Proper Summer Mowing Practices for MN
Cut it HIGH, and let it FLY.
By Garrett Anderson
Fire up the old Toro, and start mowing. Easy enough right? Well it can be, as long as you know the whens and how highs of mowing. Every year I cringe as I see people (customers too!) cut there lawn far too short, and far to long between mowings. The result is always the same, a clumps everywhere, yellow grass, and a terrible start to the growing season. Not to mention an unhappy Fertilawn technician when he visits your property!
Summer Time Mowing
Summer time is just around the corner. The temperatures are starting to climb, the rain is starting to let up, and lawns are going to be going from that “looks great” feel to “oh crap wheres my watering hose” mindset. Whats the worst thing you can do? CUT IT SHORT!!
I’ll never ever understand the mindset of “cutting it short means I don’t have to mow less”. Well, I can understand that mindset if someone isn’t looking for a good looking lawn. That’s OK, to each their own. BUT I’d imagine as a customer of ours, your looking for the best possible looking lawn you can get. Mowing short is the single worst thing you can do for your lawn, couple that with allowing it to get 8″+ then chopping it down to 2″? Sorry, no amount of Fertilawn can help your lawn recover from that.
Mowing Height- VERY IMPORTANT
It’s getting hot out and you need to be getting close to your summertime mowing height. That means 3-4″ tall. Not 2″. Not 2.5″. Not 2.95″. 3″ at the absolute MINIMUM. If your mower can handle 4″ tall and leave a good cut, DO IT.
This does not mean mow at the 3rd or 4th setting. Normally, most push mowers will cut near 3.5-4″ at the highest setting, which is why we will generally recommend mowing there. The best way to tell how high your are mowing is to put the mower and a flat surface like the driveway, and measure the distance from the mower blades to the ground.
Mowing the lawn short is terrible for the lawn, in all aspects. It will required more fertilizer, more water, more weed control, basically more everything to have the same health as a lawn that’s mowed at 4″
Spring and Fall are the few times we would recommend mowing shorter. Generally the last mowing of the season (think after all the leaves have dropped) and the first mowing of the season (think before the lawn really starts to grow) are the only times we’d tell you to mow at around 2.5″.
One important thing to note- I’ve noticed that Toro’s generally are the BEST cutting mower at high heights!
Most companies that mow lawns for a living will mow once a week, and generally this works OK. It’s not the best, but far from the worst. Mowing companies have a set schedule, and it is extremely difficult to mow on a flexible schedule such as every 5 days in the spring or 10 days in the summer. It’s just no feasible to do as a mowing company.
Now, if you mow your own lawn, you ABSOLUTELY should use a flexible schedule. There’s nothing worst, for you or your lawn, than to feel like a farmer bailing hay because the lawn is growing 8″ per week in the spring and your only mowing once per week. Its REALLY bad for your lawn as well.
When you mow your lawn from 10″ tall to 3″, your cutting off 70% of the leaf tissue, which is essentially going to stress the heck out of your lawn.
The 1/3 Rule.
The best timing to mow the lawn is to make sure you aren’t taking more than 1/3 of the leaf tissue off at any time. That means if your lawn is 6″ tall, you shouldn’t cut it lower than 3.5-4″. Excessive? Yes. Best Practice? Heck yes.
In the spring time, this means you may be mowing every 4-5 days. In the Summer it may mean every 10 days, even more if its extremely hot out. This is in a perfect world and obviously it’s not going to work for many people. BUT the most important part to this is NOT to chop your lawn short when its super long.
Instead, an option would be do it in increments. If the lawn is 12″ long, mow it extremely tall, as tall as you can, one day. Then a couple days later mow it to the regular height.
General Mowing Tips
Sharpen your mower blade!
A dull mower blade will not only leave a less than desirable cut, but also create more problems with diseases. We recommend sharpening the mower blade at least 2 times a year, in the late spring and early fall. 3 times is even better, adding a sharpening in the summer time.
Change your mowing pattern weekly.
Each week your should be switching up the way you mow. One week should be up and down, then diagonal, then side to side, then the other diagonal. This will prevent rutting of the turf.
When its hot outside, do your best to stay off. It’s best to mow the lawn in the morning or late afternoon/evening, after the heat has passed. Remember, when you mow the lawn, you are essentially cutting off 1/3 to 1/2 of its living plant tissue, so its best to keep any other stresses to a minimum.
If the lawn is heavily stressed, skip the mowing. If your lawn is brown, or starting to turn brown, don’t mow. If you mow when its extremely hot, or its already brown, there is a good change you’ll cause more damage or even what’s called “heat tracking”. This essentially means when your mower tire runs over the lawn, instead of bending, the grass blade breaks and creates a brown “streak” where your mowing tire was.
Instead, water the lawn heavily, and mow the next day in the AM, once the lawn bounces back.
MOW TALL!!! Don’t ask questions, just do it!
Mowing Best Practices
If there’s anything to take away from this: