Cut Your Grass and Your Budget!

— Written By Laura Oliver

Image of dew on grass

Whether you addressed your lawn today or last week, the time will come again soon that you have to face this chore. However, you may not be aware that there are several simple practices that can improve the health of your lawn, make it look better, and maybe even save you money.

Mower blades should be kept sharp and balanced. Sharper blades provide cleaner cuts. The tearing created by dull blades leaves ragged edges and can cause many issues for your lawn, including bleaching and disease. These likely issues may ultimately end up hurting your bottom line as you attempt to address lawn disease. A properly sharpened and balanced mower also reduces vibration, lengthens the life of your mower, reduces fuel consumption by as much as 22 percent, and can ultimately save on your maintenance expenses.

Mowing at the proper height is also critical to the success of your lawn. The frequency of mowing should be determined by the desired grass height and by the amount of growth. Growth depends of temperature, fertility, moisture, season and the natural growth rate of the grass, and therefore can vary greatly. In most cases, grasses require weekly or biweekly mowing. Grass should be cut often enough that no more than one third of the leaf surface is removed with each mowing. During our recent wet weather you may have not been able to mow, and might be tempted to mow it all down in one pass. Another strategy to deal with this issue, and reduce the stress to your lawn, is to raise your mower height and cut off a fourth to a half of the present growth. Then, after a day or two has passed, lower your mower to the proper height and mow again until you reach your desired height.

After you mow, you are then faced with the question of dealing with the grass clippings. In most cases leaving clippings to decompose on your lawn is the best strategy for both soil fertility and your personal time! Clippings are 75-85% water, break down quickly and release valuable nutrients reducing your fertilizer needs (and costs) by 20-30 percent. Some homeowners bag lawn clippings because they are worried about the buildup of thatch, which can be harmful to the lawn. Actually, thatch is made up of roots, stems, and the lower portions of leave that are below the mower blade. Frequent mowing, mowing when grass is dry, and proper fertilization are the best ways to reduce thatch buildup in your yard. However, bagging clippings might make sense when mowing is delayed, like in cases of prolonged rainfall. If your clippings are long enough to shade or smother your grass it is time to collect them.

If you have a horticulture or livestock related question, or if you are interested in attending our Extension Summer Horticulture workshops (including Lawn Care 101) contact, Laura Oliver, Martin County Extension Director, at 789-4370 or email at

The technical information in this article was sourced from the North Carolina State University Extension Gardener Handbook (2018).