Mowing Your Lawn
Correct mowing is absolutely crucial to achieving a healthy lawn, and therefore should be central to the lawn maintenance programme. Little and often is the secret. Regular mowing ensures the lawn is kept tidy, and encourages new leaf growth, which thickens the turf and enables the lawn to ‘crowd out’ weeds. Meadow grass, which cannot be treated with herbicides, will gradually colonise a lawn of finer grasses if left to its own devices. The good news therefore is twofold: that meadow grass hates regular mowing, and is less able to colonise a lawn which has a dense sward.
The first mowing of the season
The first cut should not be the deepest! Just take the top off the grass. Choose a day when the grass blade is dry.
- Once a week in spring and autumn, or during hot dry spells in the summer
- Twice a week during vigorous summer growth
It is a good idea to vary the direction of mowing, to avoid the formation of ‘tramlines’. Choose a time when the grass leaves are dry and the soil is not too wet. Always ensure that your mower blade is sharp to prevent tearing of the leaf, as the “split ends” can allow disease into the plant. If the top of the grass leaf goes brown after mowing, it is often a sure sign of a blunt lawnmower blade having torn or bruised the leaf. It’s a good idea to have your mower serviced at the end of the season, when the dealers are less busy.
Don’t cut too much at any one time: The golden rule of pruning also applies to mowing: never remove more than one third of the leaf in one go. Over zealous cutting causes stress in the plant and reduces the surface area of the leaf available for photosynthesis. Don’t cut too short: In general, a longer leaf blade will encourage deeper roots, improving the ability of the lawn to cope with dry periods. A higher setting of the mower blade is less likely to result in scalping; thin open turf is soon invaded with weeds, moss and meadow grass. The longer leaves can also cope better with wear and tear, such as children playing football.
A good rough guide to leaf blade length is
- ½ - 1 inch / 15-25mm in summer
- ¾ - 1¼ inches / 20-35mm in spring, autumn or periods of drought.
It’s nearly always best to remove clippings, either by using a grassbox or by raking. This helps slow the build up of thatch which can both promote disease and reduce the ability of the root zone to receive air, nutrients and moisture. On the other hand, in very dry periods, leaving the clippings on the lawn can help in the retention of moisture within the soil. However, approximately only one quarter of all the nutrients needed by the lawn can be provided by the decomposing clippings.
This is the most difficult area for grass to survive because it has to compete with trees/shrubs for light and moisture. Mowing regimes can help in these situations by setting the blade higher and cutting less frequently than the rest of the lawn. This reduces the stress to the plant, which is already working hard to try and deal with the difficult conditions it is facing.
Returning from holiday
If it has grown tall, avoid shocking the grass by taking off too much at once. Merely clip it and repeat over the next few days, gradually reducing the mowing height each time, until the desired length is arrived at.