Poor mowing practices (lack of attention to mowing height, regularity, leaf wetness, or sharpness of blade and mowing patterns) can cause undue turf stress and provide less than desired results. Every turf species has its own optimum mowing height and any extremes from this may cause scalping, turf thinning, and even loss of the lawn. Recommended cutting heights for our warm season turf species are as follows: bermudagrass 0.5-1.5 inches; zoysia 1.0–1.5; carpetgrass 1.0-2.0 inches; centipede 1.5-2.0 inches and St. Augustine 2.5-3.0 inches.
Mowing regularity should follow the one-third rule regardless of the turf species. This means never remove more than one-third of the total turf height at a single mowing. When the one-third rule is followed leaf clippings will fall into the canopy of the turf and decompose rather quickly. With irregular and improper mowing excess leaf clipping collect on the turf canopy shading the turf below. This increases disease and insect incidences and excess thatch.
Blade sharpness determines the quality of cut and aesthetic appearance of the turf. A dull mower blade tears rather than cuts leaving leaf tips split, ragged and brown. A sharp blade will also improve the efficiency of the mower engine and reduce fuel consumption. Over the course of the growing season this can be a considerable savings. It is best to avoid cutting the lawn when there is leaf wetness from rain or heavy dew, especially when disease pressures are prevalent. With riding mowers especially, changing mowing patterns helps reduce soil compaction and turf wear.
Published April 27, 2009
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org