Making the cut

By Wayne Hobbs Environmental Horticulture Agent
Posted 6/6/18

How many people love cutting their grass?Usually, the answer to this question splits people into two groups. Those who are love the time they get to take to make their lawn beautiful to their …

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Making the cut

Posted

How many people love cutting their grass?

Usually, the answer to this question splits people into two groups. Those who are love the time they get to take to make their lawn beautiful to their standards and those that see it as a chore or would rather pay a professional to do it for them. At this time of year, with our moisture levels, this is likely a frequent job at the moment but just how frequent, and also how much, to mow your lawn is an essential question to answer.

Mowing Height

Mowing height is not a one-size fits all question, as each species and variety of turfgrass has its own optimal length. If you cut too short, you are taking off too much of the leaf blade through a process known as scalping which can cause you to have shallow roots, more weed pressure and more disease and insect problems.

If you have St. Augustinegrass, standard varieties such as Floratam or Bitter Blue are cut at a height of 3.5-4 inches and dwarf “shade-tolerant” varieties, such as Captiva, Delmar, Seville and others, are cut at 2.5 inches. Adjust your mower to a high setting if you are cutting shorter and if you are shopping for a new mower, make sure it can be moved up this height.

Other turfgrass species cutting heights include 1.5-2 inches for Centipedegrass, 2-2.5 inches for Zoysiagrass, and 3-4” for Bahiagrass.

Mowing Frequency

How often you mow is influenced by both your turfgrass species, time of year and the weather. During optimal growing conditions, you will be mowing much more often but the rule of thumb for all grasses is to cut a maximum of only 1/3 of the total leaf blade at any mow. This means that with a standard St. Augustine lawn, maintained at 4 inches, your max height before mowing is 6 inches.

Mowing more often is fine but you want as much of a leaf blade as possible to help the turfgrass become established and tough.

Other Mowing Tips

Here are a few other mowing tips for maintaining your lawn:

•Leave grass clippinsg on the lawn or bag and compost them yourself. Don’t let this free fertilizer source go to waste. If cut properly, this will not lead to thatch.

•Get grass clippings off of the pavement. Grass clippings that wash away from driveways and streets often enter storm drains or waterways, where they can cause higher nitrogen levels and algae growth. Sweep or blow them back onto your lawn.

• Keep your mower blades sharp. Dull blades leave ragged cuts and cause ugly grass tips and turf issues.

• Keep your lawn level. Uneven areas of your lawn can lead to scalping as the mower travels over ridges and through holes.

• Don’t mow when grass is wet. Mowing wet grass causes bad cuts and scalping if your tires sink into the turf.

• Be safe. Wear leather boots, long pants, as well as eye and ear protection while mowing. Also, make sure to pick up any items in the turf that may become projectiles before you cut.

If you have any horticultural, agricultural, 4-H, or family and consumer science questions, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Clay County Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu or call by phone at (904)284-6355.

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