University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Importance of Mowing Often Overlooked

May 4, 2000

With lawns now growing at a rapid pace, mowing becomes a common lawn care practice. Although typically overlooked in terms of importance, mowing does have a major influence on lawn quality and potential problems. That’s why following a few basic guidelines are important to assure lawns are mowed properly.

Proper mowing height is the first basic guideline to consider. Perhaps the most common mistake is mistake is mowing lawns too short. For most situations a mowing height between 2 to 3 inches is suggested. Mow closer to 3 inches as summer gets closer. Lawns mowed at higher heights tend to have deeper roots, less weed problems, and look much better.

One of the problems associated with mowing too short is invasions of weeds, such as crabgrass. Whether a preemergence herbicide (crabgrass preventer) is used on a lawn or not, mowing higher is an important factor in keeping crabgrass from developing in lawns.

The second major mowing guideline is to base mowing frequency on the rate of grass growth. Do not remove more than one-third of the grass leaf in any one cutting. This may call for mowing more than once a week during cool, wet weather.

Assuming lawns are mowed on a regular basis, there is no need to collect clippings. Clippings should readily filter back down into the lawn if the lawn is mowed often enough, following the rule of one-third. Returned in this manner, clippings readily decompose (contain 75 - 80 percent water) and do not cause thatch. Clippings also recycle nutrients, in particular nitrogen, so less fertilizer is needed.

Finally, use a quality mower with a sharp blade. Selecting a mower can involve a number of factors, many being personal preference. Reel type mowers actually give the best cut, but are usually expensive and difficult to maintain. Rotary mowers are the most widely used kind of mower sold for home lawn use.

Both conventional rotary mowers with bag attachments and mulching mowers are readily available. A study at the University of Illinois showed mulching mowers did not provide any additional benefit over conventional rotary mowers returning clippings assuming proper mowing frequency and lawn fertilizing was followed.


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