When it comes to lawn care, mowing your lawn may seem like a chore, but it’s an important part of keeping your lawn healthy and weed-free. With several different grass types covering our state’s lawns, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of the ideal height for a grass lawn. But for most Connecticut lawns, we recommend maintaining a height of 3 inches or more. Read on to learn more about cutting grass in the Nutmeg State!
Lawn Care Basics: What’s the Ideal Height for a Grass Lawn in Connecticut?
Types of Grass in CT Lawns
Residential lawns in CT are home to a handful of cool-season grasses as well as a single warm-season grass. The terms don’t refer to the type of climate but rather to the time of year the grass grows fastest. Cool-season grasses grow fastest during the cooler weather of spring and fall before going dormant during the hot, dog days of summer. In contrast, warm-season grasses grow fastest during the hot summer months and don’t go dormant like cool-season grasses.
Cool-season grasses in CT lawns include Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine and tall fescues. Found in several New England states, Zoysia grass is CT’s only warm-season grass. It’s rare to find a lawn that’s home to only one kind of grass. Most lawns are seeded with several types of grass. The majority of lawns in CT are a blend of three types of cool-season grass: one-third Kentucky bluegrass, one-third fine fescue, and one-third perennial ryegrass.
Why 3 Inches?
Each of the three most common types of grass has its ideal mowing range: 4.0 inches for fine fescue, 3.5 inches for Kentucky bluegrass, and 2.5 inches for perennial ryegrass. The average of these three figures is a bit over 3 inches, but our recommended ideal mowing height of 3 inches is more than just simple math. Tall grass is better (and some would say prettier) than short.
The Benefits of Taller Grass
Most people think of a well-manicured lawn as being short and lush. However, in reality, the ideal height for grass in CT is much taller than you might think. Taller grass has several benefits that make it ideal for a CT lawn, including shading out weed seeds, keeping soil cooler, and building a strong root system that results in healthier plants overall. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits.
Taller Grass Shades Out Weed Seeds
Weeds are every homeowner’s sworn enemy. Besides stealing water and nutrients from your grass, they can be difficult to get rid of once they take root. One of the best ways to prevent weeds from taking over your lawn is to make sure they never have a chance to take root in the first place.
One of the biggest benefits of taller grass is that it “shades out” weed seeds. When weed seeds are exposed to sunlight, they germinate and start to grow. However, when they’re shaded by a canopy of taller grass, weed seeds remain dormant and don’t have a chance to grow up. As a result, you’ll have fewer weeds in your lawn overall.
Taller Grass Keeps Soil Cooler
Many people don’t know this, but letting your grass grow taller in the summer can help keep your soil cooler. It’s true! Taller grass throws shade on the ground below, which helps protect delicate plant roots from excessive heat. This is especially important in climates like CT’s, where temperatures can soar during the summer months. Keeping your soil cooler will help your plants stay healthy during these periods of extreme heat.
Taller Grass Means Longer Roots
Scientists have found a direct relationship between the height of a grass blade and the length and depth of its root structure. Taller grass means longer roots, which in turn means healthier grass. That’s because longer roots generally run deeper, making it possible to reach more water and nutrients farther down in the soil. This means that your lawn will be better able to withstand drought conditions and will be less likely to suffer from nutrient deficiencies.
The 33% Rule
Now that you’re convinced taller grass is better, it’s time for the 33% rule. Many homeowners have heard of this rule of thumb, which states that no more than 1/3 of the grass blade (or 33%) should be removed when mowing. This rule is a valuable tool for deciding when to cut your grass. For example, since our ideal grass height in CT is 3 inches, cutting down to 3 inches from 4.5 inches (or less) satisfies the 33% rule.
From a lawn care perspective, observing this rule means you’ll cut your grass every four or five days during the periods of most rapid growth in the spring and fall. However, during mid-summer, it’s best to increase the mowing height by an inch to help the lawn tolerate stress from heat and drying winds. Return to a 3-inch cut after summer ends, maintaining this height through the winter to minimize snow mold and other winter diseases.
Best Practices: Clippings
A healthy, lush lawn not only looks great but can also provide many ecological benefits. Cutting the grass to the ideal height inevitably produces clippings and when it comes to best practices, we recommend leaving grass clippings on your lawn after mowing. Decomposing grass clippings add nutrients to the soil, helping to fertilize the lawn and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers by as much as one application per year.
Furthermore, letting grass clippings decompose on the lawn enables it to better absorb carbon. Capturing and storing a greenhouse gas called carbon dioxide (CO2) is referred to by scientists as carbon sequestration. There are several ways to sequester carbon, but one of the most effective is through properly caring for your lawn and leaving grass clippings in place. By simply maintaining a healthy lawn and following best practices, homeowners in CT can help to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Mowing Equipment and Tips
When it comes to caring for your lawn, having the right mowing equipment makes all the difference. Check that your mower is in good working condition and make sure you have a sharp mower blade along with a spare. Mowing with a dull or damaged blade can tear the grass instead of cutting it cleanly, leading to a weakened root system and increased vulnerability to disease.
It’s also important to change the direction of mowing frequently. By doing this, you’ll be able to encourage vertical shoot growth. If you want to reduce wear and tear on your lawn mower blades, try alternating between different mowing patterns by cutting at right angles or in a crisscross pattern. After you mow for the first or the last time of the season, use a bagging attachment to pick up any loose debris.
At 3 inches or more, the ideal height for a grass lawn in Connecticut may be higher than most people think. Maintaining a beautiful lawn by yourself can be a tall order, too. If you’re having trouble finding the time or don’t feel confident in your lawn-care skills, consider hiring a professional landscaping service. We’ve been successfully pre-screening and vetting local landscaping professionals in CT for years. Contact Landscaper Locator today to find the professional you need!