Spring Mowing Tips – Turfgrass Science at Purdue University

Spring Mowing Tips

Last week’s warm temperatures really made the grass green-up and begin growing which means many people are starting to think about seasonal mowing.

Probably one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is not starting to mow their lawns soon enough. Remember the mowing “rule of thumb”. For optimum turf health “try not to remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade during any one single mowing”. For example, this means that for a lawn being maintained at 3 inches you should not be removing more than 1.5 inches of leaf tissue or mow when the turf reaches 4.5 inches. Not mowing soon enough or mowing in excess of 4.5 inches will violate the “1/3 rule” and result in turf stress and could affect rooting or scalp the turf.


  • Remove any lawn debris prior to mowing (twigs, sticks, leaves, children’s play equipment, etc.)

  • #1 Make sure your mower is tuned up and ready for the season: check the oil, gas, etc.

  • #2 USE SHARP BLADES!!!, dull blades = increased turf stress and poor mowing appearance


Other considerations:

  • Q. Should I return clippings or bag them?

  • A. Generally it is best to return clippings back to the lawn as they are a significant source of plant nutrients and it takes less time to mow. “If” you want to remove clippings it is appropriate as it may remove some of the unsightly dead leaf tissue but make sure you properly dispose of the clippings (e.g. compost pile, etc.)


  • Q. Is it better to mow lower than normal in the spring?

  • A. The answer is yes and no…… I does not hurt the turf to mow slightly (1/2”) lower than normal (2 ½ – 3 ½) for the first mowing or two as this may remove some of the brown dead tissue from the leaf tips. The danger would be first scalping and second if you continue this for the remainder of the season it likely will negatively affect rooting depth (deeper roots = superior drought tolerance!!!). Lastly, mowing too low could make the turf more prone to crabgrass invasion as the turf may lose shoot density and crabgrass seeds require sunlight for germination.

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