Mowing at the correct height is important to maintaining a healthy lawn

Healthy lawns begin with healthy mowing maintenance.   The two most important aspects of mowing are height and frequency.  In New Jersey, the preferred mowing height for most cool season grasses is 2½ to 3 inches.  Cutting height should dictate when mowing is preformed so that no more than 1/3 of the grass blade is removed.  For example, a lawn that is mowed two inches (height of cut) should be mowed when the leaf growth reaches three inches tall. (Murphy and Murphy 2009.)  If grass is mowed less than 2 inches, it will be prone to insects, weeds, and disease.

Lawn mowing ~www.dexknows.com
Mowed grass height ~ www.greengardenista.com

Lawns that recently have been fertilized may need to be mowed every 3 to 4 days in the spring.  Excessive heat, cold, drought, and limited enrichment of the land will typically slow down lawn growth.  In a healthy lawn, microorganisms and earthworms can help keep the thatch layer in balance by decomposing it and releasing the nutrients into the soil.  Consider leaving some grass clippings on the lawn.   Grass clippings will decompose much faster if they are not left in clumps.  Using a mulching mower will help chop up the clippings more finely.  Grass naturally forms a layer of dead plant material, which is commonly known as thatch.  When thatch gets too thick—deeper than ½ inch- it prevents water and nutrients from penetrating to the soil and grass roots. Despite popular belief, leaving grass clippings will not contribute to thatch build up, whereas, the overuse of fertilizer is more likely to contribute to a heavier layer of thatch.  Perhaps the best way to prevent the spread of disease is to mow the lawn when it is dry.  By keeping the mower blade sharp, grass blades will have a clean cut and reduce moisture loss and limit the spread of disease.  If a lawn is small, consider environmentally friendlier options such as an electric power or a reel-type push mower. 

Here is what municipalities can do to help homeowners learn more about lawn mowing:

  • Provide information to homeowners on turf water needs – flyers, web material, RCE Bulletin FS555, etc.

  • Provide educational programming at the local garden centers or home supply stores.

  • Provide information on your municipal website, such as link to Rutgers Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets and a link to your local county Rutgers Cooperative Extension County office.

  • Ask the local Rutgers Cooperative Extension County office to provide programming on healthy lawns.


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