UCCE Orange County Master Gardeners
University of California
UCCE Orange County Master Gardeners

Ornamentals


Lawn care, established, mowing

Proper mowing, combined with other lawn maintenance practices, is critical for attractive, well-groomed turfgrass stands. Mowing your lawn entails much more than just mowing on a weekly basis or whenever the lawn appears too long.

For a healthy turf, you must pay special attention to:
The equipment you use
There are two basic types of lawn mowers
-reel
-rotary
What to look for in a mower
-ease of use
-easily adjustable
-easily maintained

Read more about lawn mowers.

How you mow
Vary the mowing direction
Grass tends to grow in the direction it is mowed. To prevent your lawn from appearing to lean one way or the other, vary your mowing direction each time you mow. This will keep your grass looking straighter as well as prevent a washboard effect. To make sure that you mow the entire lawn, overlap each pass by several inches. Mowing the lawn soon after it has been watered will cause the grass to stick to the mower blades and clog the mower. Wait until the blades have had time to dry before mowing.
Read more about how to mow.

 • How much, when, and how often you mow
How much to cut at each mowing depends upon the growth habit of the grass and the leaf texture, or width of the leaves. Grass survival depends on having adequate leaf surface for food production through photosynthesis. Mowing too low removes too much of the food producing area. As the grass literally starves, the lawn thins and looks poor. Mowing too high can hurt the appearance or usefulness of the turf.

Mow when the grass is actively growing
You can determine when and how often to mow your lawn by taking into account the growth rate of the grass during each season and the desired resulting height of the lawn. Grasses require more frequent mowing during their active growing period.

Cool-season grasses are most active during the spring and fall while warm-season grasses are the most active during the summer months. How much fertilizer and water your lawn receives will also affect the growth rate.

Remove one-third of the height at a time
Mow frequently enough so that only one-third of the leaf is removed at any one time. Do not drastically or suddenly change the cutting height. If the grass has become too tall, reestablish the recommended height by mowing more frequently for a while and gradually lowering the mowing height of successive cuttings, following the one-third rule.

Read more about how to mow your turf grass species.

Lawns requiring special attention
Mowing turf during drought
Do not mow turfgrasses suffering drought or other climatic stresses. Grass suffering from lack of water should be watered deeply and then mowed after the leaf blades have dried off. Cut at the highest allowable height for your turf species. This increases the leaf area and photosynthesis which results in more carbohydrates for plant growth. It also encourages a deeper root system. Mowing at the highest height and only removing a third of the leaf blade at a time allows for more efficient use of water. Keeping your mower blades sharp and balanced will allow cut grass blades to recover more quickly and lose less water than if cut by a dull mower blade.

Mowing weedy areas
Mow weedy turf frequently to avoid the patchy appearance that can result from the uneven growth of weeds.

Mowing turf in shade
For shady areas, mowing your turf slightly higher than is normally recommended will allow for more efficient absorption of light. This will also reduce your mowing frequency. Higher cuts will encourage deeper roots and infrequent mowing will leave fewer open wounds on the leaves, reducing the incidence of disease. See the following publications for more information:

Managing Lawns on Heavy Soils

Managing Lawns in Shade

Grasscycling — what to do with the grass clippings
If you mow your lawn at the right frequency, cut at the proper height for your species, and remove no more than one-third of the leaf blade each time you mow, you can let your grass clippings remain on the lawn. Grasscycling, as this process is called, may also be done with a recycling (mulching) mower, which cuts the clippings into small pieces and returns them to the lawn where they decompose quickly, return nutrients to the lawn, and save costs for bagging, removal, and landfill operations.

Grasscycling will only be beneficial if you are removing small clippings at a time, so proper mowing and equipment is essential. Grasscycling may slightly increase thatch buildup, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in most situations. Grasscycling should not be done when the grass is too wet or when it has not been regularly mowed and is too tall. This could lead to excessive build up of thatch.
Read more about grasscycling.
 
See the following publication for more information:
Mowing Your Lawn and Grasscycling 

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