Are you mowing your lawn too short?

By | 16/04/2013
Mowing too short

One of the easiest ways to improve the look of your lawn is to mow it well. Mowing your lawn too short is a fast way to ruin the look of any lawn. The best way to a great British lawn is to keep your mower blades sharp and the cutting height high!

Mowing your lawn too short is a bad idea!

Many lawn owners in the UK try to emulate beautifully manicured bowling greens and golf courses by scalping their lawns right back to nearly nothing.

The reason for this is simple … your lawn doesn’t have the same grass as a bowling green or golf course!

Highly manicured greens (what lawn experts call ‘fine turf’) will be sown using a highly specialised cultivar of grass. It is developed to specifically tolerate very regular, close mowing. This helps the greenkeepers to maintain a lush, smooth surface which is ideal for putting golf balls or rolling a lawn bowl.

The grass in your lawn is a much more hard-wearing and hardier species of grass, bred so that it can happily tolerate a range of difficulties found in your average garden such as high wear, drought, shade, acidity variations and a good deal of neglect! As a result, the grass in your lawn is naturally larger than fine turf grasses so that it can hold reserves of food and nutrients to see it through tough times.

The larger leaf blades in a domestic lawn grass also allow more sunlight to penetrate into the leaf. This allows more food to be manufactured (a process called photosynthesis) so that it can grow more quickly, enabling it to recover from damage much more easily.

Fine turf grasses are extremely fragile, need to be fed exacting amounts of nutrients and demand to be cared for extremely carefully. Sow these grasses on a domestic lawn and you will have a field of mud in no time at all!

Why does mowing your lawn too short damage your lawn?

People often forget the basic fact that the grass in their lawn is a plant, and like all plants they need to be able to grow leaves which use the sunlight to make food for the plant. The larger and more of these leaves there are, the more food the plant can make and the healthier it will be. Simple.

If you continually mow all of the leaves off of the plant, you are effectively cutting off its food supply. Grass plants are extremely tough and in this situation they will call upon energy reserves in their roots and grow new leaves. Grass has evolved to be able cope with this occasionally. However, continual cutting off of the leaves will soon drain all of this stored food, reducing the size of the roots and eventually leading to the death of the grass. Dead grass will cause patchiness in the lawn and moss and your lawn will look terrible.

But my lawn looks better mown short?

This is a common misconception held by many.

Longer grass means that more of the beautiful green colour of grass is shown. You will have a much greener lawn. Additionally, longer grass is much easier to mow stripes in, making your lawn the envy of your neighbours! Try it this summer. You will be amazed at the difference it makes!

Also the frequency of your mowing does dictate if you should remove your grass clippings or not. Very frequent mowing can save work as the grass can be mulched back into the lawn.

How high should I mow my lawn?

So you now know that mowing high is the best thing to do to maintain your lawn, but how high? Well, the best answer is as high as your mower will go! Some are obviously better than others, but if yours it not that flexible, one-and-a-half to two inches (4-6cm) is usually enough to give a healthy lawn and a great finish.

Kris Lord

Image Credit: CC Image by Fresh on the Net on Flickr

4 thoughts on “Are you mowing your lawn too short?

  1. Graham Macklam

    It’s interesting to compare your recommended mowing heights with those found in numerous books and also articles (often from reputable sources) that say you should mow a family utility lawn to 1inch in the summer and 1 1/4 inches in the spring, autumn and times of drought. My opinion is these are way too short and often results in ‘scalping’ the high points.
    I have tried just about all heights with a cylinder and also rotary mower and have found a slight difference between the two. What I have found is at equivalent heights the rotary will actually mow slightly shorter than the cylinder mower. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Graham,
      A rotary mower will always tend to mow the grass a little shorter. This is because the high speed blade often creates a “suction” which helps the grass stand up while the mower is over the grass. It then settles down slightly when it has passed. This suction is to help clear the clippings into the bag. The rotary will also pass over each blade many times more than a cylinder.
      Cylinder mowers do tend to give a much cleaner cut, although they are difficult to set at a good height for mowing a domestic lawn.
      Thanks for reading.
      Kris Lord
      The Lawn Man

  2. Annette Travers

    Can you tell me what hight on the lawn mower to cut grass in the summer thanks

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Annette,
      As high as you can is best. A minimum of 1.5 inches (5cm) is ideal.
      This keeps the grass looking greener, and helps it to combat drought and high temeratures.
      Thanks for reading!


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