Lawn mowing height

Question: My neighbor says I cut my lawn too short. Although my lawn looks as good as his now, he pointed out that mine deteriorated last summer when his did not. Does it really make a difference how high the lawn is mowed? I have noticed that golf course fairways are mowed just as short as I mow.

Answer: Yes, lawn mowing height makes a considerable difference in lawn quality when we get into summer weather. Right now growing conditions for grass are ideal so the difference does not show.

The leaf blades are the manufacturing plant of the of the grass plant. A longer leaf blade means more surface area for photosynthesis to take place for food production. Also, the root system of a grass plant is in direct proportion to the leaf surface. More roots means more ability to pick up water and nutrients from the soil and greater ability to withstand summer heat and drought.

Another very important factor is mowing frequency. No more than two-fifths of the leaf blades should be removed at each mowing. Grass mowed at 1 inch should be cut by the time it reaches 1¾ inches. Grass mowed at 2 inches can wait until it is 3½ inches before cutting. Golf course fairways are normally cut at a height of ¾ inches every two to three days. The shorter you cut your lawn, the more often it should be mowed. Golf courses are also fertilized more often than home lawns.

A fertilizer with at least 25 percent slow release nitrogen applied in May or early June will provide nutrients throughout the summer. Check fertilizer labels to determine how much of the nitrogen is in a slow release form. Poly coating is the most effective long lasting fertilizer. Organic fertilizers are naturally slow release and do not need coating.

Weed problems are also less when the lawn is taller and thicker. Weed seeds need light and space to grow.

Another practice which improves lawn growth is to apply sulfur or sulfur containing products to the lawn every second or third year. Sulfur lowers the pH of our alkaline soils and makes micro-nutrients like iron more readily available.

A lot of things go into making a lawn healthy, but one of easiest and most effective is to raise the mowing height to at least 1½ inches. 2 inches is even better.

Allen Wilson can be contacted at