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Cheatham County Extension: Are You Killing Your Lawn?

Proper mowing height in fescue lawns is important, especially during hot summer weather (Photo: Submitted)

-Ronnie Barron, UT/TSU Extension Director

Those hot, humid, “dog days” of summer are upon us. Mowing the lawn becomes more of a daunting task than a relaxing chore. Due to fast grass growth in the summer, and just wanting to “get it done so I can get back inside,” many people tend to mow their lawns at too low of a cutting height and eventually wind up killing much of their cool season (fescue types) grasses.

If you have a fescue lawn (which is typical for most of Tennessee), paying close attention to the blade height can help you prevent plant loss especially during hot and dry times of the season. Cutting the plant too low (or “scalping”, as it is referred to by the turf industry) causes fescue to pull energy out of its root system instead of using energy produced by the leaves. Constant low cutting, without leaving any leaf tissue, weakens the plant and over time, will die out during extreme weather conditions. That is why most of our Cheatham County lawns eventually become populated by with crabgrass, wild Bermuda grass, and weeds.

For most fescue species, the lawn mower blade should be adjusted to a height of at least 3 inches and probably up to as high as 4 inches under hot and/or dry conditions. Another rule of thumb is to never remove more than 1/3 of the plant per mowing. So, if the grass gets too tall after a rainy period, simply adjust the blade to a higher cutting height and then readjust it the next time you mow.

For more detailed information on managing a fescue lawn, check out our educational publication entitled, “Lawn Care, Selecting, Establishing and Maintaining the fescues.” This publication and hundreds of others can be located on our website: From the website, click on the “Publications” link to find the document.

In addition, you may call the UT/TSU Cheatham County Extension office at 615-792-4420 and we will be glad to help you. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook at “Cheatham County – UT & TSU Extension”.

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