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COLUMN: Spring mowing is most important of yearlong lawn duties

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By Bryce Roberts

It’s difficult to envision mowing your lawn this spring when frost or snow greets you nearly every morning. Yet that first spring mowing, usually in late March, begins your most important annual lawn duties.
The first mowing makes the lawn look spring-like and very attractive.  Subsequent regular mowing hardens the grass for drought and heat stresses later on.
So when the first clump of grass grows above the mowing height, mow, even if a lot of the yard doesn’t need to be mowed yet.
Not all grasses start growing at the same time. Grass on northern slopes, or in heavy clay soil, will start growing several days later than normal.  Grass that wasn’t fertilized in the fall or early spring also has a delayed growth.
Following recommendations for mowing height and frequency will make your lawn-care duties easier and result in a more attractive yard.
If your mower has a fixed, all-year height, set it at 2.5 inches.
However, if you can easily vary the height, set it at 1.5 to 2 inches for the first several times you mow this spring. The shorter mowing height will help remove a lot of the winter-burned, brown leaves. And by exposing more dark green growth, it will transfigure your lawn into the most uniform, attractive in the neighborhood. Move the height up to 2.5 inches after you mow the grass several times.
To protect your grass from summer heat and drought injury, raise the mower height to 3 or 3.5 inches. However, remember that high grass, especially tall fescue, tends to fall over and mat down during hot summer weather causing increased summer disease problems. In the fall, lower the mowing height back to 2.5 inches.  
For the winter, you might want to lower it again to 1.5 to 2 inches. This shorter height improves the turf’s winter and early spring color.
Never let grass grow through the winter to a height of 4 or more inches, because it will mat down and become diseased.
Generally speaking, mow often enough to remove no more than one-third to one-half of the grass height. If your mower is set for 2 inches, mow again when grass height reaches approximately 3 inches.  Be sure not to “scalp” the lawn by mowing off most of the green leaves.
For tall fescue lawns, a rule of thumb is to mow at five-day intervals during the spring, and at seven-day intervals the rest of the year.  If you have a Kentucky bluegrass lawn, a seven-day interval usually is sufficient at a 2.5-inch mowing height. You probably can extend that interval during hot, dry weather.
Don’t mow by the calendar.  Instead, watch the grass grow, and mow frequently enough to remove no more than one-third to one-half of grass height.

Lawn maintenance class
I will host a lawn maintenance class on Monday beginning at 6:30 p.m. It will be at our office, located at 100 Oak Tree Way. We’ll cover mowing height, and other topics, such as watering and weed control. Please call our office at 477-2217 to register for this session.
Feel free to contact me at your Spencer County Cooperative Extension Service at 477-2217 or you can email me at broberts@uky.edu.  You can visit the Spencer County Extension Services’ website at www.spencerextension.com.
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.