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Basic Rules to Follow for the First Spring Mowing  

Many homeowners dust off their mowers and start its engines early in the month of April to mark the first mowing of the spring season! Before taking off, follow a few of these basic rules when mowing to guarantee the best looking turf for the home lawn.  

Make sure that mower blades are sharp. A dull mower blade causes leaf bruising and tearing of the grass which results in a rugged appearance that favors turf diseases. Dull blades even increase fuel consumption and put wear on engine parts. Homeowners can sharpen the blades at a mower repair shop or with a few simple tools from the garage. All mower blades should be sharpened several times during the year.

Set the mower blade at the correct mowing height for the specific grass species that is grown in the home lawn. For a cool season tall fescue lawn, the ideal mowing height is between 2 inches to 3.5 inches tall. See table 1 below for optimum mowing heights recommended for Kentucky lawns according to turf type species being grown. Once the correct mowing height is set, this amount will also determine how often the lawn is mowed. For example, if the lawn is mowed at 3.5 inches, it may require mowing once a week. If the height is lowered, mowing will occur more frequently.

Remember to only remove one third of the leaf blade at one time. For example, if the desired mowing height is 2 inches, the lawn should be mowed when it reaches 3 inches tall. Removing more than one third of the leaf at one time leads to clumping of dead clippings which blocks sunlight to the living grass underneath. This lack of sunlight causes yellowing on the blades to the living grass and can result in plant death.

In spring, while the grass is actively growing, homeowners can lower the recommended mowing height to help remove the dead grass leaves. By removing this debris with low mowing, sunlight can reach the soil surface and encourage earlier growth in the grass. When disease pressure is increasingly higher in the summer, homeowners should raise their mowing heights. If different mowing heights are desired, it is recommended to reduce mowing heights gradually rather than in one mowing.

Table 1: Mowing Heights for Kentucky Lawns

Grass SpeciesOptimum Height (Inches)
Bermudagrass1.0–2.0
Kentucky Bluegrass2.0–3.5
Perennial Ryegrass1.5–2.5
Tall Fescue2.0–3.5
Zoysiagrass1.0–3.0

Kristin G. Hildabrand is the horticulture extension agent in Warren County, Kentucky. She loves helping clients answer horticulture questions and can be reached at kristin.goodin@uky.edu.