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Cutting grass at the proper height and with appropriate frequency and technique helps to maintain dense, healthy and attractive turf. A low mowing height can leave brown or bare-looking spots in the grass. If the grass is repeatedly cut too short or scalped, it can seriously deplete the grass's energy reserves, weakening or killing grass and leaving the lawn vulnerable to weed invasion. Mowing removes a portion of the leaf surface that is responsible for the plant's food production through photosynthesis.
As a general rule, no more than a third of the grass blade should be removed during a single mowing. Removing too much of the leaf surface affects root growth, draws on stored energy in the roots and essentially starves the grass. Scalping involves cutting turf so short that stem tissue is exposed, giving the grass a yellow or brown appearance. Of course, a too-low mowing height is most directly responsible for any shearing of the turf, though other factors can play a role.
Sharp mower blades cleanly cut through grass blades, while dull mower blades tend to tear grass, leaving a frayed, brownish edge vulnerable to disease. Thick thatch, the brown layer of dead and living stems, leaves and other plant parts that builds up between the green grass blades and the soil surface, can lead to scalping. Grass grown in the shade benefits from a taller mowing height than the same grass cultivar grown in the sun. Time of year and other environmental conditions also affect the ability of grass to recover from short cutting.
Grass is better able to withstand a low mowing height when it is growing quickly, as in early spring or fall, depending on the type of grass, than during hot summer weather when growth slows. Watering the grass deeply and occasionally whenever rainfall is inadequate encourages recovery. Adjusting the mowing height to the level recommended for the grass species in the turf is crucial to preventing further injury.
Sheared, yellow grass may benefit from the application of a chelated iron supplement used according to manufacturer recommendations. Where grass dies or fails to perk up. Applying nitrogen fertilizer or a balanced fertilizer with nitrogen to a scalped or too-short area of turf can force weak, spindly growth or burn vulnerable grass; any routine fertilizer application is best postponed until the turf recovers.
Over-watering or too-frequent irrigation can leave the grass vulnerable to disease. If the grass grows very long, it should not be reduced to the recommended height for the grass species with a single mowing. Instead, raising the mowing height and gradually reducing the height over several cuttings prevents scalping. Angela Ryczkowski is a professional writer who has served as a greenhouse manager and certified wildland firefighter.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies. By Angela Ryczkowski Updated December 15, Related Articles. Can You Over-Dethatch a Lawn?Shirt less lawn care by hot New mexico guy
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Damage to Grass Cut too Short