Facebook
Twitter
918-344-5737
Phone Call
How to Mow Your Lawn & When To Scalp

How To Mow Your Lawn & When To Scalp

Grass is pretty unique in that it’s about the only plant you can cut off each week, and it still looks good.

 

Most homeowners don’t mow often enough.  We know that’s not what you want to hear but, unfortunately, it’s the truth.  Proper mowing has a huge impact on how your lawn looks.

 

But did you know that proper mowing also makes weed control easier and keeps down unwanted pests like mice, ticks and chiggers?

 antique lawn mower

During the growing season, you may need to mow twice per week.  Here are some key mowing points:

 

  • Be sure your mower blades are very sharp.
  • Be sure your mower isn’t leaking anything.
  • Never mow off more than 1/3 of the grass blade at one time.
  • If your lawn gets way too high, mow it down in increments.
  • Mow often enough that you don’t have to bag the clippings.
  • Don’t always mow in the same direction.
  • In extreme heat, mow your lawn a little higher.
  • Adjust your mower height accordingly if you have both fescue and bermuda in your lawn.
  • Don’t scalp your bermuda lawn unless you’re getting ready to overseed with rye, (in the fall) or it’s just starting to green up (in the spring.)
  • Don’t scalp your fescue lawn ever.  Mow it short if you’re getting ready to overseed (in the fall.)

 

Be sure your mower blades are very sharp.  Always be sure your blades are sharp at the start of the mowing season, and then re-sharpen them 2 or 3 times during the growing season.  Sharp blades cut the grass.  Dull blades tear the grass.  Raggedy, torn grass blades have more openings for diseases and fungi to enter. In addition, dull mower blades may produce a brown-tipped lawn a day or so after mowing.  And that looks really bad!

 

Be sure your mower isn’t leaking anything.  Oil and gas do terrible things to your grass. (Don’t refill the mower while it’s on your lawn, either.)

 

Never mow off more than 1/3 of the grass blade at one time.  This is sort of a law-of-nature-rule.  Don’t question it, ‘cuz it works.  If you follow this rule, your grass will always look its best.

 

Mow often enough that you don’t have to bag the clippings.  You know that 1/3 of the grass blade you’ve been mowing off?  Nutrients are actually stored in the tips of blades of grass.  If you leave the clippings on the lawn, you are recycling the fertilizer and other nutrients stored in the grass blades.  Your lawn will stay greener longer.  If you are mowing frequently enough, leaving the clippings on the lawn will not contribute to thatch problems.

 

If your lawn gets way too high, mow it down in increments.  Out of town for a week?  Mower in the shop?  When you finally get around to it, don’t cut your lawn at the normal mowing height.  Raise your mower, and just mow 1/3 of the grass blade off the first time. (See above “don’t-question-it-cuz-it’s-a-law-of-nature” rule.)  Wait 3 or 4 days, then mow it at its regular height.  If you mow it down all at once, your lawn will be all brown and terrible-looking.

 

Don’t always mow in the same direction.  If you mow the same way all the time, ruts that distinctly look like “mowing lines” will develop in your lawn.   Probably not good to run the lawn mower wheels over the same place, over and over, too.

 

In extreme heat, mow your lawn a little higher.   When your lawn is stressed, a little extra height will help out.  The more surface on the grass blade, the more photosynthesis is occurring, and the more food it can make for itself.  This will also help the roots to grow deeper.

 

Adjust your mower height accordingly if you have both fescue and bermuda in your lawn.   Fescue should be mowed higher than bermuda.  It’s kind of a pain to adjust it for different types of grass in the same lawn, but your grass will really do better if it’s mowed at the correct height.  Here’s a table:

MOWING HEIGHTS

                                                                                   May – August                     September - April

Warm-season Grasses

            

 

          

 

Improved bermuda  (Midiron, Tifway,      Sunturf, etc.)

.5” - .75”

1” – 1.25”

Common Bermuda

(Arizona common,   Cheyenne, U-3, etc.)

1” – 2.5”

1.5” – 3”

Zoysia

.5”-1.5”

1” – 2”

Cool Season Grasses

 

 

Perennial rye           

2”.5”

2.5”

Tall fescue

3”

2.5”

             

“Scalping” is simply setting your mower on its lowest setting, mowing, and bagging.


Don’t scalp your bermuda lawn unless you’re getting ready to overseed with rye, (in the fall) or when it’s just starting to green up (in the spring.)  In the spring, when your bermuda is just starting to green up, and all chance of frost has past, scalp your bermuda and bag it.  This will remove all the dead grass that has kept the roots insulated all winter, and enable the sun to warm the ground more quickly and give your bermuda a jump start on greening up.  We recommend scalping between April 1 and April 15, after the last frost.

 

If you’re planning on overseeding it with rye in the fall, to have a green lawn during the winter, you should scalp it before seeding.

 

Above are the only 2 times you should scalp your bermuda, under normal circumstances.  If you have hills and bumps in your lawn that cause your mower to scalp it in places when you mow, you should level out the ground.  Scalping in spots is stressful to the grass, and looks terrible.  During the summer when grass may be heat-stressed already, scalping will immediately make the plant stop root growth to put all its energies into above-ground growth, which could further weaken the plants.

 

Don’t scalp your fescue lawn.  If you’re getting ready to overseed your fescue in the fall, it’s fine to mow it very short before you seed.  But fescue should not be mowed short at any other time.  Fescue needs leaf surface to make food for itself through photosynthesis.  Since it’s in the shade, it doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight (except in the winter when the leaves are off the trees,) and sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis.