Mowing the Right Way

photo and article by JIM DAVIS
Jim Davis is the Multi-County Extension Director for UF/IFAS Sumter County and Hernando County Extension and a Florida Master Naturalist Instructor.

Mowing is one of the most underrated significant cultural practices in maintaining a green, lush and vigorous lawn. Mowing at the correct height is essential in turf health. Not all turf species are mowed at the same height. In fact, cultivars within the same species may differ in mowing height. It is very important to know what turf species you have, along with the cultivar. The most popular turf used in Florida is St. Augustine grass.

St. Augustine grass is a wide bladed grass that grows relatively fast in the growing season. St. Augustine grass is available in a variety of cultivars. ‘Floratam’ is with a doubt the most used in landscapes all over Florida. ‘Floratam’ requires weekly mowing in the growing season and prefers to be grown in full sun. During the winter months, growth slows down and mowing frequency decreases. The preferred mowing height of ‘Floratam’ is 3.5 to 4.0 inches. Other cultivars of St. Augustine grass include ‘Palmetto’ and ‘Bitterblue’. ‘Bitterblue’ is a cultivar suited to shade. Zoysiagrass is also used extensively, ‘Empire’ being the dominant cultivar of zoysiagrass grown. ‘Empire’ is a much different zoysia than most people are familiar with, such as the finer leaf cultivars such as ‘Emerald’ or ‘Diamond’. ‘Empire’ is a wide bladed grass that is slower growing than ‘Floratam’ St. Augustine grass. ‘Empire’ prefers full sun and requires a mowing height of 2.0 to 2.5 inches. ‘Empire’ needs to be mowed weekly in the growing season. When scalped, this turf will turn brown and will not recover quickly. In the dormant months, November through February, ‘Empire’ will go dormant and will need less mowing. Bahia is another turf used in Florida. Bahia is a drought tolerant turf that prefers full sun and acidic soil. ‘Argentine’ and ‘Pensacola’ are two widely used cultivars. Bahia should be mowed at a height of 3.0 to 4.0 inches and should be mowed weekly during the growing season. Along with ‘Floratam’ and ‘Empire’, Bahiagrass goes dormant in the winter months.

Scalping can be a major problem in landscapes. Scalping is caused by removing too much shoot tissue at one time. Do not remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade when mowing to avoid scalping and mow weekly during the growing season. Scalping stresses turf, which makes it more susceptible to pests, especially Take-All root rot.

One question we always receive in plant clinics is; should grass clippings be removed or left on the grass? UF/IFAS recommends leaving your grass clippings on your lawn.

Grass clippings will breakdown, providing nutrients and adding to the organic matter in the soil. When mowing, keep blades sharp. Dull blades leave a rough cut that is visually unattractive and can encourage diseases. Alternate mowing patterns weekly. Mowing the same direction will result in compaction and may cause unsightly ruts in your turf.

UF/IFAS Extension in Hernando County provides solutions for your life. Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.

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