Cutting Height "by the book"

I like to try and do things by the book, but one of the biggest things that concerns me about doing things "by the book" is this. The "book" often recommends us cutting heights or particular grass types. For example, many varieties of St. Augustine suggest 3". Many varieties of Bermuda are often suggested to be cut as low as 1.5", and even lower on some varieties. While I completely understand turf health, and cutting turf this short could produce a dense, and thicker cover, if conditions are right, but it seems they always leave out the most important part, "Conditions." It almost seems there's plenty of turf health books out there. Yet, perhaps I should write a book called the "Real Landscapers Guide to Green Turf." Perhaps this could be a top seller for guys on Lawnsite, as it almost seems every article or book written out there is directed at superintendent's instead of landscapers or lawn crews.

In an ideal world, the average customer from guys on this site, our customers do not irrigate 1 3/4" of water per week. Nor do they run sprinklers daily. Nor do pay for weekly spoon feeding of turf for controlled growth. In the lawn care world, if we're lucky, we can get our customers to water once or twice a week. Many times, they only want to run the sprinklers for 15 minutes per zone. And worst of all, many properties don't even have irrigation.

With that said, living in Texas for many years, I often read a suggested cut height for St. Augustine to be 3" on some varieties. My first few years, I tried things by the book, and let me be frankly honest of what I found. When July and August hit, I found my properties and business came to an absolute halt. My properties dried out faster than a freshly planted tomato plant in the middle of the dessert on a summer day. I often found myself skipping properties the next week, and sometimes even a few weeks at a time. Income came slow, business got slow, and I started hurting. Again, this is in the lawn management world, not the golf coarse world. This is real world conditions, not ideal superintendent conditions.

Over the years, I watched and observed other companies in our business. I noticed they were cutting much higher. Most were cutting St. Augustine and Bermuda at 4" or more in the summer. I noticed they were cutting more, making more money, and had greener properties. I followed their trend, and my properties did better.

Today, what I've learned, is there is a fine balance when it comes to real world conditions. In the Spring, it's sometimes okay to follow those book suggestions to try and dense up turf. But in the real world, I find this is not feasible in the lawn care market all year long. Today, I start Bermuda and summer grasses at 3 1/4" in the spring when rains are plentiful. Time May hits, I have the turf up to 4". Many companies around me will stop there and cut at 4" through the summer. Over the past two years I've been experimenting. I've raised Bermuda and St. Augustine both to 5" during the middle of summer. Despite what the book says, again, in "Real World" conditions, my properties are greener than the competition, survive summer better, and look so thick that you could go rolling in the turf.

I bring this up after cutting a complex yesterday. My fertilizer and weed control guy is using Mesa Slow release, which provides a phenomenal turf color. I've been cutting this common Bermuda on 5". I must admit, this turf has the best density, turf color, and looks healthier than any turf in town. In real world conditions, this turf looks so green, so healthy, and so happy, that I came to write this long winded post, with one thing in mind. "Don't always follow the book, unless your cutting in conditions that are equivalent to "the book." Now when should I release my new "Real Landscapers Guide to Green Turf" book?

With that said, I could go even further. I could go even further as discussing the differences between fertilizers. These books often explain how the superintendents use "Ammonia Nitrate, Ammonia Sulfate, and quick release fertilizers. Don't get me wrong, I've went down that route according to Green Doctors advice. I've used the Potassium Nitrate, Ammonia Sulfate, along with Ferrous Sulfate, Chelated Iron, and even as far as adding micronutrient packages. What I found, these quick releases work "GREAT" when using them "CORRECTLY." This goes back to my original post, "If you want your yard to look like a golf coarse, if you want a golf coarse height, then fertilize like the golf coarse, and irrigate like the golf coarse. What brings me to this part of the topic is, I mow properties that use several different spray companies. The companies that use straight Urea, I've taken a note. These properties greened up quick in the Spring. But when growing season is in full force, I now have to convince my high end lawn homeowners to switch to 2-3 times a week for weekly cuttings. Again, in the real landscape world, this is not always feasible and easy to sell.

So back to the book on "The Real Landscapers Guide to Green Turf", I wanted to share my opinion with what I've discovered with summer grasses. If you have high end properties, but they are typical "Real world lawn customers" you can't rely on the "book." Perhaps I need to write an "Updated Book", but from what I've discovered with personal experience, plots, and testing over the years has been this.

"If you cut in the real world, don't listen to the "book". Cut your summer varieties of grass as high as possible, up to 5", convince your customers to irrigate (2) times a week at 1/2" each watering, use Mesa Slow Release fertilizer, load up Potassium levels through the Spring, and again, despite the book, cut that Bermuda and St. Augustine at 5", and come summer time, your lawns will be thicker, healthier, and by far greener than every neighboring property in site. Again, new guys, this is PPL's guide to the "Real World Turf Management", directed at lawn companies, since there seems to be so many limited sources out there targeting the "lawn crowd."
 

hort101

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
S.E. New England
I like to try and do things by the book, but one of the biggest things that concerns me about doing things "by the book" is this. The "book" often recommends us cutting heights or particular grass types. For example, many varieties of St. Augustine suggest 3". Many varieties of Bermuda are often suggested to be cut as low as 1.5", and even lower on some varieties. While I completely understand turf health, and cutting turf this short could produce a dense, and thicker cover, if conditions are right, but it seems they always leave out the most important part, "Conditions." It almost seems there's plenty of turf health books out there. Yet, perhaps I should write a book called the "Real Landscapers Guide to Green Turf." Perhaps this could be a top seller for guys on Lawnsite, as it almost seems every article or book written out there is directed at superintendent's instead of landscapers or lawn crews.

In an ideal world, the average customer from guys on this site, our customers do not irrigate 1 3/4" of water per week. Nor do they run sprinklers daily. Nor do pay for weekly spoon feeding of turf for controlled growth. In the lawn care world, if we're lucky, we can get our customers to water once or twice a week. Many times, they only want to run the sprinklers for 15 minutes per zone. And worst of all, many properties don't even have irrigation.

With that said, living in Texas for many years, I often read a suggested cut height for St. Augustine to be 3" on some varieties. My first few years, I tried things by the book, and let me be frankly honest of what I found. When July and August hit, I found my properties and business came to an absolute halt. My properties dried out faster than a freshly planted tomato plant in the middle of the dessert on a summer day. I often found myself skipping properties the next week, and sometimes even a few weeks at a time. Income came slow, business got slow, and I started hurting. Again, this is in the lawn management world, not the golf coarse world. This is real world conditions, not ideal superintendent conditions.

Over the years, I watched and observed other companies in our business. I noticed they were cutting much higher. Most were cutting St. Augustine and Bermuda at 4" or more in the summer. I noticed they were cutting more, making more money, and had greener properties. I followed their trend, and my properties did better.

Today, what I've learned, is there is a fine balance when it comes to real world conditions. In the Spring, it's sometimes okay to follow those book suggestions to try and dense up turf. But in the real world, I find this is not feasible in the lawn care market all year long. Today, I start Bermuda and summer grasses at 3 1/4" in the spring when rains are plentiful. Time May hits, I have the turf up to 4". Many companies around me will stop there and cut at 4" through the summer. Over the past two years I've been experimenting. I've raised Bermuda and St. Augustine both to 5" during the middle of summer. Despite what the book says, again, in "Real World" conditions, my properties are greener than the competition, survive summer better, and look so thick that you could go rolling in the turf.

I bring this up after cutting a complex yesterday. My fertilizer and weed control guy is using Mesa Slow release, which provides a phenomenal turf color. I've been cutting this common Bermuda on 5". I must admit, this turf has the best density, turf color, and looks healthier than any turf in town. In real world conditions, this turf looks so green, so healthy, and so happy, that I came to write this long winded post, with one thing in mind. "Don't always follow the book, unless your cutting in conditions that are equivalent to "the book." Now when should I release my new "Real Landscapers Guide to Green Turf" book?

With that said, I could go even further. I could go even further as discussing the differences between fertilizers. These books often explain how the superintendents use "Ammonia Nitrate, Ammonia Sulfate, and quick release fertilizers. Don't get me wrong, I've went down that route according to Green Doctors advice. I've used the Potassium Nitrate, Ammonia Sulfate, along with Ferrous Sulfate, Chelated Iron, and even as far as adding micronutrient packages. What I found, these quick releases work "GREAT" when using them "CORRECTLY." This goes back to my original post, "If you want your yard to look like a golf coarse, if you want a golf coarse height, then fertilize like the golf coarse, and irrigate like the golf coarse. What brings me to this part of the topic is, I mow properties that use several different spray companies. The companies that use straight Urea, I've taken a note. These properties greened up quick in the Spring. But when growing season is in full force, I now have to convince my high end lawn homeowners to switch to 2-3 times a week for weekly cuttings. Again, in the real landscape world, this is not always feasible and easy to sell.

So back to the book on "The Real Landscapers Guide to Green Turf", I wanted to share my opinion with what I've discovered with summer grasses. If you have high end properties, but they are typical "Real world lawn customers" you can't rely on the "book." Perhaps I need to write an "Updated Book", but from what I've discovered with personal experience, plots, and testing over the years has been this.

"If you cut in the real world, don't listen to the "book". Cut your summer varieties of grass as high as possible, up to 5", convince your customers to irrigate (2) times a week at 1/2" each watering, use Mesa Slow Release fertilizer, load up Potassium levels through the Spring, and again, despite the book, cut that Bermuda and St. Augustine at 5", and come summer time, your lawns will be thicker, healthier, and by far greener than every neighboring property in site. Again, new guys, this is PPL's guide to the "Real World Turf Management", directed at lawn companies, since there seems to be so many limited sources out there targeting the "lawn crowd."
Great point I've found in the real world it's the variables and conditions and they change week to week different properties and plant types and growing conditions play a major roleThumbs UpThumbs Up
 
One more quick thing I'd like to point out. When I moved to this area, neighboring properties I picked up, were cutting shorter. I cut very high now days, and noticed, neighbors starting cutting very high. By the time I noticed this, I was up to 4". Neighbors started cutting at the same height to match their neighbors "Greener yard." This time of year, I'm cutting at 5". And two times in one week, I've been asked how I'm able to cut lawns so high with my mower, so far, one of them has gave up on mowing themselves, and signed up for service when I'm at the neighbors property.
 
Great point I've found in the real world it's the variables and conditions and they change week to week different properties and plant types and growing conditions play a major roleThumbs UpThumbs Up


Exactly right. To keep lawns perfect, you have to perfect your ability to adapt to a wide range of variables and conditions through the growing season, and off season. Not only do you have to familiarize yourself with the different variables through the season, but most importantly, you have to familiarize yourself with your customers. Talk with them. Learn their watering schedule, take notes. If someone else is spraying it, coordinate with the spray companies. This is another biggie. If you want your properties to look top notch, you HAVE to learn to coordinate with the spray companies, if your not spraying. You don't want to show up to mow 10 hours after they just sprayed herbicides. Let a rain or your customers irrigation wash down the granular between applications. Learning your customers irrigation schedule, coordinating with the spray companies, getting them to put dates on flags in the yard, this all relates to being able to adapt to variables and conditions. Sometimes it's much more complex to get those yards perfect, than showing up to mow on time.
 

TPendagast

LawnSite Fanatic
Great point I've found in the real world it's the variables and conditions and they change week to week different properties and plant types and growing conditions play a major roleThumbs UpThumbs Up
You can get a hold of different companies contracts and how the SOW reads but in general there's a reason why they say "maintain the turf between x" and y", depending on seasons and conditions"
 

hort101

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
S.E. New England
You can get a hold of different companies contracts and how the SOW reads but in general there's a reason why they say "maintain the turf between x" and y", depending on seasons and conditions"
Good point I see differences between different areas of the yard too I've heard it needs more fertilizer too many times when the real issue is too much shade , wrong grass type or over\underwatered being the real issue fert or spraying is far from a magic wand that makes up for poor culture practices or growing conditionsThumbs Up
 

weeze

LawnSite Fanatic
there's a book? :laugh:

around here it's impossible to follow the book and it's impossible to cut correctly/higher to offset the problems.

everyone wants their yard mowed at 1 1/2" and they never fertilize or water their yards or do anything to take care of it.

i mow some at 2 1/4" and get complaints that it's not short enough. i still have one that won't let me mow any higher than 2". i mowed at 2 1/4" and they kept on complaining.

i have a few nicer yards i mow at 2.5" that's about as high as i can go around here. maybe 3" during july and august i can get by with doing on those nicer yards.

around here they want it mowed down to the dirt so it doesn't get so tall as quickly. that's their thinking. they dont' want to pay for weekly mowing only bi weekly.

i even offered to mow weekly for some of them and charge a good bit less and they still won't do it. they are just set in their ways. wrong ways but that's the real world. :laugh:

i dunno why people are afraid of taller grass? they want it to look like a putt putt golf course and be weed free and green and so forth. they should all buy reel mowers i guess and do it themselves.

i try to tell them the truth and they just won't listen. it's like talking to a brick wall.

i have one older lady that used to mow her own lawn sometimes when the weather wasn't too hot. she would always scalp it down to 1 1/2" and wanted me to do the same. i've been mowing it at 2 1/4" and her mower tore up so her lawn looks better than it ever has right now. just that little bit taller makes a huge difference.
 
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redmax fan

LawnSite Silver Member
here in michigan where lawns get plenty moisture except durin july and august , though some years we still get just enough rain then , weve determined over 20+ years that the longer the better for lawns long term vigor . people complain we cut too high and leave some stragglers and my reply is when you leave it tall the longer blades help soil hold more moisture in plus shade out unwanted seeds from germinating . plus on sparse / un thick lawns they look better from the street because longer blades provide more green even though up close you can spot stragglers . and when you cut short come hot summer you'll end up with alot of damage spots that must be reseeded . on our exmark walk behinds we run 1 washer above blades and 3 washers below caster arms . though when its long we run 2 above blades for more lift and all 4 below casters . likes long been said ' cut em high and let em fly ' .
 

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