GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With higher temperatures come higher lawns, so now that spring is in full swing, you may mow more often. When you do, you help preserve the environment and keep your yard aesthetically pleasing, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences expert says.
Environmentally, proper lawn care can help prevent nutrients from flowing into nearby waterways, said Jason Kruse, a UF/IFAS associate professor of environmental horticulture. Mowing helps increase canopy density, increases soil stability and prevents soil erosion. These changes in the lawn will help limit fertilizer and other nutrients from flowing into waterways, Kruse said.
In addition to taking care of the environment, most people mow their lawns because they want them to look good. So how often should you mow? That depends on several factors, including the kind of grass on your lawn, time of season, amount of shade and desired use, Kruse said. If you have St. Augustinegrass, you have to mow at taller heights because it has course-textured leaf blades. If you have bermudagrass, you’ll want to mow closer to the soil because of its numerous narrow leaf blades and lower growth habit.
Kruse also emphasizes the “one-third rule,” in which you mow your grass no shorter than one third of its current height. For instance, if you mow your St. Augustine grass at a height of 4 inches, you should mow again before it grows higher than 6 inches.
On the other hand, you don’t want to mow the grass too low to the ground, known as “scalping.” Even though you mow to keep your lawn looking good, remember that mowing puts grass under stress. If you mow the grass too low, you can leave the grass susceptible to disease, pests and drought, he said.
“The biggest mistakes are mowing too low and not often enough,” Kruse said. Some homeowners associations and even some cities and counties might cite you for an overgrown lawn.
Also, keep in mind grass that sits in the shade of a tree. Due to the limited light reaching the canopy of the lawn, it will perform better if maintained at a higher height of cut. Consider raising the height of cut in shaded areas of your lawn by half an inch compared to the rest of your yard, to give the lawn access to more light for photosynthesis.
Kruse also suggests keeping your mower blade sharp. Otherwise, the canopy may turn brown, and you increase the risk of spreading disease, he said.
Most importantly, even though it’s hot and humid outside – when a lot of people would rather stay inside and cool – this is the most important time of year to mow frequently, Kruse said.
“Mowing is an activity that many people often discard as something they need to do,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s probably one of the most important agronomic practices that we do to keep a healthy turfgrass system.”
By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.