Why mow so low?

18/03/2015 2:21 PM

Why do many New Zealanders like to cut their lawn as low as possible? Is a longer lawn healthier and more attractive?

New Zealand is a wonderful country to be a pastoral farmer. We enjoy a mainly temperate climate with high average rainfall which keeps the grass growing most months of the year. This climate is also part of the reason why we have challenging lawn mowing conditions.

Other challenging factors are many lawns are made up of fast growing paddock grasses or the very tough kikuyu, in the cooler seasons mowing moist grass can be unavoidable and  many of us like to mow our lawns very low which is hard on the grass and mowing equipment.

I have often wondered why many New Zealanders like to cut their lawn as low as possible and enjoy this appearance. I think this perspective was developed by our attempts to put off the burden of mowing for as long as possible. These days mowing equipment has come a long way and it no longer needs to be a test of endurance wrestling with a steering wheel and negotiating pedals. Mowing large areas on a comfortable zero turn ride on mower like a Grasshopper is so fast and easy it doesn’t feel like a chore, in fact many people now say they love mowing and view it as good therapy.  Many of these people are starting to mow the grass higher and are enjoying the appearance and results.

Mowing low is hard on your mowing equipment and the blades need to be sharpened more often. The blades lose their sharp edge faster cutting the thicker grass stems and through scalping the ground. This is also slower, harder work for the mower, and the engine which uses more fuel, and leads to increased wear and tear on the running gear.

The Grasshopper Zero Turn mower manufacturer have published an interesting brochure on creating a beautiful lawn which highlights the benefits of a mowing your lawn higher. A summary of the key benefits are-

  • When the grass that is allowed to grow higher it develops a healthier root system which nurtures co-dependent microorganisms that work with the roots to break down the organic nutrients and exchange carbon.
  • Larger roots leads to better aeration of the soil which helps with drainage, absorption of water with and reduces run off.
  • The stronger turf canopy shades and crowds out weeds, slows water evaporation which leads to a more drought resistant moist lawn which stays green longer and encourages earthworms.
  • When mowing higher mowing can be completed faster using less fuel and with less wear and tear on the mower.


How high should I try mowing the lawn?

Raise the cutting height to a level that leaves a significant portion of the grass blade intact and then work on cutting no more than 1/3 of the foliage each time you mow. Adjust your mowing frequency throughout the year to keep the lawn at your new desired height.


Does mowing higher mean I will be mowing more often?

No, the opposite is true. Cutting the grass too short doesn’t save you time. As mentioned above when mowing higher you can mow faster because you are just cutting part of the leaf which takes less power than the thicker grass stems. Also if you follow the cut 1/3 rule (above) the higher you cut your grass the more growing time you allow before the next mowing.

Keep your blades sharp. Blunt blades tear rather than cut the grass which puts the grass under unnecessary stress and can affect the lawn appearance.

Catching or mulching the clippings are other considerations that can improve the health and appearance of your lawn. They will be examined in another article soon.

If you have any comments or questions on this article or if you would like a copy of Grasshopper Mower’s brochure “Guide For A Beautiful Lawn” email andrew@zeroturnmowers.co.nz.