After reading this article, you’ll never be able to mow your lawn the old way again.
You’ll feel like you’re one of the villagers in the Last Samurai. You know, the ones that Tom Cruise talks about when he says they understand that even the simplest task requires thoughtfulness and precision.
Yeah… you’ll be a grass-cutting Samurai. We promise.
The One Third Rule
Let’s start by talking about the actual blades of grass.
Did you know that grass, like most other plants goes into shock after being cut? It’s true. When you remove part of the leaf’s surface, you are removing part of the plant that is responsible for food production.
Generally, removing one third (1/3) of the plant ensures you leave enough space for food production and avoid over-stressing the blade. This height allows the plant to branch out and become denser, which in this case, turns thousands of individual grass plants into a tightly woven turf or lawn.
Cutting your grass more than 1/3 will not provide enough leaf surface to produce food. It will also make the plant weaker and more vulnerable to disease. What’s worse, cutting the grass too short will allow sunlight to reach weed seeds and once you give those pesky critters a chance, they’ll take over your lawn in no time.
Dull Mower Blades Are a No-No
This may be a hard one, especially if you live somewhere like New York or New Jersey where rocks lurk in the dark and attack your mower each time you trim the lawn, but it’s essential in keeping your grass plants healthy: Keep your mower blades sharp.
Dull blades result in ragged cuts and tears that produce brownish or yellowish discoloration which makes your lawn look less than appealing. It also injures the grass and makes it more susceptible to disease. Add to this, that it forces the plant to use more of its resources on self-repair and coping with insects, heat and weeds then becomes impossible.
To avoid the same type of tearing damage as dull blades, mow slow.
Yes, we know. It’s hot. It’s Saturday. And there’s a nice cold beverage waiting next to the hammock, but let us explain…
Mowing speed should be inversely proportional to turf density. Meaning that, a very thick lawn should be mowed very slowly while a thinner lawn can be cut less slowly.
A good rule of thumb is that if the mower can remove all the clippings then you are mowing at the right speed. If even a few clippings remain, then you are moving too fast.
Speaking of Grass Clippings… Get Rid of Them
Make an effort to catch and remove grass clippings once you’re done mowing.
A small amount of clippings will decompose naturally. In most cases though, they accumulate to a point that the grass can actually be smothered and choked out.
A lawn that does not have its clippings removed regularly, will be prone to an over accumulation of thatch and will need to be de-thatched as often as every year.
A thatch layer that is too thick also provides an incubation area for damaging insects and diseases and prohibits the proper water and air exchange that is necessary for healthy turf grass.
Give Your Grass a Different Cut
While it may be easiest to mow your lawn the same way every week, it’s best to change the pattern every couple of cuts. This will help your lawn avoid growing in a particular direction.
Grass should be allowed to grow in whatever pattern the conditions of your property needs (slope, sun angle, water runoff etc.).
Changing the pattern will also avoid uneven soil compaction and tire ruts. So go ahead and get creative!
Mow When Dry
Avoid mowing when the turf grass is wet.
Wet grass will tear rather than cut, causing the same injury as dull blades or mowing too fast.
Don’t Mow When It’s Too Hot
Talk about the perfect way to get out of sweating in the hot sun!
Avoid mowing when the temperature is more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The types of turf grass that the lawns in our area have are cool season grasses. These species are not very heat tolerant and need extra protection and care above 80 degrees.
The wheels of even a small mower can crack the blades of grass, killing them.
No Trimming, Edging and Weed Whacking
By far, the most damaging aspect of mowing occurs at the very end with string trimming, edging or weed waking.
First, it is nearly impossible to maintain a constant 3-inch height. Second, a string simply shreds the grass blades rather than cutting them finely as sharp mower blades are designed to do.
Trimming, edging and weed-whacking not only break every guideline we’ve given you, but also allow crabgrass to easily move in to these areas where due to heat and exposure, the grass is weakest.
Now Go Forth Young Grasshopper
Use the 1/3 rule. Keep those blades sharp. Mow slow. Get rid of the clippings. Give your grass a different cut. Mow when it’s dry and not too hot. Avoid trimming, edging and weed whacking and behold your healthy lawn!