In the spring, grass grows so quickly it seems like you just hosed off the lawnmower and it’s time to go again. Fortunately, that trend levels off in the summer. Until then, you need to mow and mow and mow, never letting the lawn morph into a hayfield.
Experts warn that mowing is not a calendar decision. Most of us like a weekly system because it’s convenient, but it’s not ideal. In the spring, you may mow as often as every four days, but in August, you might push it to 10 days.
The optimal time to mow is when the lawn needs it, which is when it’s grown about a third in height. That means, if you keep your lawn 3 inches in height, you should mow before it hits 4 inches. Keeping to this rule causes the grass less stress and allows for smaller clippings that drop into the grass without ruining that outdoor carpet look. If your grass gets away from you and hits 6 inches, you shouldn’t set the deck for 2 or 3 inches to get it over with. Set that deck to 4 inches and then go back in a day or two and mow again to gain control.
What height? The ideal lawn height depends on what type of grass is predominant in your lawn, although most of us don’t know what we have. As a rule of thumb, grass should never be mowed to a height of less than 2 inches. Any shorter than that and it weakens and becomes more vulnerable to things like drought and weed invasion. Optimal height, say many landscaping experts, is 3 inches. If you prefer a shorter lawn, as I do, just remember that mowing your lawn to 2 inches to try to stretch the time between mowings won’t work.
I learned that it’s a lot faster and easier to mow when the grass hits 2½ inches (or 3¾ inches, depending upon your preferred height) than to wait until it hits 6 inches tall and try to cut off half of the blade height in one mowing. In the long run, you gain nothing by waiting too long. You can’t zip along at full speed, stress the lawn and your mower, risk the deck getting clogged, wear out the blades, and end up with a lawn that looks like someone should run through it with a hay baler.
Expert Tip: Unless you’ve got an unusually thick layer of clippings resting on the mown lawn, don’t rake them up. They provide nutrients. If you’re planning an outdoor event and desperately want to erase those clippings, mow in the morning and then mow again a few hours later, after the clippings are dry, and you can eliminate the hayfield motif.
So, put on those ear-protection muffs, tune out the world, and enjoy some time mowing your lawn. Or introduce your sister to the joys of a riding mower . . . that’s what I did!
Posted on June 17, 2021
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