cutting height on our lawn

Asked September 25, 2017, 1:08 PM EDT

We have been cutting our lawn at 3 inches all summer long. In the past we always cut our lawn at 2.5 inches and then lowering it down to 2 inches in the fall. Should we be lowering our lawn mower down this year? and what height would you suggest?

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

Thank you for the question. 3 inches is a good height during the growing season. Longer grass lengths encourage better root structure which makes the grass more drought resistant. I can't tell you exactly what height is best for overwintering but it makes sense to cut it back gradually like you have been doing to avoid problems in the spring. Another Expert answered this question thoroughly in the past so I will use his answer here:

Slightly lower for the last few mowings is advisable to reduce potential damage from snow mold and vole activity. Following is an excerpt from a University of Minnesota bulletin that addresses your question.

"A common question at this time of year is "Should I cut my lawn shorter the last mowing of the year?" One reason to consider somewhat shorter mowing heights in the fall is the decreased (usually) incidence of snow mold come the following spring. Longer matted grass potentially creates more favorable habitat for the snowmold fungus to live and grow over winter. We see the results of that fungal growth the next spring when, as the snow melts and retreats from the lawn surface, the lawn appears covered with grayish or pinkish colored patches indicating the presence of snowmold.

However, reducing the height of a lawn should not be something reserved for only the last mowing. For example, if the lawn has been kept at about 2.5 - 3.0 inches during the growing season and the desire is to reduce that to two inches, then begin the process of gradually lowering that mowing height two to three mowings prior to your very last cutting. That will help the grass adjust to a lower height of cut more gradually instead of being scalped just before going into colder conditions; a more stressful condition for turfgrass. If the grass is still actively growing during October, you may need to mow somewhat more frequently in order to reach and then maintain the lower mowing height. This is because shorter heights of cut require more frequent mowing to establish and maintain them."

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