What Is the Ideal Grass Height to Mow?
Every time you climb aboard your trusty lawn mower and start cutting, you have the potential to either help your grass or hurt it. We make it our mission to make sure you're helping your lawn to thrive, so we thought it might be time to address a common question we get asked: "What is the ideal height to mow grass?"
Like so many things in the world of lawn care, the answer depends on several factors. Let's sort through them and get to a solid answer.
Dispelling Old Myths
It's a commonly held misconception that if you cut your grass shorter you'll have to mow it less often. You've probably heard this before, maybe even seen it in print. The truth is, if you're cutting your grass too short, you're almost certainly doing more harm than good.
For starters, mowing your lawn extra short does not mean you have to mow less often. Cutting grass too short is actually damaging. It sends a signal to each individual grass plant that it needs to grow back in a hurry, so your grass will expend all its effort to grow back its blades as quickly as possible – often at the expense of its roots.
As a result, cutting your lawn close to the ground actually makes the grass grow back faster. Not only that, but it leaves your grass weak and more susceptible to disease, pests and drought. There are no two ways about it – cutting your grass too short is a mistake.
Finding the Right Height
The only way to sustain healthy, drought-resistant turf is to cut it at the right height. So what is the ideal height to mow grass? It depends largely on the variety of grass you have in your yard. Turf grasses are divided into two basic categories: warm-season grasses and cool-season grasses. Each has its own needs when it comes to mowing height.
- Warm-season grasses do most of their growing in spring and summer when temperatures are between 80° and 95° F. True to their name, they thrive in the warmer regions of the United States. Common warm-season grasses include Zoysiagrass and Bermudagrass. The ideal mowing height for most warm-season grasses is 1 to 3 inches, though it does vary quite a bit depending on the specific varieties.
- Cool-season grasses also grow during spring and summer, but they do best at temperatures between 65° and 75° F. Once temperatures get into the 80s and 90s, cool-season grasses start to struggle, and it comes as no surprise that they are most common in the northern, more temperate regions of the United States. Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass are among the most common cool-season varieties, and the ideal mowing height is between 2.5 and 4 inches.
Not sure what type of grass you have in your yard? It's a good idea to find out, but you can probably narrow it down to cool-season or warm-season based on your location. If you're still not sure, you can make a general assumption that a mowing height between 2.5 and 3 inches will be acceptable.
When done correctly, mowing enhances lawn growth, so it's important not to under-mow or over-mow your lawn. To make sure you're mowing your lawn at the right frequency, here's a general rule: never cut off more than 1/3 of the grass blades. For example, if your goal is to cut your grass to a height of 3 inches, the ideal time to mow is when it's reached a height of 4.5 inches.
Overall, it's better to mow your lawn too tall than too short. You can get away with mowing less during drought conditions, and during the off-season when your grass isn't growing as much. Cutting your grass toward the tall end of its recommended range is best during drought conditions, as taller grass has deeper roots, which allows it to get water more effectively.
Here are a few additional pointers to help you set the right mowing height:
- Mow grass to keep it even, not necessarily to keep it short.
- Grass in shady areas does better when mowed a little taller.
- In early spring, cut warm-season grasses at the lower end of their ideal range to remove dead blades.
- In mixed-grass lawns with multiple varieties, the ideal height to mow grass may vary, so always err on the tall side.
- Taller grass shades the soil, which helps it retain moisture and helps ward off crabgrass.
Want to learn more about the ideal height to mow grass? Contact us today to find a Hustler retailer near you, and talk to a lawn care expert about the ideal lawn mowing practices for your lawn.