Best Mowing Practices for San Antonio Lawns
- Sharpen your mower’s blades- Let’s start with the real basics. It’s best to have your mower blades sharpened about every 3 months, but you’re doing pretty good to get them sharpened at least once a year. Cutting your lawn with a dull lawn mower causes the blades of your grass to shred or tear. It not only harms the aesthetic aspect of your lawn, but the damaged blades are more susceptible to disease and insect damage (insects see damaged plants as a welcome sign to come feed.). This task gets overlooked often, but can make a big change to the health of your lawn.
- Mowing height – Rule of thumb: You should only be removing 1/3 of the leaf tissue each time you mow. The exact height for which you shoot for is going to depend on the *type of grass you have in your landscape. But you should always keep your mowing height consistent. Mow too short and more light is available to the soil, increasing the probability for weeds to germinate. Mow too long and it could stress your lawn out, causing it to pull nutrients up from the roots, making your lawn thin over time.
- Frequency of mowing – Mow when your lawn needs it. Sound too simple? Maybe, but you’ll need to pay attention to your type of turf, weather, and the condition of your lawn to know when you need to mow. If we’ve had heavy rains in the spring and you’ve fertilized, your lawn could be going gangbusters and you may have to mow it every week. If we are on water restrictions for the umpteenth week and your lawn is drought stressed, you probably don’t need to mow it til it recovers. Know the *optimal height for your lawn (see footnotes), and strive to keep it there.
- Alternate mowing paths – If you take the same route each time you mow, you might find you’ve created a visible pattern in your lawn. So the next time you mow, try something different. Mow diagonally, start from where you normally end, or zigzag.
- Leave the grass behind – As long as your turf is disease free, leaving your grass clippings behind and not bagging them is beneficial. You are basically returning nitrogen back to your turf as the grass clippings breakdown. Spread out big clumps of grass clippings if needed with a rake so as not to bury the blades of grass completely. (If turf is diseased, bag and discard into the trash or your lawn bin.)
- Compost your lawn clippings – Grass clippings are an awesome way to add nitrogen to your compost piles. Bag up disease-free, weed-free, lawn clippings and toss them into your compost bins, layering nitrogen sources (grass, kitchen scraps, “greens”) with carbon sources (fallen leaves, organic mulches, “browns” etc.). Our warm season grasses head into dormancy about the time the leaves begin to rain down. Before storing your mower for the winter, use it to run over the leaves and mulch them so they can continue to add nutrients to the turf. If you don’t feel like mowing the leaves, scoop them up and drop the compost pile, or use them as mulch for tender perennials through the winter.
- Oil and store lawn mower over winter – When it’s time to store your mower, give it a good cleaning before you put it to bed. Empty out the remaining oil and gas, and if you choose, you can sharpen blades now so it’ll be one less chore to take on before spring.
Recommended mowing heights for specific warm season grasses:
- Bermuda: 2 1/2″ – 3″
- St. Augustine: 2″ – 4″
- Zoysia: 1/2″ – 2 1/2″
- Ryegrass: 1 1/2″ – 2 1/2″
As long as you are mowing within these ranges, you are allowing your grass to grow consistently at its preferred height. Follow the “no more than 1/3 removal of leaf tissue” and you and your lawn should be sitting pretty.
Even before grass begins growing in spring (when temps get around 65 and higher), you can bring your lawn mower out early and ward off early weeds from germinating. Mowing weeds helps keep seed heads from dispersing and germinating. Bag your mowed weeds and toss them in the trash.