The two main components of mowing are cutting height and frequency. Both of these factors depend on the turfgrass species, cultivar, and the level of lawn quality desired. Several other practices involving the use of mowers are also important in creating a quality lawn.
Height of MowingThe optimum cutting height is determined by the growth habit and leaf width of the turfgrass species. A grass that spreads horizontally can usually be mowed shorter than an upright-growing, bunch-type grass. Grasses with narrow blades can generally be mowed closer than grasses with wide blades. Bermudagrass is mowed at very low heights because of its numerous narrow leaf blades and low growth habit. On the other hand, bahiagrass needs to be mowed at higher heights because of its open, upright growth habit.
Turfgrass undergoes physiological stress with each mowing event, particularly if too much leaf tissue is removed. Effects of “scalping,” or removal of too much shoot tissue at one time, can produce long-term damage to the turf. This can leave turf susceptible to other stresses such as insects, disease, drought, and sunscald. Mowing also greatly influences rooting depth, with development of a deeper root system in response to higher mowing heights. Advantages of the deeper root system are greater tolerances to drought, insects, disease, nematodes, temperature stress, poor soil conditions, nutrient deficiencies, and traffic. Mowing below the recommended heights for each species is a primary cause of turf death and should be avoided.