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View Full Version : Dropping mower height in the Fall - cool season grasses?


Exact Rototilling
10-02-2008, 02:14 PM
Ok . . .I'm a big advocate of longer is better for heat resistance on the summer that keeps the roots cool - photosynthesis etc.

I have one client who insists on having her lawn mowed at 2" because it grows too fast other wise. This is as low as I will ever mow.


Every other client I have is mowed at 3.0" or 2.5". I prefer 3.0" to 3.5"

I have read a fair amount on this topic even to the point of contradictory statements by the same author stating that in the fall that turf is busy with the transition into fall storing energy to the roots and cutting it short will force the grass to waste energy to grow while it should be storing energy for the winter? Meanwhile in another part of the same book stating it's fine to drop the height in the fall? :confused:

Then I have cleints telling me the grass is more resistant to snow mold and disease if cut short. :nono:

My own personal experience has shown - healthy turf is longer grass even over the winter. :clapping:

Any input?

billslawn89
10-02-2008, 03:27 PM
what kind of grass is it? just tell your client that you lowered the height and keep it where you've been mowing at, 3" or drop it a notch.

DA Quality Lawn & YS
10-02-2008, 06:06 PM
what kind of grass is it? just tell your client that you lowered the height and keep it where you've been mowing at, 3" or drop it a notch.

Funny:laugh: I bet she would buy it too.

I typically cut 2" to 2 1/4" last cut of the season (Halloween or so). I did have some snow mold problems in my own yard, north exposure grass that was left long in front of my house. So, if the lady tends to have snow pile up in certain areas of her yard, and it lingers well into spring, would pay to cut those areas short I suppose.

Exact Rototilling
10-02-2008, 06:51 PM
what kind of grass is it? just tell your client that you lowered the height and keep it where you've been mowing at, 3" or drop it a notch.That would never fly with my clients. Especially when the neighbor cuts their lawn at under 2". She has a valid point cutting it shorter does slow down the growth.

Not only is cutting cool season grasses on the longer side great for the grass it also helps it explode with growth which results in a greater need for weekly cutting.

There is a test plot of research grass near where I live and they have it mowed super short. Maybe they are trying to engineer a cool season grass that likes to be scalped?

We used to be the country's Bluegrass grower Mecca of the USA. However all the field burning bans have caused many to switch crops and sell out to the real estate developers.

IN2MOWN
10-02-2008, 07:36 PM
Cut at 3.25 - 3.50 in the spring and summer and 2.75-3.00 in the fall.

dishboy
10-02-2008, 09:21 PM
I like 2.5 to 2 5/8 this time of year on irrigated lawns.

gardenkeeper88
10-04-2008, 11:35 AM
That would never fly with my clients. Especially when the neighbor cuts their lawn at under 2". She has a valid point cutting it shorter does slow down the growth.

Not only is cutting cool season grasses on the longer side great for the grass it also helps it explode with growth which results in a greater need for weekly cutting.
There is a test plot of research grass near where I live and they have it mowed super short. Maybe they are trying to engineer a cool season grass that likes to be scalped?

We used to be the country's Bluegrass grower Mecca of the USA. However all the field burning bans have caused many to switch crops and sell out to the real estate developers.

I have never heard this. Is this true all seasons? Where is the backup on this or did you test. I'm not doubting just want more info.

whoopassonthebluegrass
10-04-2008, 11:41 AM
I mow at 3" up until I need to lower it to look like I'm doing something! :laugh:

As far as scalping goes, I'm a HUGE advocate. I wait until early November - when the grass is dormant. That way I'm cutting off dead plant matter - which means it isn't affecting the grass one bit.

By cutting it as short as I can get it a couple of great things happen:

-- Minimal snow mold.
-- Minimal snow matting in the Spring.
-- Green up in the spring is MUCH better, because the lawn never gets mowed that short again - and so the green growth is always what's visible - not the white thatch.
-- This also gets me one last cutting when the money is running out. I just tell my customers to expect it...

topsites
10-04-2008, 11:47 AM
I am guessing it depends on the size of the deck, speaking only from my own experience and
from a cosmetic standpoint, for a 2.5" cut to look good you'd want to use a 21" mower.

As for cutting it down to the dirt, that might be something they practice in the northern regions,
maybe up in the mountains or where it gets pretty cold in the winter, I do not know for sure but
we don't do that here in the southern half of the US, at least not where I live.

That it needs to be as short as possible, I can agree with it because of leaves,
the taller cuts make leaf cleanups a real nightmare and at least here in VA the temps
are hovering in the 70' day / 50' nights now so it won't be long before the trees turn color.
That is, as soon as the worst of summer was over one needs to start lowering the cut,
and for myself I keep coming down until I am at my standard cutting height for my mower,
which happens to be 3"

Insofar as it still needing cut because it's too tall, why that's fine because that's one way to deal with leaves
is to cut the grass and clean up the leaves all in the same motion, well, basically.

But that's just me.

dishboy
10-04-2008, 12:49 PM
I am guessing it depends on the size of the deck, speaking only from my own experience and
from a cosmetic standpoint, for a 2.5" cut to look good you'd want to use a 21" mower.

As for cutting it down to the dirt, that might be something they practice in the northern regions,
maybe up in the mountains or where it gets pretty cold in the winter, I do not know for sure but
we don't do that here in the southern half of the US, at least not where I live.

That it needs to be as short as possible, I can agree with it because of leaves,
the taller cuts make leaf cleanups a real nightmare and at least here in VA the temps
are hovering in the 70' day / 50' nights now so it won't be long before the trees turn color.
That is, as soon as the worst of summer was over one needs to start lowering the cut,
and for myself I keep coming down until I am at my standard cutting height for my mower,
which happens to be 3"

Insofar as it still needing cut because it's too tall, why that's fine because that's one way to deal with leaves
is to cut the grass and clean up the leaves all in the same motion, well, basically.

But that's just me.

If you haven't seen a Walker cut at @2.25 you would be amazed . My neighbor has 0ver a acre I mow at 2.25 inches with my 42" mulch deck . Looks like a fairway, freakin unreal. I normally don't mow at this height but he does all my welding and has a garage full of tools so we trade work .

White Gardens
10-04-2008, 01:00 PM
I think it's the conditions that you need to take in account before making a decision on mowing height.

For Example, my yard is about 60 years old. I have excellent topsoil, deep root growth, no thatch to speak of, and thousands, apon thousands of earthworms. So my lawn in the fall doesn't have too many issues if I cut it short before winter. I'm amazed at how well it snaps back after a really dry summer. I will say though, I have stopped mowing all together under my shade trees, seems the grass gets really thin this time of year.

Now, if it was a newer construction lawn, high compaction, a large layer of thatch, and mostly clay base, then I would cut high.

Like the sig states.

Exact Rototilling
10-04-2008, 08:43 PM
Thanks for the input thus far.

This is hardly a scientfic observation on my part but 5 years ago I scalped my grass less than 2" [late fall] in a specific lawn area frequented by my dogs. I wanted to make the poop pick up easier over the winter. No more folded over grass hiding poop all through the winter. Hey . . . mission accomplished but the grass was never as lush or thick as it had been in years past. In fact when we sold the house a few years ago that section of grass never bounced back to what it had been before it was scalped.

We had a really nasty winter last year and a sizeable chunk of my income in the spring was from power raking out the snow mold which was epidemic. I have had several people request a lower last mowing to prevent snow mold. I'll drop it down to 2"

Just as it was mentioned in the previous post there are many factors such as soil and turf health.

At this point I'm still puzzled about this issue of the turf trying to store nutrients before going dormant over the winter and cutting it too short stresses the grass. :confused: Then again what is true dormancy? Where my clothes dryer vents the grass grows all year long.

I think I will experiment on my dad's lawn with 40" test stripes this late fall and see what happens in the spring. 3" - 2.5" - 2" - 1.5" & 1"

whoopassonthebluegrass
10-04-2008, 10:46 PM
I should clarify that when I say "scalp" it, that it's pretty much impossible to cut lower than 2" without turfing people's bumpy lawns.

White Gardens
10-04-2008, 11:29 PM
It was probably just coincidence when the grass started to die. You probably had an acidity buildup from the dogs and it finally burned out your grass.

The worst I've seen from pets is malamutes, and every time these two dogs would p-- they would leave a brown spot.

kppurn
10-05-2008, 01:09 AM
I've always continued mowing at the normal height, 3-3.5", until the grass stops growing.

http://www.agry.purdue.edu/turf/tips/2006/mow1027.htm

nmez21
10-05-2008, 02:32 AM
I have never heard this. Is this true all seasons? Where is the backup on this or did you test. I'm not doubting just want more info.
Did a test last year for the season as part of a science project.
Height (Inches)...................2.5----3----3.5----4
3-day Growth (In.)...............0.3---0.5--0.73---0.93
3-Day Height Increase (%)...12%---17%--21%--23%
Soil Temp. Differential (°F)....3.4----4.6---6.8---11.3

IN2MOWN
10-05-2008, 09:11 AM
I mow at 3" up until I need to lower it to look like I'm doing something! :laugh:

As far as scalping goes, I'm a HUGE advocate. I wait until early November - when the grass is dormant. That way I'm cutting off dead plant matter - which means it isn't affecting the grass one bit.

By cutting it as short as I can get it a couple of great things happen:

-- Minimal snow mold.
-- Minimal snow matting in the Spring.
-- Green up in the spring is MUCH better, because the lawn never gets mowed that short again - and so the green growth is always what's visible - not the white thatch.
-- This also gets me one last cutting when the money is running out. I just tell my customers to expect it...



I disagree. I used to think the same and then last year I tried something different. I normally cut @ 3.5 inches and last fall I only went downt to 3. Over the winter I noticed a slow growth rate. In 2.5 months the turf grew about 2 inches. It was still a little brown from the dormancy but when I went to cut for the first time in mid March and I took that 2 inches off so the turf was still at 3.5 inches or so and it was incredibly green underneath all that brown.

I noticed the yards around me that were scalped in the fall took longer to green up and did not need to be cut for sometimes up to 3-4 weeks after I had started cutting mine.

So not only was I starting earlier then some of the other companies but my yards were greener, thicker and fuller then the others.

whoopassonthebluegrass
10-05-2008, 10:37 AM
I disagree... last fall I only went down to 3. Over the winter I noticed a slow growth rate. In 2.5 months the turf grew about 2 inches. It was still a little brown from the dormancy but when I went to cut for the first time in mid March and I took that 2 inches off so the turf was still at 3.5 inches or so and it was incredibly green underneath all that brown.

I don't doubt what you say at all. But, for me in the Rockies, if I left grass at 3" - come Spring, every lawn I cut would be matted down to the ground and covered in snow mold. I grew up in Olathe, so I know what the weather in your neck of the woods is like. We, over here, have a couple feet of snow sitting on that grass for 3 months straight.

Thus, the shorter grass works better b/c un-raked matting/mold equals a fast death for the grass. Whereas, the sooner the soil temps increase (sun penetration is better with shorter grass), the faster it comes out of dormancy.

In all candidness, if I were into dethatching, I'd leave it long on purpose - to generate additional work. But I don't have time for that (and it's horribly stressful on the lawns), so I crew-cut them all to minimize my springtime stress.

dishboy
10-05-2008, 10:40 AM
I disagree. I used to think the same and then last year I tried something different. I normally cut @ 3.5 inches and last fall I only went downt to 3. Over the winter I noticed a slow growth rate. In 2.5 months the turf grew about 2 inches. It was still a little brown from the dormancy but when I went to cut for the first time in mid March and I took that 2 inches off so the turf was still at 3.5 inches or so and it was incredibly green underneath all that brown.

I noticed the yards around me that were scalped in the fall took longer to green up and did not need to be cut for sometimes up to 3-4 weeks after I had started cutting mine.

So not only was I starting earlier then some of the other companies but my yards were greener, thicker and fuller then the others.

Not a black and White issue, I left my lawn at 2.25 last winter , it stayed green all winter and was the only lawn green in this neighborhood in February. I attribute this to a Organic fertilizer program and watering when the rainfall was insufficient during the winter.

KeystoneLawn&Landscaping
10-05-2008, 11:59 AM
Living here in Erie we experience many different climates. I also mow in three counties so I see even more differences. Here by the lake our average winter is some where around 125 inches of snow a year, in the furthest county I mow in the average drops to about 75 inches.The closer to the lake you get,
I've learned the hard way over the years, if I leave the grass at my normal higher height, matted grass and snow mold are a likely. I've also noticed that yards that are just a couple years old seem to be more likely to snow mold when high. So come the middle to end of October I start lowering the height. My yards further away I don't go as low as here by the lake. Also, I dont mow every yard the same, all the heights vary.