Mow This Way for a Healthy, Attractive, Hardworking Lawn

Turfgrass does more than lay there. It works hard to improve water, air and soil quality.

Lawns help water quality by preventing erosion, filtering runoff and helping the soil absorb water. Turf traps dust and produces oxygen. This helps air quality. Grass adds organic matter to the soil as it sheds plant parts during its lifecycle. And, adding organic matter is one of the best ways to improve soil quality.

Turfgrass also reduces air temperatures. As water is lost from the plant due to heat or its own natural processes, surrounding temperatures drop by up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes your yard a cool place to be on hot summer days and reduces home air conditioning costs.

Help your turf do all of this and more by following four simple steps to lawn mowing. Sharpen your mower blade, set it to 3 inches (or to your mower’s highest setting), take off no more than one-third of the grass blade, and leave the clippings on the lawn.

Mowing with a dull blade tears the grass instead of cutting it. This causes the plant to lose more water through its frayed ends, the frayed ends are unsightly, and it sets up your lawn for disease. So, sharpen your blades at least once per year.

Mow high to help your grass and hinder weeds.

The higher a lawn is mowed, the deeper its roots grow. Deep roots take up moisture that shallow roots cannot. This comes in handy as temperatures soar. Your lawn will handle the heat better and maybe even need less water from you.

Another benefit of longer grass blades is the plant has more leaf area to make its own food through photosynthesis.

Taller grass blades also give shade to tender grass plant crowns. This shade, while good for turf, makes it harder for weeds to sprout. And, the ones that do sprout have a difficult time competing against the healthy and strong lawn.

Taking off no more than one-third of the grass blade reduces plant stress and protects those tender crowns. The lawn is healthier and more attractive when mowed this way.

If mowing the lawn to 3 inches tall removes more than one-third of its height, mow more often. Since our cool-season turfgrasses grow faster in spring and fall, mowing frequency should increase then. In summer, turf growth will slow down a bit, and you can too.

Mowing frequently produces short grass clippings; leave them on the lawn. They will filter down into the soil and quickly decompose. This returns plant nutrients to the soil and feeds the thatch-decomposing good bacteria that live there.

Leaving clippings on the lawn helps meet your turf’s fertilizer needs. Do this and apply fertilizer in late fall. Then, you will see an early spring green up, and you may be able to skip your spring fertilizer application.

These four steps of mowing high frequently with a sharp blade and leaving the clippings will give you a healthy, attractive lawn that works hard for you and the environment too. To learn more, visit


Ashley Andrews is the horticulture communications assistant with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Horticulture questions? Contact a Master Gardener at or visit