CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Springtime means mowing...and mowing again

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

When it comes to the lawn, I'm a total Lawn Geek. I love my lawn. I'm pretty sure it stems from my days mowing lawns when I was a kid. My brother, Jeffrey, had a business called the "Lawn Ranger" and he gave me a few select clients (read: clients he felt weren't as lucrative to him). I love the smell of fresh cut grass and my sneakers stained green from all that chlorophyll. Maple the beagle also enjoys her green feet.
Maple pretending to be disinterested...but she's really proud of her green paws!
But this time of year, it's tough to keep up with the lawn and how quickly it's growing. Cool season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue, seem to grow inches overnight and mowing the lawn to keep it tidy can seem like a chore. Plus, you're trying to time mowing between rain showers. Recently, it seems I've rushed home from work to mow, only to find that the lawn is too wet from a shower that blew through. Drat.

At each mowing, obey the 1/3 Rule. This means you don't remove more than 1/3 of the total leaf tissue. This helps keep the lawn neat and prevents hay piles. What this also means is you may have to mow two or three times each week in the spring since the grass is growing so fast. (For someone like me, it's great! For others, this is where mowing becomes a pain.)  NOTE: Those who do mowing for a living - commercial mowing and landscape firms, parks, etc. - mow on a schedule and sometimes can't stick to the 1/3 Rule. This is real life. Fortunately, the grass survives!
A comparison of mowing heights. The photo on the left is how tall the lawn was prior to mowing. The middle picture is ignoring the 1/3 Rule and cutting it too short. The photo on the right is mowed at the proper height for the height of the lawn.
Hay piles are ugly, often clump together and can discolor the grass. Worse, hay piles means you've removed too much plant tissue, which can stress your turf. Stressed turf is more susceptible to drought, weed pressure and disease.
(Not my yard!) Hay piles. We've all done it, but try to avoid this by obeying the 1/3 Rule.
Worse than hay piles are scalping the turf. This means you're essentially removing ALL of the leaf tissue. Doing this in the spring, even once, can result in the turf struggling all season. Don't scalp. Raise your mowing height!
I couldn't bring myself to fully scalp the lawn, but you get the idea. This is just a bit too short and the lawn will get stressed.
Over the weekend, I cut the lawn with the mower set at its highest height. The lawnmower was still sputtering and choking (so was I, for that matter). Once you get the lawn height under control, mow regularly to keep it at that height (still obeying the 1/3 Rule). Once the spring growth rush has passed, set your mower at one height all year and keep the grass at 2.5 to 3.5" tall, depending on what you prefer.
Ahhhh....fresh cut grass!
Mulch your grass clippings back into the turf. Mulching keeps fertilizer (and pesticides) in the lawn system and provides free nutrients! Grass clippings are mostly water and do not add to thatch problems. I only bag my clippings a couple times of year--when the grass gets too tall and mowing nearly kills the engine and also when I want to use clippings in the garden (or feed them to the chickens).
The garlic is lovin' the grass clippings!
Lizzy is a Lawn Geek too!
So there you have it. Maple was a good citizen and helped me mow the lawn and kept track of the height. I mowed once on Sunday and again on Monday, just to reduce the height and get the lawn a bit more tidy. You can see my progression below.
It's good to use a beagle as your measuring device for your lawn. At least the lawn isn't up to her knees anymore!

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