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Home Lawn 101 Mowing & Scalping

Mowing & Scalping

Put our experienced lawn technicians to work in your yard.

Weed control, fertilizer, tree & shrub care, lawn aeration, insect control…our team has it covered when it comes to keeping your yard healthy.

Home Lawn 101 Mowing & Scalping

Mow knowledge for a healthier lawn.

Proper mowing helps to maximize the benefits of the fertilizer we apply.

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Your Turn to Make a Difference

Mowing & Scalping

At Fairway Lawns, we proudly control your weeds, fertilize your grass, provide lawn aeration, and rid your yard of disease and bugs with our leading products applied by trained technicians. Then, we provide our customers with the expertise and knowledge to handle the next step of lawn care—mowing.

lawn mower

Mowing for healthy growing.

Mowing is one of the single most important aspects of lawn care. How you mow your lawn will greatly affect the way it looks, no matter what we do. Proper mowing will improve the quality of your lawn, increase the health of the turf and decrease weeds.

Tips for mowing:

  • Early Morning: This is perhaps the worst time to mow because morning dew will likely be covering the grass, which can not only make it hard on your mower but can also cause the grass to be cut poorly. This, in turn, can cause the grass to tear—and torn, wet grass is more susceptible to disease and fungal infections.

    Mid-Morning: This is the optimum time of day to mow your lawn. It gives your lawn the time it needs to dry and heal before nightfall.

    Midday: While it is generally safe to mow your lawn midday, it is not optimal. With it being the hottest part of the day, you could stress out the turf. As long as you aren’t cutting more than the top third of the grass, you should be safe. However, if you have fallen behind on your lawn, and need to cut more than the top third, you risk burning your lawn.

    Afternoon: This is the second best time of day to cut your lawn because there is less of a risk of burning your lawn.

    Evening: Mowing too late in the day is just as bad as mowing too early. Dew settles in at night just as it does in the morning and you risk exposing your freshly cut lawn to disease and fungal infections.

  • If you remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade, your lawn will likely look brown after mowing. Also, the grass plant will redirect energy and nutrients away from the roots in order to produce new leaves, resulting in a weaker root system. If you mow too short, the grass plant doesn’t have enough leaf tissue surface to effectively make food for itself through photosynthesis. For mowing frequency, check the mowing height chart below for your grass type and then check that mowing height on the mowing frequency chart below.

  • We’ve all done it! Just didn’t have time to mow, and now it’s REALLY high. It’s very tempting to just mow it down all at once to where it needs to be. But mowing off several inches at a time is detrimental to your lawn. Just raise your mower height to follow the ‘1/3 of the grass blade’ rule above and then lower it a little with your next mowing, until it’s back to the correct height.

  • Mowing is a lot of work during the summer, but your reward will be a nicer looking lawn! Many people have a schedule, like mowing every Saturday. Unfortunately, the best time to mow is when your lawn needs mowing! During the growing season, that could be every 3-4 days. You can get a general idea of how often you need to mow by looking at the grass chart below and finding the recommended mowing height for your grass. Then, find that height on the mowing frequency chart. Bear in mind that this is during the growing season only, and that it will vary somewhat since weather and rainfall will affect the rate of growth of your grass. When you mow often enough that you don’t have to bag clippings, you are also ‘recycling’ your fertilizer. Most of the nutrients in the grass blades are concentrated in the tips. When you leave them on the lawn, the nutrients are returned to the lawn, and it will stay greener. When you’re mowing often enough, leaving clippings on the lawn does not contribute to thatch, as previously believed.

  • Proper mowing height is essential for the health of your grass. You can’t mow fescue at 1 inch during the summer or it will die. Likewise, if you mow your hybrid Bermuda at 3.5 inches, it will quickly become straggly and unsightly and will be more susceptible to weed problems.

  • Sharp mower blades lead to a sharper-looking lawn! If you don’t keep your mower blades sharp, you will be tearing the grass, rather than cutting it. Not only will this result in a browning effect after you mow, but it also leaves the grass wide open to fungus and other diseases as well as insect invasion and water loss. Grass cut with a sharp blade will recover more quickly, have better water retention, and enjoy increased photosynthesis. Mower blades should be sharpened at least twice each season. You can tell when your blades are dull by looking at the top of the grass plant right after mowing. If it’s white and frayed then your blades are dull.

  • Tools you will need for blade sharpening include:

    • Work Gloves
    • Adjustable or Socket Wrench Clamp
    • Vise
    • Steel Wool
    • Metal File

    If your blade is in good condition but just a bit dull, you can sharpen it using a table vice and metal file. We advise taking the mower outside to remove the blade, to avoid any spills in your garage. To avoid putting the blade on upside down after sharpening it, mark the bottom side of the blade before you remove it. An upside down blade will simply lash your grass without cutting it.

    Before you perform any maintenance on your mower, be sure to disconnect the spark plug or remove the battery. It’s a good idea to clamp the blade before turning the bolt. Using the right wrench for the bolt size, remove the blade and tighten it into the vice.

    Once the blade is secure in the vice, use steel wool to remove any rust spots. Run the file along the blade’s edge, matching the original bevel, until you’ve achieved the desired sharpness. For longer use, an edge the sharpness of a table knife will cut well without requiring resharpening after every cut.

    Mower blades can become unbalanced during the blade sharpening process. When you grind more metal off one side than the other side, the blade goes off balance and one side becomes heavier than the other. When you have the edge you want, try balancing the blade from the center. If it is heavier on one side, sharpen that side to more evenly distribute the weight. Before you reattach the blade, take this opportunity to clean out and wipe down your mower’s undercarriage. Be sure not to under-tighten the bolt, as a loose blade will vibrate and may ultimately damage your mower.

  • Mowing in a different direction will reduce wear and tear on the lawn from the lawnmower wheels, reduce compaction, and eliminate visible mowing lines.

Always mow at the proper height

Mowing height

Grass species Mowing height
Common Bermuda 1.5″–2.5″
Hybrid Bermuda 0.5″–1.5″
Centipedegrass 1.5″–2.0″
Kentucky Bluegrass 2.5″–4.0″
Tall Fescue 2.5″–4.0″
St. Augustine 2.5″–4.0″
Zoysia 0.75″–2.5″

Mowing frequency

Mowing height Grass height Amount removed Mowing frequency
0.5″ .75″ 0.25″ 1.3 days
1.0″ 1.5″ 0.5″ 2.5 days
1.5″ 2.25″ 0.75″ 3.8 days
2.0″ 3.0″ 0.25″ 5.0 days
2.5″ 3.75″ 0.25″ 6.3 days
3.0″ 4.5″ 0.25″ 7.5 days
4.0″ 6″ 0.25″ 10.0 days

Lawn Scalping

beautiful lawn

Scalping delivers more sunlight.

Clearing away any winter debris and dormant, straw-colored turf through scalping exposes the soil to more sunlight and helps warm it. Scalping is also beneficial if you have an uneven lawn because the short turf makes it easier to see and fill in your yard’s problem areas.

Lawn scalping refers to cutting your grass at a low level, so low that you expose the stems of your grass blades. Bermuda grass and zoysia grass should be mowed on the shortest setting in the spring; however, St. Augustine, fescue, and centipede grass should NOT be scalped.

Tips for scalping:

  • Scalping is the removal of dormant, straw-colored turf, and it promotes earlier green-up and helps prevent thatch and weed problems throughout the summer. March 15 through April 30 is a good time to scalp your yard.

  • Depending on the height of your grass and the type of mower, you may need to mow more than once, gradually lowering the blade each time. If your lawn is uneven, you may want to raise the blades a little in the bumpy areas so you don’t gouge into the soil.

  • If you would like to read about mowing practices in more detail, click here for an excellent article available on the University of Arkansas website.