Thursday, April 3, 2008

Turf - Mowing Guidelings

The following are mowing guidelines for turfgrasses from Mike Goatley at Virginia Tech.

Keep those blades sharp.

The quickest way to improve lawn quality and turf health is to clip it with a sharp blade, and a sharp blade will also improve fuel-use efficiency and extend engine life. Sharpened and balance your mower blade regularly throughout the mowing season.

Match mowing heights according to species and situation.

Mowers have adjustments for raising and lowering the mowing height. Be sure to set your mower on a solid surface such as a driveway or sidewalk and determine what height you get from various settings. Then, set your mower’s cutting height to match the appropriate height of cut for your particular grass. If the turf has a white hue rather than a green color after you mow, it is a good bet that you are cutting too low. While there are some differences in tolerable cutting heights between the various species of warm and cool-season turfgrasses, a general rule of thumb is to clip them in the 2-3 inch range. For cool-season turfgrasses, it is always a safer bet to begin raising their cutting heights in late spring/early summer to maximize tolerance to environmental and pest pressure. Taller cutting heights at these times help maintain the plant’s root system. On the other hand, warm-season grasses such as Bermudagrass respond to mowing on the lower side of their recommended range in the summer by increasing in density. Note that shorter mowing heights will require more frequent mowing.

What about turf in the shade? Mow on the high side of the recommended range in order to maximize the plant’s leaf area. Your lawn grasses will already be at a huge competitive disadvantage to the trees in regards to light, water, and nutrients, so it needs some special attention to maintain a canopy.

Employ the “1/3rd rule” of mowing.

Perhaps you have also heard of something called the “1/3rd rule” of mowing -- that is, never remove more than 1/3rd of the leaf blade at any mowing event. Removing most of the foliage in a cutting event shocks the plant, forcing it to redirect its food resources from roots and stems towards new leaves. If the turf has gotten away from you, resist the temptation to scalp it in a single mowing event. Instead, slowly drop the mowing height every 2-3 days while returning the turf to its ideal cutting height range. This approach takes a little patience, but it will maintain plant health and prevent you from having unsightly piles of clippings that not only look bad, but can also shade and heat the turf below.

Modified from "Mow Like a Pro" by Mike Goatley, Virginia Tech in the Turf and Garden Tips web site from Virginia Tech

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