Many people claim that they know just how to cut their lawn the right way. However, when you ask ten different people, you will wind up with ten different answers.
The truth is that there are many factors that should be considered that most homeowners do not even give a second thought.
Do you have Kentucky bluegrass or Bahiagrass? Are you doing it at the correct time of the day? Are you using the right lawn mower for the job? Are you cutting to the correct lenght? These are but a few facets you, as a homeowner, should consider before you cut the grass.
Take a few moments to read up on everything here on the Green Pinky and you should know be on the right path.
Choose the Right Lawn Mower
A lawn mower is not merely a purchase; it is an investment. By choosing the right piece of equipment, you will wind up with a greater rate of return.
The primary factors in determining what type of equipment fits your turf care needs are the size of your property and your budget. Once these are determined, you are ready to look into the different types of mowers.
This style is perfect for you if your property is an acre or less. Once you have passed that threshold, you should probably begin considering other options that require less physical exertion.
Push lawn mowers can be manually pushed, battery-powered, corded, or gas-powered. For larger or more challenging (sloped) terrain, they have a feature that makes them self-propelled for ease of use.
A corded electric push mower is generally only used for lawns that are ¼ acre or less because of the range limitations afforded by the power cord.
For anything bigger than ¼ acre, you should look into cordless electric (battery) powered or gas-powered versions. Lawns larger than ½ acre or yards with rougher terrain should consider using one with a self-propelled option.
A push mower is without question the most budget-friendly of the four types. For a decent corded electric model, you could spend as little as $150. For a quality self-propelled one that is gas-powered, you can expect a price tag somewhere between $400 and $500.
Riding Lawn Mowers
These are designed for larger pieces of property and have a mowing breadth that falls between 26″ and 74″.
A rear-engine riding mower is usually priced between $1,300 and $3,000. These are not designed for pulling attachments behind them and take up less space for storage.
Lawn and garden tractors are a bit more capable than the rear-engine models. Priced between $1,200 up to $4,000 (on average, they can go as high as $11,000), these offer more functionality because they are equipped to pull attachments behind them.
These are attractive to potential buyers because they allow you to cut a lot of grass in a little time. Lawn and garden tractors will take up more storage space in your garage and, since they are technically a vehicle, will require regular maintenance for proper function.
Zero-turn mowers are the most advanced of these three subcategories.
They cut grass effectively at higher speeds. This is the main reason they are preferred for commercial use by lawn care professionals.
Zero-turn means they can rotate 360 degrees on a dime, which makes them more maneuverable and agile than the others in this category. This ease of maneuverability allows you to cut closer to fixed objects in your lawn.
Because these are faster, stronger, and more agile, they carry a heftier average price tag of $4,000 to $5,000.
These attach to the back of your riding mower or ATV. Generally, these are used for giant swaths of land or fields with rougher terrain. Think golf courses and pastures.
These are usually only used in commercial capacities by professionals or farmers.
With an average cost of between $1,000 and $3,000 and because they must be attached to something to pull them, they are not usually practical for the average homeowner.
Automated Lawn Mower
Think of a robotic vacuum for your lawn. This relatively new technology should only be used if you don’t have the time to cut your grass and do not want to hire a professional to do it for you.
Ranging between $500 and $2000, you control them with an app from your phone. They can be controlled from anywhere in the world.
The smart technology will deploy it from its charging station to trim your grass. It functions quietly enough to operate at night. When the battery begins to run low, it will simply return to its charging station.
You can put these into use at will or set them up on a schedule to cut your lawn.
This new technology needs to mature for some time to gain efficiency and should probably not be used unless you genuinely have absolutely exhausted all other options.
How Often to Mow Your Lawn
The broad and straightforward answer to this question is that you should cut your grass whenever it needs it. Regardless if you do it yourself or contract a professional, you should always do it when the grass benefits from it the most.
That means that you should not be mowing a lawn on a set schedule that disregards the current state of the environment in your lawn.
You should consider what type of grass you have growing in your yard. Ask yourself what the growing conditions and patterns of growth are in your yard. Measure the rate of growth over a period of time to see how fast your lawn is sprouting.
For warm-season grasses, like St. Augustine and bermuda grass, the growing season peaks from late May to late July or early August. During this time, you can expect to have to cut your grass more frequently.
Cool-season grasses, like ryegrass and tall fescue, hit the apex of their growing season two times each year. From late March to early May is the optimal time for growth during the spring. The peak growing time for the fall season ranges from late September to early November.
These respective times for each grass type will require you to mow your lawn more frequently. Still, this frequency will generally be no more than once every 4 to 5 days.
There are times of the year, dependent upon your geographical region, where the grass will go dormant due to either extended periods of drought or because the weather has grown too cold. Never cut your grass once it has gone dormant.
Cool-season grasses, like fine fescue and bentgrass, will generally go dormant whenever the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Their warm-season counterparts, like zoysia grass and centipede grass, usually go dormant in mid to late October.
Best Time of the Day
Homeowners often make the mistake of assuming that it doesn’t matter when the lawn gets mowed as long as it does. This is a mistake. Bad timing can lead to insect infestation and disease.
You will also want to take into consideration your neighbors and your city’s ordinances.
Some people just want to finish the task early and get it out of the way while it is still cool outside. This is a bad idea.
If you cut your grass too early in the morning, dew will still be present. This can damage your lawn mower and also can leave your grass susceptible to disease and fungus.
Without question, this is the best time of day to cut your grass. By this time, the dew from the morning has evaporated away.
The moisture that is release from newly cut grass has time to dry before the cool of night sets in again.
Cutting your grass during the middle of the day could be considered safe, but that does not mean that it is a recommended time. If you do it when it is too hot, it may result in tearing of the grass. Tearing, as opposed to cutting, opens the floodgates to disease and fungus.
This is widely considered the second-best time to cut your grass if doing it in the middle of the morning proves impractical.
By this point, the heat of the day has generally subsided, so there is minimal risk of tearing the grass.
The sun is still out, so moisture from the newly cut grass still has a chance to dry out before the cool condensation of night begins to set in.
Dew appears on your lawn after the sun goes down. So cutting your grass in the evening is just as bad as mowing too early in the morning.
In some ways, it is worse than doing it too early in the morning. If you cut the grass in the evening, your lawn has no heat source to dry it off for many hours. This makes it a virtual breeding ground for all sorts of fungus and lawn diseases.
Best Length to Cut Grass
Grass height is important because it is an integral part of creating a low-maintenance and drought-tolerant lawn.
For a healthy lawn, a general rule for all grass types is to keep your grass at 2 ½”. However, this number is hardly absolute.
For instance, if your lawn has a problem with crabgrass, you should keep your grass at the height of 3″. The additional shade provided by that extra height will keep the low growing weed from getting the light it needs to thrive.
There are desired heights for different types of grasses. Before you start cutting your grass, take a look at the following numbers to figure out the desired height for your grass.
- Bahia grass – 2” to 3”
- Bent grass – ¼” to ¾”
- Bermuda grass – ½” to 1 ½”
- Buffalo grass – 2” to 3”
- Centipede grass – 1 ½” to 2 ½”
- Fine fescue – 1 ½” to 2 ½”
- Kentucky bluegrass – 1 ½” to 2 ½”
- Perennial ryegrass – ¾” to 2 ½”
- St. Augustine – 2” to 4”
- Tall fescue – 2” to 3”
- Zoysia grass – ½” to 1 ½”
These are suggestions to use as a guideline and come with some variations. During the summer and periods of drought, you should allow all grasses to grow to the higher ends of their respective spectrums.
You should cut warm-season grasses shorter in the spring to remove dead grass blades before the peak growing season.
For cool-season grasses, for the final mowing, before your lawn goes dormant, you should cut the grass to the shorter end of the mowing height spectrum in regions prone to snow to prevent mold.
Remember that you are only trying to cut off the top ⅓ of the blades of grass. For example, to achieve 2 ½” of grass in your yard, start trimming your grass when it is 3 ⅔” high. That way, you make sure that you only have to take off the top ⅓ of the blade.
Do not just allow your grass to grow too tall because you will make the environment ideal for insects, mice, and snakes.
When you mow a lawn, do not fall into the trap that the shorter your cut your grass, the less often you will have to mow. You will only creating more problems for yourself.
What Do I Do With All These Grass Clippings
There are several different things you can do with the clippings left over after cutting the grass.
Just Leave Them Be
This is the best option for clippings that are shorter than 1” in length. The reason for this is because grass clippings will decompose quickly and fertilize your lawn by putting the nutrients right back where they came from.
This method will help your yard retain moisture during the hottest parts of the year.
This is the best option for your grass’s health as you will avoid having to put excess chemicals onto your turf. It also creates less work for you.
Use Them As Mulch
If you don’t need to fertilize your yard, you might as well take advantage of this free and readily available form of much to keep weeds out of your plants and shrubs while at the same time keeping the moisture in. Keep 1” to 2” of clippings for optimal conditions.
By adding grass clippings to your compost pile, you provide it with a natural heat source that helps the living microbes that are breaking down the material in the pile.
Add dry, brown material such as peat, leaves, or newspaper shreddings at a 1:1 ratio to avoid overheating the compost and putting an end to the microbial activity.
Make A Homebrewed Fertilizer
Filling a 5-gallon bucket ⅓ of the way up with fresh clippings and then filling the rest up with water will mark the beginning of a natural fertilizer you can use to add life to your ornamentals. You should cover the bucket with a screen or cloth to deter mosquitoes and let it sit outside for two weeks.
Once the two weeks have passed, pour 16 ounces into your watering can before you fill it up with regular water. Water your flowers and watch how they flourish.
Dull blades make for uneven and irregular cutting. By regularly sharpening your blades, you ensure that they cut clean and true. This makes for a healthier yard. Also make sure you change the oil in your lawn mower, which extend its life span.
If you have to mow on sloped, there are different rules to follow for different mowers.
- For riding mowers, you should mow up and down the slope to ensure the equipment is never tilted to one side to keep it from tipping over and causing both bodily injury and property damage.
- Push style mowers should be taken horizontally across the slope to decrease physical stress on your body.
Before mowing, always do a walk through of your property to check for debris, rocks, and any other obstacles that can be moved. Mark any fixed irrigation and utility lines to prevent damaging them.
Create a couple of established mowing patterns you will use and alternate them each time you go out to cut your grass. Alternating the patterns will prevent rutting and grooving on your property.
Be careful not to blow fresh clippings onto your driveway or sidewalk as these are wet and can stain the surface.
Always remember to be respectful of your neighbors.
–The Green Pinky