost pile.
10. Avoid using grass clippings as a mulch, since the grass seed and weed seed may contaminate the planting area in flower beds, shrub beds, and vegetable gardens. When added to the compost pile, however, these materials generally decompose and can be used later for soil amendments and mulching.
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