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What’s going on at the Extension?

May 9, 2014
by Britney Rosburg - ISU Extension Program Educator , Estherville News

The grass has turned green and it is time to get the lawn mowers ready to go. Proper mowing practices play a vital role in helping to maintain a healthy, sustainable home lawn. Here are some tips to help you maintain a beautiful looking lawn:

Kentucky bluegrass lawns should be mowed at the height of 2.5 to 3 inches in spring and fall. Set the mower blade to a height of 3 to 3.5 inches during summer. As a general rule, never remove more than one-third of the total leaf surface at any one mowing. For example, to maintain a lawn at 3 inches, the grass should be mowed when it reaches a height of 4.5 inches.

Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season grasses grow quickly in spring when weather conditions are favorable. The growth of cool-season grasses slows in summer and then picks up again in fall. Fertilizing and irrigating the lawn on a regular basis promote turfgrass growth. In spring it may be necessary to mow every four to five days, possibly only once every one to two weeks in summer, with more frequent mowing again in the fall.

When the lawn is mowed properly, grass clippings do not need to be removed or bagged. Small clippings filter down into the turf and quickly decompose, returning essential plant nutrients to the soil. Lawn clippings do not significantly contribute to thatch development. Grass clippings may need to be bagged or raked and removed when mowing extremely tall grass. Bagged grass clippings can be used as a mulch in vegetable and flower gardens.

Additional good mowing practices include mowing the lawn when the grass is dry. Wet grass is more difficult to cut and occasionally clogs rotary mowers. It's also safer to mow the lawn when the grass is dry, as there is less risk of slipping and being injured by the mower.

Be sure to sharpen the mower blade each spring. Thereafter, periodically inspect the blade and sharpen as needed. A dull blade tears the ends of the grass blades. The damaged tissue dries out, giving the turf a whitish appearance. Also, the torn leaf tissues loses greater amounts of water and increases the possibility of disease problems.

You will also want to alternate your mowing pattern or direction each time the lawn is mowed. Repeatedly mowing the lawn in the same direction pushes the grass over rather than cutting it clean. Different mowing patterns reduce soil compaction and wear from the mower wheels. Establish several mowing patterns that result in as few turns as possible. Less turning reduces mowing time and damage to the turf from the turning mower wheels.

As a reminder to all 4-H families, animals that might be exhibited at the Emmet County Fair, Clay County Fair, or Iowa State Fair, must be owned and identified by the 4-H'er at by May 15. Be sure to ID early so any questions or problems can be taken care of before the deadline. If you have any questions contact the Extension Office prior to May 15 by calling 362-3434 or email

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