William Moss, Master Gardener with the National Gardening Association is back at the historic Oatlands garden in Leesburg, Virginia, ready to help your lawn and garden be the best part of your summer. And he wants to start with the most basic of all summer activities: mowing the lawn. Surprisingly, not everybody does it right! So how do you maintain your lawn in the summer? What’s the best way to mow the grass?
The interesting thing here is that height matters. You should have your grass a little bit higher—or taller, if you will—in the summer than in the other seasons. Why on earth? Because if your grass is taller, it will help shade the ground… and that lowers the incidence of weeds on your lawn. In addition, the taller grass will restrict and restrain evaporation, keeping the lawn more moist and better hydrated. This is especially important if your area is prone to seasonal drought. So if you kept your law at two inches in the fall, winter, and spring, then let it go up to three or three and a half inches in the summer. The coarser the grass, the taller you should allow it to grow.
The next issue has to do with the frequency with which you mow your lawn. This is going to have greater dependency on where you live: your local climate will have everything to do with how often you mow the lawn. Other factors need to be added in as well. The type of grass influences the frequency of mowing. How often you water your lawn will help determine the frequency of mowing. And finally, whether or not you fertilize, and how often you fertilize, will have repercussions on the frequency of mowing. So all of that is pretty much a judgment call.
But a rule that will help you make that determination is this: you never want to mow more than a third of the grass. So, for example, let’s say that your lawn is currently three inches tall, you’re going to want to wait and watch; when it adds an inch, it’s time to mow it. Why so little? For a very simple reason: your lawn’s appearance. The point here is for it to look good, right? And if you allow it to get higher (let’s say in the same example that you want it at three and you let it go to four and a half or five inches), then the grass isn’t going to be able to grow properly or correctly. And that results in patchiness, irregularities in the lawn. It also results in more work for you!
That’s because when you mow that kind of excessive height, you’re not going to be able to leave the clippings on the lawn. You’ll need to bag your lawnmower or rake up all that excessive grass and bag it. And that’s because if you let it lie on top of the lawn, that amount of clippings will kill the grass beneath it.
Finally, you want to pay attention to mowing patterns. If you mow in the same direction all the time you’ll cause rot. So alternate patterns: go up and down one time and side to side the next time to keep the grass uniform and happy.