Proper mowing plays a significant role in the health of your lawn. Mowing often enough at the right height encourages deeper roots that can better withstand drought, pests, and weed invasions.
The most critical tip: Avoid mowing off more than one-third of a grass blade's height at once. For example, if you want a 3-inch mowed height, mow when the grass is just over 4 inches tall.
Mowing once each week may be easiest for most homeowners. But doing it every 4 to 5 days during peak growth and every 8 to 10 days during slower growth reduces stress on your lawn and helps keep it at its peak. Cool-season grasses grow fastest in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, when they need more frequent mowing. Warm-season grasses grow fastest during midsummer and need more mowing then. (See grass guide and zone map.)
Taller grasses typically have deeper roots. But mowing too high often looks messy, while mowing too low starves the lawn by removing too much of its nutrient-producing leaf surface. Cutting below the green leaf blades into the brown grass stems, called scalping, weakens the grass plant and leaves it vulnerable to aggressive weeds or pests. (See grass guide and zone map for optimal mowing heights.)
Suppose you miss a mowing session. Adjust your mower upward to reduce the height gradually without taking off more than a third of the grass blade with each mowing. Then readjust your mower to its normal height.
Reel mowers cut with a scissorlike action and are best when mowing lower than 1.5 inches on even ground--typical for golf greens and sports arenas. Rotary mowers and riding tractors cut with spinning blades and work best at 2 inches and higher. Most homeowners prefer rotary mowers because of their speed and ability to cut taller grass and weeds. Nearly all now include a mulching mode that returns clippings to the lawn. (See our continually updated Ratings and recommendations for push mowers, self-propelled mowers, and lawn tractors.
Be sure blades are sharp. Mow when grass is dry, since wet mowing leaves clumps and clings to the blades and deck. Also try mowing at 3 or 4 different angles on consecutive mowings to spread out wear and compaction from the mower wheels.