Mowing your Florida lawn

Published: Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 09:12 AM.

Mowing the lawn may not seem like the most complicated task in the world especially if you’re used to paying the neighborhood kid fifteen bucks or so to do the job.  Actually, proper mowing is one of the most important factors in developing an attractive lawn.  No matter what type of grass you’re growing, mowing can make or break your lawn.  Mowing too low weakens the grass and encourages the sod to thin out.  Mow too high produces raged looking lawn and also encourages the build-up of thatch sponge-like layer of plant debris.

Lawngrasses make food for themselves through a process called photosynthesis they need a good healthy leaf surface to do this.  If the lawn is mowed too low, too much of this leaf surface is last and the grass is unable to produce enough food to maintain itself.  The grass literally starves.  When this happens, the sod becomes very thin, weeds can invade the lawn, and the grass is more susceptible to insects and pests.

However, not all lawn grasses should be mowed at the same height.  For example a fine-leaved Bermuda grass can be cut as low as ½ inch.  But a coarse-textured grass, such as Bahia, or Saint Augustine, would be practically destroyed by such a close cutting.  It’s important for you to know how low the particular grass you’re growing can be cut without damage to the lawn.  If you’re not sure, talk to your local County Extension Agent. 

How often you need to mow depends on how fast your grass is growing.  During the summer, when climatic conditions encourage rapid growth of lawn grasses, they need to be mowed more often.  Winter growth, on the other hand, is slower, so the lawn needs fewer cuttings.

A grass that’s fertilized heavily will need to be cut more often than a grass receiving only minimal fertilization.  Lawn grass species determine mowing frequency, to a large extent.  A grass which naturally grows quickly, like Bermuda, will need more frequent mowing than a slow grower, like Zoyia.

A general rule about mowing:  How often you need to mow is best determined by the amount of growth since the last cutting, rather than the number of days which have elapsed.  You should mow often enough so that not more than ¼ to ⅓ of the total leaf surface is removed at any given mowing.  In other words, leave twice as much leaf surface as you cut off.

Finally establish good mowing practices.  Always use a sharpened, well-adjusted mower.  Dull mowers do a tremendous amount of damage.  Avoid mowing the grass when it’s wet.  Dry grass cuts easily and doesn’t clog the mower.  Make sure clippings are not allowed to accumulate on the lawn.  If they are allowed to accumulate on the lawn, they may smother the grass, lead to the buildup of thatch, and invite insects and diseases.  Finally, never drastically change the height of the grass.  If the lawn has been allowed to grow too long, you should gradually lower the mowing height on successive cuttings.

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