Pascual Hernandez
Pascual Hernandez

Mowing is a common chore which maintains turfgrass height and appearance.

However, we should remember that while turfgrasses have evolved to withstand mowing, it stresses grass and can threaten overall health and vigor.
Examples of stresses that turfgrass is subjected to include heat, drought, nutrient deficiencies, shade, traffic, and pests.

So it’s easy to see that mowing height and mowing frequency can definitely affect turfgrass response to these stresses. As such, we should adopt appropriate mowing practices that support the overall health of the turf.

So what is the appropriate mowing height?

Well, the proper height will depend on the species and cultivar of turfgrass being managed.

For example, Bermudagrass lawns can be maintained at a height of 1.5 - 2.5 inches, while St. Augustine has a range of 2.5 -4 inches. Buffalograss, on the other hand, can either be kept at 2 inches or left unmowed.

In general, a higher height of cut will support deeper, more vigorous rooting.

Deeper root systems may result in improved water infiltration, nutrient and water-use efficiency, and improved overall stress tolerance.

In some species, a higher mowing height can reduce weed pressure, as taller grass can better out-compete weeds for light, water, and nutrients.

So what about mowing frequency?

As a general rule of thumb, no more than 1/3 of the total grass plant should be removed at any one time.

For example, if your intended mowing height is 2 inches, then you would need to mow before the plant has exceeded 3” in order not to “scalp” the turf.

Scalping is the excessive removal of leafy green growth from turfgrass which results in injury to the grass.

Therefore, appropriate mowing frequency is decided by the rate of growth.

Temperature, precipitation, light, and nutrients can all impact the rate of grass growth.

One final note is to remember that supplemental nitrogen, though generally beneficial to turfgrass growth, will encourage faster growth that may not be appropriate for areas that will be mowed less often.

For particular information on mowing practices, contact the County Extension Office at 387-3101.