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The Mow Down on Keeping Turfgrass Strong and Healthy

They say beauty is pain; and that couldn’t be truer than it is for turfgrass and its roots.

While giving your lawn a nice trim helps keep it manageable and looking beautiful, improper mowing can also slow root growth, reduce carbohydrate production and storage and create ports of entry for disease, which can temporarily increase water loss from cut leaf ends and reduce water absorption by the roots, according to a University of Rhode Island article by Richard J. Hull.

However, for all the damage mowing can cause to turf, Hull’s article sites it as one of three primary cultural practices in turf management, along with fertilization and irrigation.

So how can you keep your lawns and other turfgrass sites looking beautiful, while still maintaining and protecting root health and growth? Follow these tips and best practices to keep your lawns healthy after mowing.

Know Your Turfgrass Tolerance

One of the first steps to maintaining a healthy and beautiful lawn is to understand the tolerance of your turfgrass to mowing effects.

“When turfgrasses are cut at heights below their tolerance range, the stand thins and weed invasion occurs. When mowed above the tolerance range, the turf often becomes puffy, tends to lie down, is more prone to disease and produces excess thatch,” according to Hull’s article.

As a general rule, cool-season grasses can typically better tolerate lower mowing heights (two inches or below) than warm-season grasses—with a few exceptions such as Bermudagrass and seashore paspalum, according to The Cool-Season Turfgrasses: Basic Structures, Growth and Development, an article by Penn State College of Agriculture Sciences.

Adjust Your Mowing Height and Frequency

All turfgrass isn’t created equal. Some variations can withstand being mowed more frequently than others. In order to grow the healthiest grass possible, determine which grass is right for that particular area’s mowing needs.

Generally, most turfgrasses remain the healthiest when the one-third rule is followed. The one-third rule calls for mowing when no more than one-third of the vertical shoot growth is removed. Trimming more than one-third can kill turfgrass roots, weaken plant health and increase weed growth.

If you mistakenly cut more than one-third, try recycling the grass clippings to combat the potential damage. Sprinkle the recently trimmed grass clippings onto your lawn to help return nutrients and organic matter to the turfgrass and reduce waste load on landfills!

Aerate Your Grass

In addition to understanding your turfgrasses’ tolerance, managing mow height and recycling grass clippings, another way to help keep grasses healthy after mowing is core aeration.

Core aeration is the process of punching small holes into the soil to increase pore space. This helps reduce soil compaction, thatch and improve overall water infiltration to the grass by giving roots more room to grow and spread.

Results from aeration can vary by grass type. For cool season grasses, aerate in the spring or early fall and for warm season grasses, aerate when the grass is actively growing for best results.

While mowing can have negative impacts on turfgrass, knowing when and how to mow your grass correctly can keep your landscapes healthy and vibrant.

TAGS: Mowing, Landscape Management, Grass