Masterful Mowing

April 22, 2019


April is National Lawn Care Month, and for obvious reason—for many parts of the country, it's first time that lawns need to be mowed and fertilized.

This is also a key month for the mowing of sports fields. An article on the Cornell University Sports Field Management division provides the following tips for mowing your playing field not only this month, but also throughout the spring and summer.

Proper mowing height

The proper height is determined by several factors, such as: grass species and variety, site use, level of management, desired field conditions, traffic level and other management practices. “Turf mowed below or above the recommended cutting height for an extended period of time may not be able to perform as expected or desired,” the article states.

“Turf mowed too low and scalped routinely will have a reduced root system, shallow roots and lower stored food reserves resulting in a weakened turf which is more susceptible to pest pressure and requiring more frequent irrigation and fertilization,” the article says. “You can also expect the encroachment of aggressive weeds with lower turf density.”

If you are looking to increase the density of your grass field, you should select a mowing height and mow to that height throughout the growing season. The article recommends, “If you want to change the mowing height, reduce it gradually (in ¼" – ½" increments per week or mowings) to avoid removing excessive leaf area, scalping or weakening the turf.”

Even though your grass on your field is growing at a very slow rate in the summer, the article points out that there's no need to raise the cutting height , as it won’t lead to deep root growth.

But you also need to take steps to keep grass clippings to a minimum, because excess clipping can “smother grass, cause heat stress and keep the area beneath the clippings moist, providing an ideal environment for disease organisms to flourish.”

The Cornell website provides the following tips for recommended rowing heights based on the sports that are played on the field:


Recommended mowing height

Multi-use Fields, low budget fields

2.0 - 3.0”

Football, Soccer, Lacrosse,
Baseball Outfields

1.5 – 2.5”

High Quality Soccer Fields,
Field Hockey, Baseball Infields

1.0 – 2.5”

How Often Should You Mow?

The article recommends that Kentucky bluegrass fields should be mowed at least twice a week in the spring and fall. But in the summer if your field is not irrigated, you are likely to move about once every 10 days.

“Delay mowing fields when the soil is saturated to avoid soil rutting, which will create unsafe field conditions that will impact footing and ball response,” the article says. “Also avoid mowing fields that are showing signs of drought stress.”

The article also provides tips for trouble-shooting common mowing problems.

Change Your Mowing Patterns

Mowing in different directions enhances the look of your field because its give the field more of a professional look and a nicer appearance to fans. And there's another reason for changing up the pattern with each mowing: Grass will lean or grow in the same direction it is mowed, “so changing the mowing direction each time you mow will avoid the undesirable streaking appearance. Varying the mowing pattern also helps prevent scalping high spots and wear in the wheel tracks,” the article states.

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