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How Does Grass Respond to Mowing?

Although grasses are better equipped than other species to deal with cutting, even grasses have difficulty tolerating mowing. Mowing removes plant tissue that would otherwise perform photosynthesis and provide energy for the grass. Bottom line: mowing is always a stress on your grass.

The shorter you cut your grass, the greater will be the stress on your lawn. Turfgrass has the ability to increase its density below mowing height when cut. However, lower shoot densities result in shorter root depth. In other words, the shorter you cut your grass, the shorter its roots will grow. Shorter roots provide less moisture and lower nutrient absorption. “As a rule, not more than 33 to 40% of the aboveground tissue should be removed in a single mowing” (Christians, Nick, Fundamentals of Turfgrass Management: Ann Arbor Press, Chelsea, Michigan: 1998, page 148). In addition, grass should be cut at an even higher setting during periods of stress (high temperatures, frequent compression, etc.).

For more information on particular turf species and cutting recommendations, see Fundamentals of Turfgrass Management, by Nick Christians: Ann Arbor Press, Chelsea, Michigan: 1998, (chapter 8, in particular).
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