Proper mowing is key to a healthy lawn year round

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With last week’s article focusing on spring fertilization of lawns, this week’s article will continue the discussion with mowing lawns.

The first mowing, usually in late March, makes the lawn look spring-like and very attractive.  Subsequent regular mowing hardens the grass for drought and heat stresses later on. When the first clump of grass grows above the mowing height, mow, even if a lot of the yard does not need to be mowed yet.

Not all grasses start growing at the same time.  Grass on northern slopes, or in heavy clay soil, will start growing several days later than normal. Grass that was not fertilized in the fall or early spring also has a delayed growth.

Following recommendations for mowing height and frequency will make lawn care duties easier and result in a more attractive yard.

If your mower has a fixed, all-year height, set it at 2.5 inches.

However, if you can easily vary the height, set it at 1.5 to 2 inches for the first several times you mow. The shorter mowing height will help remove a lot of the winter-burned, brown leaves. Furthermore, by exposing more dark green growth, it will transfigure your lawn into the most uniform, attractive in the neighborhood. Move the height up to 2.5 inches after you mow the grass several times.

In summer, raise the mower height to 3 or 3.5 inches. This helps to protect the grass from summer heat and drought injury. However, remember that high grass, especially tall fescue, tends to fall over and mat down during hot summer weather causing increased summer disease problems.

In the fall, lower the mowing height to 2.5 inches. 

For the winter, lower the mower to 1.5 to 2 inches. This shorter height improves the turf’s winter and early spring color.

Never let grass go through the winter at a height of 4 or more inches because it will mat down and become diseased.

Generally speaking, mow often enough to remove no more than one-third to one-half of the grass height. If your mower is set for 2 inches, mow again when grass height reaches approximately 3 inches. Be sure not to scalp the lawn by mowing off most of the green leaves.

For tall fescue lawns, a rule of thumb is to mow at five-day intervals during the spring, and at seven-day intervals the rest of the year.

If you have a Kentucky bluegrass lawn, a seven-day interval usually is sufficient at a 2.5-inch mowing height.

You probably can extend that interval during hot, dry weather.

Do not mow by the calendar. Instead, watch the grass grow, and mow frequently enough to remove no more than one-third to one-half of grass height.

For more information on lawn care, contact the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 732-7030.

Dates of interest

March 21:Horse College, 6:30 p.m., Gallatin County Extension Office.

March 25:Carroll County Cattlemen’s Association Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

March 26:GAP Training for farmers market members, 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

March 28: Horse College, 6:30 p.m., Gallatin County Extension Office.


Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.