There are several things that go into maintaining a vibrant green and beautiful lawn. This includes maintaining healthy turf.
You also need to make sure you are cutting the grass at the right time. Of course, this brings up the question of just how often should you mow your lawn?
The short answer is to mow your lawn frequently to keep the blades of grass relatively short. This also helps keep your yard looking clean.
Yet mowing too often or keeping the grass desperately short can also impact the health of the lawn as well as the delicate balance of moisture, nutrients, and microbes in the layers of your turf.
When these things are out of balance it can leave your lawn prone to soil-borne diseases, weeds, and other common lawn care problems.
Left unchecked, it could even lead to bare spots and insect problems.
To really understand how often you should cut your grass, we are going to need to take a closer look at all the factors that go into maintaining a healthy and attractive lawn.
- Factor Number One: How Healthy Is Your Turf?
- Factor Two: How Healthy Is Your Soil?
- Factor Three: How Much Light Does Your Lawn Receive?
- Factor Four: How Much Do You Water Your Lawn?
- Factor Five: The Type Of Grass Growing In Your Lawn
- Common Grasses That Do Best When Left 1.75” To 3” Long Include:
- Common Grasses That Do Best When Left 1.5” To 2.5” Long Include:
- Common Grasses That Do Best When Cut Short Include:
- How Do I Know What Type Of Grass Is In My Lawn?
- What Is The Best Time To Mow My Lawn?
- How Short Is Too Short?
Factor Number One: How Healthy Is Your Turf?
Turf has multiple layers in your lawn. It starts at the blades of grass and extends down through several layers to the soil below.
This includes the thatch left by past mowing sessions, the roots of living grass, the upper layers of soil, and the lower subsoil.
Air, water, light, soil microbes, and available nutrients all play an important role in supporting a vigorous, healthy lawn.
Thatch is the debris left behind by previous lawnmowing sessions. Bagging lawnmowers tend to collect most of the cut blades of grass.
Side discharge lawnmowers tend to create larger pieces of thatch, which can buildup and gradually start to suffocate the upper layers of the turf.
Mulching lawnmowers cut blades of grass into tiny pieces which are more likely to decompose quickly and may even contribute nutrients back to the turf.
If you have a side discharging lawnmower, you might want to cut your grass more frequently. This will leave behind smaller pieces of thatch, which can be absorbed back into the upper layers of turf as a sort of natural fertilizer.
If you cut your grass and the side discharge leaves behind thick rows of clippings, you might want to consider raking them up before they mat down into your turf.
Excess thatch can block out critical air, from reaching the roots. It also tends to block water from reaching the roots making your lawn watering efforts less efficient. Certain pests and lawn diseases can also exploit excess thatch.
If your turf is already choked up by excess thatch, you should consider aerating. Many lawn care specialists also recommend aerating in the fall or spring.
If you have a smaller lawn, a manual aerator tool and a little elbow grease can break up thatch layers in your turf.
For a larger lawn, you might want to contact an equipment rental company to see if they have an aerator machine available. Your local landscaping company might even offer an affordable lawn aerations service.
Factor Two: How Healthy Is Your Soil?
Not all soil is the same, and with some large lawns, the soil composition and nutrients can vary from one area to the next.
Soil that is heavy in clay tends to hold onto water, which can make it hard for the roots of grass and other plants to take up the nutrients they need.
On the other end of the spectrum, sandy soil lets water pass through it very quickly, which can dry out the turf and stunt the growth of your grass.
If you aren’t sure about your lawn’s soil composition, and nutrients, there are test kits available at most hardware stores and garden centers.
You might also want to check with your county extension office or local department of agriculture. Many of them can perform in-depth soil tests for a relatively reasonable price.
Nutrient problems, such as low nitrogen levels can often be addressed by applying high-quality lawn fertilizer. This is best done in the spring when your grass is just starting to come out of dormancy.
If your soil has a high clay content, you should consider dialing back your irrigation system. especially during stretches of rainy weather.
Turf with high sand content might need longer watering sessions to ensure full saturation. The goal is to make sure that your turf has just the right moisture level for your grass to thrive.
Factor Three: How Much Light Does Your Lawn Receive?
As a plant, grass needs light to grow. In fact, grass seed needs light to germinate. How much light your lawn receives can greatly influence how fast your grass grows, which will influence how often you need to mow your lawn.
If your lawn has very few trees, chances are your grass will grow much faster than one that is shaded by overhead branches and leaves.
Even if your yard has a lot of trees, your grass might still get more light, in the spring, which promotes vigorous growth.
Once all the leaves come in on the trees, you may notice your grass suddenly growing slower.
As the growing season goes on and the amount of daylight starts to decrease from the summer solstice to the fall equinox, the amount of light your lawn receives will also decrease.
This will also reduce the rate at which your grass grows. Paying attention to light and growth as the growing season goes on will help you dial in how often to mow your lawn.
Factor Four: How Much Do You Water Your Lawn?
Grass needs water to grow. When it receives too little water, grass grows slowly, or can completely stunt its development.
Conversely, when the turf layers and subsoil are overly saturated with water, it can become increasingly vulnerable to disease. Inundated turf can also cause the grass to grow poorly.
Some people like to water at night in hopes that it will maximize the moisture saturation. This can be beneficial for sandy soil.
However, loam and clay-rich soils can be more vulnerable to fungal diseases, when watered at night.
If you have overly sandy soil you may want to water more often. Especially during dry times or periods of drought. If you have clay-rich soil, you may want to water less frequently.
If your area has been suffering from drought, and you have municipally supplied water, you might want to double check if there are any watering restrictions. Setting your irrigation system accordingly can save you from an inconvenient fine!
Factor Five: The Type Of Grass Growing In Your Lawn
Grass is a very diverse plant species. Different types of grass will grow better in certain conditions. If you walk into the lawn section of a hardware store or garden center, you will see a wide range of grass seed brands with descriptors like:
- Full Sun
- Partial Sun
- High Traffic
These terms are essentially describing the blend of grass seeds inside the box. Most have a perennial type of grass that grows well in the stated conditions, along with a fast germinating “Nurse Grass” like annual ryegrass.
The nurse grass helps stabilize the soil while the more dominant grass seeds germinate and establish their root base.
Different types of grass also grow better in certain regions. Each has its own growth characteristics which can also factor into how short you should cut it.
You can break down some of the more common types of grass based on how short they should be cut to help them thrive.
Common Grasses That Do Best When Left 1.75” To 3” Long Include:
- Bahia Grass
- Blue Grama Grass
- Buffalo Grass
- Kentucky Bluegrass
Common Grasses That Do Best When Left 1.5” To 2.5” Long Include:
- Centipede Grass
- Fine Fescue
- Creeping Red Fescue
- Annual Rye Grass
- Perennial Rye Grass
- St. Augustine
Common Grasses That Do Best When Cut Short Include:
- Bent Grass – .25” To 1”
- Common Bermuda Grass .75” To 1.5”
How Do I Know What Type Of Grass Is In My Lawn?
Determining the type of grass in your lawn might seem a little arcane at first. However, there are some things you can do to narrow down the search.
A quick trip to the local hardware store will help narrow down your search. Most make it a point to stock grass seed blends that grow best in your regional climate.
Look for the conditions that are most dominant in your yard, such as full sun or partial shade. Then read the fine print on the label and write down the types of grass seeds with the highest percentages.
Then go online, enter the name of each type of grass and select “Images.” This will give you pictures of the grass blades, which you can compare with the blades of grass in your lawn.
What Is The Best Time To Mow My Lawn?
In a perfect world, you should never cut your grass when it is wet from rain or a recent watering from your irrigation system.
Even an excessive amount of morning dew can cause the blades of grass to bend over or lead to clogs under your mower’s cutting deck.
Ideally, you want to pick a time when the blades of grass are dry, such a mid to late morning. Areas of deep shade might need a little longer to dry out, than areas in full sun.
How Short Is Too Short?
It can be tempting to cut an overgrown lawn short. A high-powered mulching mower makes this an even greater temptation.
Yet cutting your grass too short, can potentially stress it out and dramatically affect the current moisture levels in the turf.
The prevailing rule of thumb is to never cut more than a third of the grass’ height in a single mowing session. This will leave a smaller amount of thatch behind. If the grass still looks a little too tall, wait two or three days before cutting it down by a third again.
From his childhood obsession with gardening to the decade he spent operating a hobby farm, Eric has developed over four decades of experience in self-sufficiency. Not only does this include the organic elements of growing and tending plants, but it also includes a wealth of experience in lawn care, landscaping, and gardening equipment.