Virtually all homeowners seem to have a personal opinion on the height their lawn should be mowed at. Unfortunately, their opinions are all too often based on individual preference rather than what’s actually best for their lawn. If you fall into this camp, your approach lawn mower height settings should instead start by learning how to determine the mowing height that’s right for your grass type.
Why Mower Deck Height Matters
At the root of it all, mowing at the correct height facilitates a better, healthier life for your lawn. Blades cut at the proper length can capture the sunlight and rain your lawn’s root system relies on to fend off disease and drought. It also encourages new growth needed for a denser, more enviable lawn. Routinely cutting too low, on the other hand, provides exposed spaces for weeds to creep into.
The golden rule of mowing, for any grass, is to never cut more than a third of the blade off at a time. The balance of blade height and roots is a delicate one, so taking more off the top than you should will send a real shock to your lawn’s ecosystem.
Whether the rain’s conspired against you or you’d rather spend less time mowing and more time enjoying the backyard life, resist the urge to hack everything off at once. Instead, make multiple shorter passes. While it’ll take longer, your lawn will thank you for it.
In addition to following the one-third cutting rule, it’s a good idea to have your blade sharpened at the start of every season. A dull cut leaves grass blades ragged, making them more susceptible to disease. If you’ve had a lot of rain, a second sharpening halfway through the season may be in order, as well.
Ideal Grass Heights
Tall and fine fescue, ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass are cool-season grasses that grow best in the fall and spring, and keep their color throughout the year. The correct deck height to cut them at is between 2.5 and 3.5 inches.
Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine, and centipede are common warm-season grasses that love, and tolerate, hot southern sun. To mow them right, set your deck height between .5 and 1.5 inches.
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When it’s hot and dry outside, it’s okay to let both seasonal grass types grow a half-inch or so higher than normal.
Bag or Mulch?
Without exception, lawn experts recommend mowing without a bagger. Mowing more frequently and allowing clippings to settle back into the lawn creates a win-win for you and your grass. You’ll mow faster, and your lawn will benefit from all that good nitrogen (so you won’t have to fertilize as often).