Is it Better to Mow Short or Long?

You have set your mower ready to cut some grass. But you are in a dilemma. Do I mow the grass short or long? Don’t worry – you are not alone. Many homeowners wonder whether short grass is better than cutting it long. 

Though most people think mowing the grass too short is the best option, as seen in golf courses, it’s usually not. Cutting your lawn longer is better as it improves the health of your grass and minimizes weeds. The grass needs photosynthesis to make food and stay healthy. Therefore, you should leave long grass blades to promote photosynthesis and make your lawn green. 

It is imperative to understand the ideal grass-cutting height to ensure your lawn is healthy and green throughout the year. As you will find out in this article, mowing your yard longer will be beneficial to the appearance and health of your lawn. 

Why Do People Mow Short? (The Wrong Assumption)

According to a recent survey, the average American adult only has about 4 hours and 26 minutes of free time. Due to the time constraints, many homeowners assume that cutting the grass shorter will save them time each week. 

For instance, you might decide to cut your grass at less than an inch to give it more time to grow. Though you might save a few days by mowing short, the result will be an unhealthy lawn due to reduced photosynthesis. 

The second reason people mow short is the desire to achieve a lawn resembling a golf course or baseball field. However, it is important to understand that most golf greens and baseball fields are artificial. The turf professionals in these fields use different fertilizers and herbicides to achieve well-looking fields. 

Mowing your grass shorter may not make your lawn look like the golf greens or save you much time. But it might result in your yard looking unprofessional and consume more time to make it look perfect. 

What’s the Effect of Mowing Short?

Though mowing your lawn short can make it beautiful, it is a short-lived beauty. If you continue cutting short, you might end up damaging your lawn. Grass relies on photosynthesis in the leaves to grow and develop roots. Therefore, if you mow too low you reduce the surface area for photosynthesis, thus hindering grass development. 

Additionally, mowing too short can make the lawnmower blades injure the grass crowns, resulting in more problems. First, the grass will channel most of its energy to the crown recovery, weakening the grass. During this recovery mode, the grass is susceptible to diseases and insects. Even worse, the weeds will grow faster than the grass. 

If the crown damage spreads across the entire lawn the weed will outgrow the grass, making your yard appear dull. Short grass will also make your lawn suffer from the hot summer heat as it will provide little shade and won’t conserve water. These effects of mowing short will lead to increased costs of buying pesticides and herbicides to maintain your lawn. 

Why Mowing Longer is Better

The overall health of your lawn depends on watering, thatch control, and proper mowing. You need to know how to mow correctly and the appropriate cutting height for your grass. Consider trimming the grass longer due to the following reasons: 

More Food Production 

When you mow high, you leave enough surface area for photosynthesis to occur in the leaves. The photosynthesis process helps the grass make enough food to grow green and healthy. Additionally, it enables the grass to develop shoots and roots. 

Providing Shade

Long grass provides your soil with shade to protect it from the hot sun. Therefore, the soil can preserve moisture, protect the roots from harsh climates, and keep the grass healthy. The shade is also essential in preventing weeds from competing with grass. 

Like grass, weeds require the sun to make food through photosynthesis. The shade and complex grass-roots hinder weeds from making their food, leading to their demise. 

Promote Deep Root Development 

Roots require moisture and the proper temperatures to grow deep. Mowing high protects the roots from excess heat and ensures the roots have enough water to develop. You should aim at having a lawn with a deep root system as it is more drought-resistant than shallow roots. Deep roots can access water deep in the soil and keep your lawn healthy throughout the dry season. 

It Saves You Money 

Do you want to incur the extra costs of weeding and buying various chemicals? If not, you should aim for longer grass. The tall grass will suppress and eventually kill the weeds when you mow it long regularly. Therefore, you will save money you would have otherwise spent on chemicals such as herbicides. 

Better-Looking Lawn Stripes 

One feature that makes your lawn stand out is a professionally cut lawn stripe. Though it also depends on the type of grass, mowing high will make striping the yard easier. For instance, fescue grass is an excellent choice for lawn stripes. You can cut it at four or more inches to achieve a superb lawn stripe. 

Additionally, the long grass blades will provide more surface area to reflect off the sunlight and enhance the lawn stripes. On the other hand, shorter grass will be harder to stripe and have less surface area. Generally, mowing your lawn higher will make your lawn look lovely and promote good health all year long. 

What’s the Ideal Lawn Mowing Height?

You are convinced enough that mowing long is the best option. However, you might be wondering about the exact height to set your lawnmower for the best results. The general idea is always to mow using the highest setting. 

The ideal mower height depends on several factors that are beyond the scope of this article. But if you have time, you can check out this other article I wrote about the best mower height.

But if you are in a hurry, here is the short version.

Your ideal lawn mowing height depends on various factors such as: 

  • Type of grass: Different grasses have different mowing heights. For instance, you should mow cool-season grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass at 2.5-3.5 inches. 
  • Season: You should mow higher before the dry season to protect the sprouts from excessive heat and encourage root development. 

Regardless of the grass type and season, you should aim at only cutting about 1/3 of the grass blade. It is also ideal to cut the grass when it reaches between 3 to 4 inches for the best results. If you are unsure about the grass type, cut the grass at 2.5 to 3 inches. 

You should not let the grass overgrow after achieving the ideal lawn mowing height. The tall grass of four or more inches will be harder to mow.

You should ensure that you frequently cut your grass to maintain the perfect mowing height. Consequently, you can use a mulching lawnmower to mulch your lawn for better results. When the grass clippings decompose, mulching enriches your soil with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. It also helps retain soil moisture and keep your lawn healthy. 

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!

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