Seldom do we find the answer to a problem as being easy or of less effort. Yes, it’s usually a difficult and complicated answer that we find is needed. However, the solution to a healthy lawn rebound may be simply found by adjusting your mower height and mowing schedule.
Mowing strategy is an important variable that keeps a lawn healthy and flourishing, no matter the type of grass. Mowing too high can lead to an undesirable look and cause unwanted thatch buildup, which can create a favorable environment for pests and diseases. Mowing too low can weaken the root system causing thinning, which allows space for weeds to invade. Another problem with mowing too low is that it affects nutritional needs. Lawn grasses generate food for themselves through a process called photosynthesis. A healthy leaf surface area is needed to effectively accomplish this. If the lawn is mowed too low, then leaf surface area is lost. The grass can literally starve itself.
Not all lawn grasses can be mowed at the same height, as show in the table above. Fine leaf grass like Bermuda can be cut significantly lower than coarse grass, such as Bahia or St. Augustine. Not sure of the type of lawn grass you have? Visit this site https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_book_florida_lawn_handbook_3rd_ed to review the Florida Lawn Handbook or contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200 for questions.
Mowing schedule is the other side of the coin. How often to mow ultimately depends on how fast your grass grows. By nature, Bermuda will grow quickly and Zoysia is much slower growing. Summer months are always when any lawn grass grows more rapidly. Historically, lawn grasses begin a dormant-slow growth stage in October and continues through March. Fertilizer schedule will of course also play a role. So how often do you need to mow? This rate 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 no more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the total leaf surface is removed at any given mowing. In other words, leave twice as much leaf surface as you cut off. Remember, incremental adjustments should be made to your current practices. 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.
So, what are some other helpful tips? Always use a well-adjusted mower with a sharpened blade. You may find it easier replace your blade each year or every 2 years. Dull mower blades do a tremendous amount of damage with uneven cuts. This will cause gashes and splits in the leaf where fungal and bacterial pathogens can thrive. Never mow grass when it’s wet, either. Dry grass cuts are cleaner cuts and won’t clog the mower deck. If you have built up thatch, it’s a good idea to attach a bag to your mower that will catch clippings. These clippings will be great additions to your compost pile or to use as natural mulch. If no thatch problems exist, mowing without a bag will distribute clippings throughout the lawn, and in turn the clippings will decompose into nutrients for the root system.
With proper mowing strategies, along with fertilizing and watering, your lawn grass can bounce back. For more information contact Gulf County Extension Office at 639-3200.
Information for this article provided by the UF/IFAS Extension EDIS Publication, “Mowing Your Florida Lawn”, by L. E. Trenholm, J. B. Unruh & J. L. Cisar: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/LH/LH02800.pdf
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.