While grasses differ region to region, there’s a common theme when it comes to the proper height when mowing the lawn.
Here’s what two lawn care professionals from different parts of the country recommend.
▪ Cool-season grass: Cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue and perennial ryegrass essentially grow in the northern half of the United States, where they thrive from spring until fall.
Alan Little, of Hendricks County Lawn & Tree Care in suburban Indianapolis, tells clients to mow at a specific length for optimal lawn maintenance.
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“You want to go at least 3 inches, and on most lawn mowers, that’s going to be pretty close to the highest setting,” Little says. “You also don’t want to take off more than a third of what’s there when you mow. Both promote healthy grass and active growth to compete with weeds.”
Little says when precipitation decreases and it’s above 80 degrees, cool-season grasses struggle if cut too close.
“When they’re mowed down like a carpet, the lawn will have trouble when it starts getting hot,” he says. “When it’s that short, you can’t improve it, and you’re going to have more weeds and crabgrass.”
▪ Warm-season grass: Warm-season grasses like Bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine, centipede and bahia, grow in the southern third of the U.S. and the “transition zone” between warm- and cool-grass regions. They prosper during summer months before going dormant in late fall and winter.
Mike Melchor, of Mike’s Complete Landscaping in metropolitan Houston, gives advice similar to his northern counterpart for prosperous grass and weed control.
“We recommend a 2- to 3-inch height on mowing, year-round, providing the sod is healthy,” Melchor says. “That allows more surface area for photosynthesis, which results in more growth, an extensive root system and a healthier lawn.”
The higher cut helps in areas affected by extreme heat and dryness.
“The established turf is more tolerant to infrequent watering and drought stress,” Melchor says. “Although the turf will still need water, the effects of drought or water restrictions will be less noticeable and take longer to occur with a higher mowed lawn.”
▪ Waste of money: Not mowing your grass at the recommended height can negate a professional lawn service fertilization program.
“I see people doing all kinds of things, sometimes people paying me to make their lawn better. The most important thing they can do to help us is to mow high,” Little says. “I’ll talk to people or leave notes, and some will keep doing what they’re doing. Their lawn will never be what it could be because of it.”