Mowing the lawn is an essential part of routine garden maintenance. Without it, we’d have overgrown properties with weeds growing tangled amongst long grass – an untidy sight in the neighbourhood. But aside from the benefit of appearances, is mowing the lawn good for the grass?
Mowing isn’t just about aesthetics; when done correctly, it also promotes your grass’ health. Regular mowing creates a thicker lawn, prevents weeds, and helps ensure that there are enough nutrients in the soil to feed your grass. It also keeps a balance between the leaves and root system, making it more drought-tolerant.
Read on to learn how mowing the lawn is good for your grass.
Mowing encourages a thicker lawn
It might surprise you to learn that mowing your grass will result in thicker growth, providing a lush lawn that’s softer underfoot.
Each blade of grass’s tip contains hormones that suppress horizontal growth to keep the plant’s energy focused on growing tall enough to go to seed. However, these tips are cut off when the lawn is mown, and the grass sends its energy into sprouting off more shoots at the base. As the new shoots increase in density, the result is a thicker lawn, gradually filling in any gaps.
Another way that mowing promotes healthy growth is by ensuring all leaf blades receive adequate sunlight. Plants, including grass, use chlorophyll to turn sunlight into nutrients that are essential to their development. That’s why most plants don’t grow well in full shade. (If there’s a shady patch in your lawn where the grass won’t grow, it’s better to create a garden bed of shade-loving plants there instead.)
As the grass grows, you’ll notice that it isn’t an even growth pattern – some blades will stand taller than others. This results in leaves’ shading’ one another – the taller grass prevents the shorter from getting full sunlight, stunting its growth, and eventually killing it. By mowing regularly, you keep your lawn trimmed to the same height so that each blade has access to sunlight and can flourish.
So, if you have a patchy lawn mowing will promote healthier growth, and more even coverage over time.
Choke out weeds
By creating a thicker lawn with your mowing, you’re leaving less space for weeds to grow.
Mowing cuts down weeds, preventing them from reaching maturity and going to seed. Because regular mowing also promotes thicker grass growth, your lawn will reach a point where it becomes too dense to allow weeds to push through, choking them out.
Weed prevention goes beyond the aesthetics of a weed-free lawn. Weeds compete with your grass for sunlight, growing space, moisture, and nutrients in the soil. Keeping them under control and out of your yard is essential for helping your grass grow.
Alternate your mowing pattern
You can actually ‘train’ your grass to grow in the direction you mow, use this to your advantage by changing the patterns.
If you consistently mow in the same direction, the grass blades will learn to grow that way. This causes problems: as they grow longer, they shade the leaves growing alongside and underneath them, denying them the sunlight they need. Another issue is that when you next trim the grass, the mower will pass over without cutting them – they bend in the mower’s direction.
By alternating your mowing patterns, you can train your grass to continue to grow upright, ensuring an even cut every time. It also prevents blades from shading each other, providing access to sunlight, and creating more space for new shoots to grow in and thicken the lawn.
Alternating your patterns also prevents the mower’s wheels from forming ruts in your yard and minimises soil compaction.
Benefits of mulched clippings
Generally, the grass clippings get cleared away after mowing as they can look untidy. Thick clumps can also cause health issues for your lawn: suffocating the grass or trapping moisture in the leaves, inviting fungal infections. However, if you have a mulching mower, leaving the clippings on the lawn will benefit its growth.
Mulched clippings are small enough that they allow airflow and retain ground moisture without smothering your lawn. They also release nutrients vital for plant growth as they break down, returning nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium into the soil to feed your grass. The levels of nitrogen released by decomposing grass clippings can account for up to 25% of your lawn’s required annual amount. Which means you won’t need to fertilise as frequently.
If your current mower isn’t a mulcher and you want the benefits of mulched clippings, there are attachments and mulching blades that can be retrofitted to most mowers. It’s worth checking prices, as the modifications may be cheaper than buying a new mower.
Keep your mower blades sharp
Something to keep in mind is your lawnmower maintenance. Mowing with dull blades is detrimental to the health of your grass. Sharp mower blades allow for a clean cut, whereas worn blades tear through the leaves, creating jagged edges and leaving the grass open to disease and fungal infection.
Mower blades need to be sharpened after 20-25 hours of use. If you mow for an hour every week, you should ideally get them sharpened every six months.
While correct mowing practices will create a lush, healthy lawn, there are a couple of ways that you can damage your grass by mowing incorrectly. Here’s what to avoid:
Don’t scalp your lawn
Cutting more than 1/3 off the height of your grass is called ‘scalping,’ and it can do serious harm to your lawn.
Sometimes homeowners will cut their lawn shorter than recommended hoping to reduce their mowing frequency. While you won’t need to mow as much in the weeks following a scalping, there’s a lot more work involved in reversing the damage. It can cost you a lot more in time, money, and energy than a regular weekly mow.
Your grass is healthiest when there is a balance between the root system and the leaves. When you cut the grass excessively short, or take too much off at once, it puts stress on the plant. Energy usually shared across both root and leaf development is instead focused entirely on blade growth. Your grass needs to capture enough sunlight to generate food, and it can’t do that without foliage.
However, a well-developed root system is as essential as foliage for your grass’s health in the long run. When all the energy is sent to the leaves, the roots remain shallow and unable to absorb enough nutrients and moisture to sustain growth. A poorly developed root system means that your lawn will be more susceptible to environmental factors, such as drought.
To avoid scalping your grass, keep it at its recommended height, generally around 3cm (though it varies between grass species). If your grass is a lot longer than that, don’t trim it by more than one third of the height at a time. For example: if it was 6cm, you could cut it down to 4cm (removing 1/3) and wait a few days before taking it down to 3cm. That way, your grass has enough time to recover from the initial cut before being trimmed again and will remain healthy.
Don’t mow wet grass
Mowing wet grass is something to be avoided unless you have no other options. Aside from the dangers to your safety involved in mowing a wet, slippery surface, it’s detrimental to the health of your lawn and creates extra work.
When mown, wet grass tears instead of cutting cleanly – creating open wounds in your plant and leaving it vulnerable to disease. The additional moisture provided by the wet conditions increases the risk of fungal infection as well.
The weight of the mower running over the wet ground will increase soil compaction. The wheels can also create ruts in the soft earth, tearing up the grass’ roots, and damaging your lawn.
Another issue is that grass is heavier when wet, bending under the weight of the moisture. Grass that’s weighed down by the damp or compressed by the wheels’ passage will pass under the mower’s blades, instead of being cut. As the grass dries and the leaves spring back up, the lawn will look shaggy where bits of grass were missed, which means you’ll have to mow again.
Mowing is beneficial for your lawn
Mowing your lawn really is good for the grass. Consistent mowing with correct practices promotes healthy growth, encourages your grass to grow thicker, and keeps a healthy balance between root and leaf growth. It also creates an active soil environment as the grass clippings break down and return nutrients to the soil.
Besides the benefits to the grass’s health, mowing creates a lush, well-manicured lawn for you and your family to enjoy.
Don’t have the time or equipment to take care of your lawn? We’re happy to lend a hand. Lawn care is just one among many of the garden maintenance services we provide. We even offer edge trimming, preventing your grass from growing over paths and into the garden beds.
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