Mowing is probably one of the most common lawn maintenance activities you'll do this summer. But that doesn't mean it is the simplest thing you will do. If you're mindful about mowing, your Kentucky lawn can thrive.
Regardless of the kind of mower you use, blade sharpness is very important for the look and health of your lawn. Dull blades can cause leaf bruising and tearing. Look for brown leaf tips a few days after mowing -- a sure sign of a dull blade. Shredded leaves will have a grayish-brown appearance and may be stunted. Shredding reduces the aesthetic appeal of your lawn and can even increase lawn diseases. Dull blades can also increase the amount of fuel you use and create wear on your mower's engine.
The height you choose to mow your lawn will have a great impact on growth characteristics. Low mowing increases density, results in finer leaf texture and darker leaf color but will also result in shallower root systems that can reduce drought tolerance. Low mowing can also decrease your lawn's ability to recover from heavy traffic. Other low-mowing issues include less tolerance to diseases and insects, a thin canopy insufficient at suppressing weeds. If sunlight reaches the soil easily through shorter grass, annual weeds, such as crabgrass, have an easier time taking over the landscape.
Optimum mowing height for Kentucky lawns are as follows: Bermudagrass, 1-2 inches; Kentucky bluegrass, 2-3.5 inches; perennial ryegrass, 1.5-2.5 inches; tall fescue, 2-3.5 inches and zoysiagrass, 1-3 inches.
The height you choose to mow also dictates how often you will need to mow. Lower heights may need to be mowed more often. Golf course greens often need daily mowing. Ideally you want to remove no more than one-third of the leaf in one mowing. The type of grass that makes up your lawn will also play into the mowing frequency equation.
If you mow one-third or less of the leaf each time, you'll have fewer clippings to worry about. If your mowing height and frequency are right, you won't have to worry about what to do with the clippings. If you have excess clippings, a mulching mower can really help. The mower will cut the clippings into very small pieces that easily fall into the canopy and quickly break down. You may need to remove excess clippings if you see any clumping or if you know there is disease prevalent in the lawn. Most lawns do not need clippings removed. Clippings are a great source of organic material, and they help improve poor soils. They can even provide as much as 25 percent of the lawn's annual fertilizer needs.
(Source: Gregg Munshaw, plant and soil sciences extension associate professor)
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