Follow best management practices when mowing lawn

John Young, Gill, Daniel J., Koske, Thomas J., Owings, Allen D.  |  8/14/2009 9:39:23 PM

News Release Distributed 08/14/09

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Tom Koske, Allen Owings and John Young

Yes, we are getting to late summer and hopefully less lawn mowing over the next couple months. Nevertheless, it’s still important to mow your lawn properly.

The ability of grass to sustain itself through frequent close clippings is one factor that determines whether a grass species is a turfgrass. Grasses such as wheat, corn and oats cannot tolerate the harsh treatment of frequent mowing.

The rate of nitrogen fertilization, mowing frequency and height of cut are major factors that determine the quality of turf. Thus, mowing has a measurable effect on the way grass grows.

How often should you mow your lawn? Growth rate and height of cut determine mowing frequency.

Growth rate depends on the type of grass, soil fertility (especially nitrogen content) and the weather. Lawns in Louisiana are warm-season grasses. These grasses grow faster and need to be mowed more frequently in the hot summer if moisture is adequate. A general rule is to mow before the grass becomes one and one-half times as tall as the cutting height of your mower.

Another way to say this is: Do not remove more than one-third of the grass top at any one clipping. For example, if the height of cut is 1 inch, mow when growth reaches 1 1/2 inches. If you continually allow your grass to grow too tall between mowings, a thin, weedy turf may develop.

You can mow less often by: (1) choosing a slower-growing turfgrass, (2) reducing the rate of nitrogen fertilization and (3) raising the cutting height of your mower.

Mowing height depends on the type of grass, your objectives and your willingness to work. Most people now mow with rotary mowers. These mowers have horizontal blades that flail the grass and fray the leaf blades. A rotary mower becomes noticeably duller after a few cuts and should be sharpened as needed. Some tough grasses like the zoysia will dull a blade quickly.

Reel mowers have clean, scissorslike cuts and produce a better quality turf than do rotary mowers. A reel mower is more difficult to sharpen, but it should require less frequent sharpening. A reel mower may be more expensive, but it is normally more rugged and uses less fuel. Most reel mowers are particularly recommended for Bermuda grass and zoysia. A smooth turf, free of sticks, stone and other debris, is necessary when using a reel mower.

You don’t need to remove turfgrass clippings if you mow as recommended. Research has shown that moderate amounts of small clippings decompose rapidly in warm weather with good moisture. Nutrients in the clippings are recycled without contributing greatly to the thatch layer. Therefore, you won’t have to fertilize as often if you leave the clippings alone.

Remove the clippings, however, if they form clumps. Clumping normally occurs if you allow the grass to grow too high between mowings or if you mow wet grass. Zoysia and centipede clippings do not decay as readily as other grasses, so collect and discard their clippings when growth is rapid – especially zoysia.

Come to LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. Go online to Louisiana Yards and Neighborhoods for additional information.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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