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The ideal cutting length question...


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#1 Aussiedog OFFLINE  

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Posted May 26, 2011 - 08:48 PM

Like many of you I have lots of lawn to mow. And during the early part of the year when grass growth is higher, mowing the lawn became my dreaded weekly chore. I knew there had to be a better way so I went online to research lawn care and found out from experts that a simple change in what I was doing might be the answer to my problem.

The experts advice was to increase my cutting height. I typically mowed the lawn around 2 1/4" thinking if I cut it short I'll buy time between mowings. I found out I was wrong and here's why...

1) Grass cut at 3 - 3 1/2" grows back more slowly and evenly thus the lawn stays looking good longer. Apparently the natural, mature length of a blade of grass is near the 3 - 3 1/2" height and any addtional growth above this height is much slower and more even than with grass cut shorter. This buys you additional times between mowings.

2) Grass cut shorter than 3 - 3 1/2" exposes the roots to more damaging wind and sun which stresses the lawn and requires more watering. A taller cut grass protects the roots and requires less water through out the year.

3) Grass cut higher can put less food and energy into the re-growth of its stems and more into the growth of a deep root system. The deeper roots will promote a healthier grass that is less prone to dry periods and that will require less watering to stay green year round.

4) Grass cut higher better protects the roots from disease and pests. It also makes it tougher for weed seeds to germinate down near the more shaded ground area.

After learning all of this I gave it a try last year. I set my mower deck up an inch to 3 1/4". My goal was to see if I could decrease my number of required mowings each year plus get a healthier, more attactive lawn. I feel this method accomplished all of that. Another benefit was that I was also cutting less grass so I had less to pick up. At this new height my lawn grew back more slowly and evenly which allowed me to change from weekly mowings to mowing just once every two weeks. I soon saw my grass become healthier, greener and have fewer weeds.

Give it a try, what have you got to lose? With fewer mowings you'll have more time to tinker on tractors and/or drink more beer!

Aussiedog :beerchug:
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#2 MH81 OFFLINE  

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Posted May 26, 2011 - 09:08 PM

I've been scalping it for years, maybe I'll try that. Thanks!

#3 caseguy OFFLINE  

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Posted May 26, 2011 - 11:06 PM

Thank you for the post! The only problem that I see is that my lawn is 1) a wide variety of grasses (whatever was on sale when a bare spot presented itself LOL) and 2) only about 50% grass to begin with, the other half is a mixture of flowers (African Violets, Indian Paintbrushes), clover, various broad-leaf weeds, and the dreaded Dandelion! I would one day like to have the time and finances to re-seed with one variety (3 acres takes a lot of stuff) and take better care of it . All the same, I think I'll take your advice to heart and give it a try...like you said, what have I got to lose!

#4 NUTNDUN OFFLINE  

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Posted May 27, 2011 - 07:34 AM

I have almost always tried keeping the grass mowed longer but I have noticed recently that is not the case. Now I just mow when I get a chance and run with the deck where the roller is just touching the ground. I will have to readjust the deck and get the right height. I have heard about the longer cut grass being healthier but I didn't know it helped with slowing down growth. Thanks for the post.

#5 JD DANNELS OFFLINE  

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Posted May 27, 2011 - 09:52 AM

That is very good advice! Too many people think mowing grass is a dreaded chore. And chop it off as short as possible.
I have been in that camp, but learned my lesson 30 yrs ago when I started a mowing business to supplement my income for about 5 yrs.
Mowing other peoples lawns, you do it their way. And not many people want to pay you to scalp their lawn.
In theory you should not cut more than 1/4 the length of the grass blade, any more shocks the grass and causes browning. Remember sharp blades cut, dull ones pulverize and damaged grass blade tips brown.
And I believe it is better for the lawn and equipment to not be dragging the blades through the dirt.

Most of my customers wanted the clipping bagged and carried off. Others will say the grass breaking down adds nutrients to the soil. I can see both sides of that arguement.
On my own lawn (3 acres) I mow at 4" and use a power bagger on my 318 because I use the clippings for mulch in the garden.
This gives me a lush green lawn, that looks nice and is easily maintained with the least wear & tear on my equipment. And I have never fertilized or used chemicals for weed control on any lawn I have had.

Edited by JD DANNELS, May 27, 2011 - 09:58 AM.

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#6 NUTNDUN OFFLINE  

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Posted May 27, 2011 - 09:57 AM

I don't know if it is because of me getting older or what but the only thing I don't like about mowing with the grass being longer is I have a harder time seeing where my last pass was LOL.

#7 Texas Deere and Horse OFFLINE  

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Posted May 27, 2011 - 10:29 AM

I usually cut my grass at 2 1/2" in the early spring and as we get into the hotter months here in TX., I raise my mower deck up a 1/2" at a time. I do this twice, as I am doing right now, because it's really warming up around here. I don't water unless we go for a month without rain, I'm on city water, and they are very proud of the crap they supply us with. Next cutting, this weekend, I will be at 3 1/2" on my deck height.

#8 JD DANNELS OFFLINE  

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Posted May 27, 2011 - 10:38 AM

I don't know if it is because of me getting older or what but the only thing I don't like about mowing with the grass being longer is I have a harder time seeing where my last pass was LOL.


Right there with you on that, last night driving into the setting sun was hard to see the line to follow.

#9 dryrun OFFLINE  

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Posted May 27, 2011 - 11:48 PM

Aussiedog, I mow about 120 acres a week for the estate I work for. Most of our turf is Tall Fescue, and the owner specifies a cutting height of 4 inches. I do most of the wide area mowing with a Woods Bat Wing 15 foot bush hog. I would have thought that the owner would want to use a sharp blade mower instead of the bush hog, but, he feels that the chopper cutting at four inches does not hurt the grass any. As this is start of the second season I have worked there, I have noticed that the turf has a good color, and does not seem to show any damage from the blunt knives on the BH. I always cut my grass at home about 2 and one half inches to 3 inches. I have since changed my mind and raised my deck height. I have also noticed that the Case 4230 tractor and bush hog do not seem to leave any noticeable tracks. When I am finished mowing, I drive past the property, and have a look, and I like the looks of the fields. Our property looks as good as the Estate on the other side of the highway, and they use rotary wide area mower.
Just for what it's worth, George
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#10 Aussiedog OFFLINE  

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Posted May 28, 2011 - 12:12 AM

George, thank you for your sharing your wisdom on this. I'm in true awe of you mowing 120 acres of grass a week. It seem higher mowing settings such as your 4" cutting height fits right in with what the experts recommend for obtaining better looking, healthier lawns (3-31/2+"). I'm glad that I raised my mower deck cut height to 3 1/4" and learned why it makes sense to quit scalping your lawn.

Edited by Aussiedog, May 28, 2011 - 04:23 PM.


#11 Alc OFFLINE  

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Posted May 29, 2011 - 06:26 AM

I raised the deck yesterday , not sure how high it is now but we'll see how this works out . Just need to figure out why the deck didn't stay level when I raised it , thanks , Al

#12 mjodrey OFFLINE  

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Posted May 29, 2011 - 06:45 AM

I cut mine at about 2 1/4" .

#13 dryrun OFFLINE  

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Posted May 29, 2011 - 05:34 PM

estate lawn 01 001 (Small).jpg
AUSSIEDOG, thought you might like to see a pic or two of what I mow and What I mow it with.
That hill in the background gives you a real thrill if you go about it wrong, or if it is a little bit wet.

Best regards, George

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  • estate lawn 01 009 (Small).jpg
  • estate lawn 01 010 (Small).jpg

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#14 wvbuzzmaster OFFLINE  

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Posted May 29, 2011 - 05:49 PM

I raised the deck yesterday , not sure how high it is now but we'll see how this works out . Just need to figure out why the deck didn't stay level when I raised it , thanks , Al


Loose parts, pins in rong holes, or the name on the tractor, take your pick. :D

You could try running taller wheels on your mower deck so that it rides the terrain in the lowered position instead of dangling in midair.

#15 oldgearhead OFFLINE  

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Posted May 29, 2011 - 08:08 PM

I found that cutting short is harder on the mower, takes more fuel, and kills grass out by letting weeds and vines get the air and sunshine. I mow 31/2 to 4 inch. The yard looks a little shaggy but when it is mowed it is like walking on a carpet. Just keep sharp blades and no need to speed in a race. Let the blades do their work.
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