Mowing Tip: Don’t Scalp Your Lawn

image of a ruler measuring grass height

Mowing your lawn properly is one of the easiest ways to fight off weeds and diseases. Cutting grass at its recommended height helps it get the sunlight and vital nutrients needed to be lush and healthy. Mowing too short (“scalping”) can have some pretty serious repercussions; it can weaken and even kill your lawn. Additionally, cutting too short will limit the grass’s nutrient supply, giving weeds free reign.

How Scalping Affects Grass

Grass is able to survive thanks to photosynthesis, which is the process of taking in sunlight and using it as energy. Cutting too much of the leaf blade limits the lawn’s ability to store this energy, restricting its nutrient supply and ultimately choking the grass. Not sure if you’re scalping your lawn? If your grass is so short that its stem is exposed, it’s too short. This stem is usually brown in color. Typically, most warm-season grasses should be at least 1 inch high and most cool-season grasses should be at least 2.5 inches high. You may also be scalping if you regularly cut the grass at your mower’s lowest setting.

Things That Make Scalping Worse

One of the worst contributing factors to scalping is mowing with a dull blade. The next time you mow, take a look at the grass afterwards. If it looks torn and frayed, your mower blade needs sharpening. You can buy a blade sharpener at most home and garden centers. Additionally, scalping the lawn in the heat of summer will seriously hinder the grass’s ability to recover. Since hot weather already stresses lawns, scalping will most definitely make matters worse.

Tips for Quality Mowing

It’s better for your lawn to be too long than too short. Aim to keep your grass about three inches long throughout the growing season. It’s also helpful to leave grass clippings on your lawn instead of bagging them. Decomposed grass will return precious nutrients to the soil through a process called “grass-cycling.” This system works much better when mowing during the driest period of the day, as excess moisture could otherwise cause the clippings to clump up and block out sunlight from the lawn. Overlap your mowing path by two to three inches, as this will keep the lawn at a consistent height and ensure that it all gets cut.

Repairing the Lawn

If you realize you’ve been scalping the lawn, let your grass grow gradually back to its proper height, never removing more than 1/3 of the grass blade length at a time. Additionally, you’ll want to water deeply and infrequently. Proper irrigation will help the lawn recover properly. Check out our lawn watering tips for advice. If scalping has killed large areas of your lawn, Lawn Doctor can help you reseed these bare and brown spots. Our seeding services will help your yard recover quickly and let your grass grow much thicker and healthier than before.

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