Most experts agree that a mowing height of 2 ½ to 3 inches is ideal for grasses used throughout Alberta. Many homeowners are tempted to cut a lower height to reduce how many cuts they need throughout the growing season. This practice has a detrimental effect on the grass plant. The leaf blade on a grass plant is where it produces its food to sustain itself. By removing most of the leaf blade, you limit food production, which in turn decreases stolon, root and rhizome growth. By cutting too low you also cut most of the green from your lawn, which gives the lawn a brownish look no matter how much you fertilize or water.
When mowing your lawn you should never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade. If you wish to keep your grass height at 3 inches, do not mow until the grass is 4 inches high. The amount of cuts will change throughout the year as climatic conditions change. Generally you will mow more frequently in the spring and gradually lessen as you progress into summer.
MOWER BLADE SHARPNESS:
Having a sharp mower blade is one of the most important factors to keeping your lawn in tiptop shape. A dull mower blade will rip the tips of the grass leaving a shredded look to the tips. During the warm summer months this will cause a condition known as "tip burn" causing the tip of the blade to die back about ¼ to ½ of an inch. The effect is only temporary and will disappear within 1 to 2 cuts with a sharp blade. The shredded tip also gives disease and insects an excellent route of entry into the blade.
By mowing frequently, your grass clippings will be small in size and used up by your lawn quickly. By leaving your clippings on the lawn you receive the benefit of free fertilizer for your lawn. If however the clippings are too thick, by leaving them on your lawn you will inhibit growth underneath. In this case bagging or raking is recommended.
SCALPING A LAWN:
Using a set schedule for mowing is recommended for a healthy, vigorous lawn. Many times homeowners will leave the mowing for too long. This allows the grass to grow too high. If the homeowner uses a low mowing height, too much of the leaf blade is removed. This process is commonly referred to as "scalping". Scalping causes the plant to go into a state of shock and either slows or stops growth completely. This can cause the lawn to weaken, which in turn opens the door for weeds, insects, and disease. Good mowing practices promotes a dense turf grass area, which is your best defense against weeds, insects, and disease.