Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Horticulture News
Lawn Care - A Year Round Job
Lawn care is a year round job in Florida. The advent of warm weather and long days increases the growth rate of the grass which means mowing frequency also increases. Mowing is an essential part of lawn care. The height to which the lawn is cut and how often it is cut are important to the health of the grass.
The height to which a lawn should be mowed depends on the type of grass, its growth habit and texture. Bahia grass lawns should be cut from 3 to 4 inches high. St. Augustine cultivars vary in the proper cutting height. Cutting height for Bitterblue, Floratam and Floralawn is 3 to 4 inches, while the semi-dwarfs Seville, Delmar, Palmetto and Jade may be cut as low as 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches. Common Bermuda grass can be mowed at 3/4 to 1 ½ inch while the hybrid Bermuda grasses can be clipped as low as ½ inch.
The correct cutting height is important to the health of your lawn. The leaves must produce enough food to allow the plant to survive and grow. If too much of the leaves are removed the grass will starve and your sod will become thin, look bad and be more susceptible to invasion by weeds and pests. Mowing too high produces a ragged looking lawn.
The frequency of mowing is dependent on the type of lawn grass, the maintenance program and the weather. Warm weather and heavy fertilization will increase the growth rate of grasses, as a result they will need to be mowed more often. Your lawn should be cut frequently enough that no more than 1/3 of the leaf surface is removed at a time. Hybrid Bermuda grass may need to cut as frequently as every 3 days.
The important thing to remember is leaving twice as much leaf surface as you remove at any single mowing. In other words, if you want to maintain your lawn at 2 inches, cut your grass when it is 3 inches high.
It is important to follow good mowing practices. Keep your lawnmower blade sharp and clean. A dull blade will tear the leaves giving an uneven, ragged appearance and often cause the lawn to look gray or brown. Torn blades of grass are more predisposed to lawn diseases than those that have been cut cleanly by a sharp blade.
Don't mow grass that appears to be under stress or is wilted. Grass should be watered, allowed to dry, then mowed. Avoid mowing wet turf as this practice can help spread turf diseases and because wet clippings can clog the mower leaving thick clumps of wet grass behind.
On most lawns, clippings should be returned to help recycle nutrients to our sandy soils. Contrary to popular belief, clippings do not contribute to the formation of a thatch layer. If the lawn is mowed frequently enough, clippings will disappear in the turf and not form unsightly clumps.
Remember that proper mowing is one of the most important factors contributing to an attractive lawn. Proper mowing means that the grass is cut at the optimum height and often enough to keep it healthy and attractive. Attention to your mowing practices can result in a beautiful more satisfying lawn. Good luck and good gardening.
Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service. Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975, e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 863-674-4092 or 863-983-1598. You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle. Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.
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