Lawn

Mow Higher for a Healthy Lawn

Mowing your lawn to 3 inches (8 cm) high will keep it denser and healthier. Photo: http://www.organolawn.com

When I started gardening 50 years ago (yes, I started very young!), we were told the ideal mowing height for a cool-climate lawn was 2 inches (5 cm). This would, we were told, give you the effect of a golf green and who wouldn’t like that? 

The problem was low-mown lawns also had huge health problems. They tended to dry out in the summer, were subject to grub damage and filled up with weeds. 

The root length of lawn grasses is roughly proportional to their mowing height. Ill.: http://www.milorganite.com

We now know that was bad advice. A taller lawn shades the ground and protects its own roots from the burning sun. Also, the root length is roughly proportional to the height of the turf. So short grass has short roots that can’t reach additional water underground in times of drought while a high-mown lawn has long roots that can find deep water if necessary. Many insects that lay their eggs in the soil, especially the beetle species whose larvae are called white grubs, actively seek out short grass; taller blades are obstacles to them reaching the ground. Finally, weed seeds have great difficulty germinating in high turf: sun, essential for their germination, simply doesn’t reach the soil. 

So, for cool climate grasses at least, a mowing height of 3 inches (8 cm) is what you should strive for. And most warm climate grasses too.

Leave the golf green look and all its complications to golf courses (they have a whole team of professionals to nurse short lawns through the hard times). If you want a healthy lawn with much less effort, simply mow higher!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

1 comment on “Mow Higher for a Healthy Lawn

  1. Lawn really should be less common in our chaparral climate, but is still as popular as it had always been. Most of the water consumed by landscapes goes to lawn.

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