Heading out to the lawn, hopping on my mower, and getting lost in the joy of trimming turf is a weekend pleasure of mine. Whenever my lawn goes dormant in the winter, I count the days until I can start getting my yard ready and prepare for mowing, my all-time favorite pastime. I love my lawn mower so much that I planted a type of grass that greens up fast in the spring and grows hard through to late fall.
But I didn’t always have this healthy lawn, it took lots of grass seed, adequate water, mulching with grass clippings, and constant attention with a quality lawn mower to achieve my lush lawn. Even though I was afraid to constantly cut a sparse, thin lawn like the one I inherited, I had heard that frequent mowing with sharp mower blades, never dull blades, would do the most to thicken my grass.
Keeping a lawn healthy with thick grass may only be possible with controlled grass height and constant mowing; let’s investigate how that could work.
Does Mowing Often Make Grass Thick?
For pretty much any type of grass that is not being used as landscape erosion control or weed impression can benefit from frequent mowing. Tall cool-season grasses and low-growing warm-season grasses may not need to be mowed often to stay healthy but will grow thicker if even just the tippy-top is trimmed. Cutting the top off encourages the turf to spread horizontally, reduces the lateral growth rate, and strengthens the grass roots deep in the soil.
Then there are the turfs that grow fast and need almost an inch cut off every week. To avoid shocking grass and stunting growth, mow only 1/3 of the blade length at a time. For very fast-growing grasses in perfect weather conditions, this could mean mowing every three days to once a week during the active growth season.
Plenty of nutrients, such as fertilizer, and water, need to be added to the soil to sustain this thicker grass growth, but the result is almost always a healthier lawn.
The tips of grass blades have hormones that encourage vertical growth, and cutting regularly reduces these chemicals allowing grass to grow thicker and stronger. If you focus on root and shoot growth instead of height, you can achieve green grass and suppress weed growth naturally.
Extra care can be taken to grow thicker grass especially when the drying of lawn edges occurs. Reducing lawn height without scalping the grass or accidentally cutting the blade’s crown can help an average lawn stand out. For an extra lawn booster without needing to swap out your current mower, mow in different directions, which encourages blades to stand up straight instead of leaning away from the cut zones.
If you do this consistently during your lawn mowing routine, you will create more space between grass and allow new shoots and seeds to sprout easily.
Ways to Thicken Turf
The most crucial step to keeping your lawn healthy and alive is to never scalp the grass while mowing. After the excess moisture of winter has caused the grass to grow, some homeowners may be tempted to trim off all that spring growth with a single mowing. Cutting more than 1/3 of the total length of a grass blade can severely stunt your grass’s growth and stress out individual plants.
Depending on your grass type, it may not survive.
Instead, mow the lawn height down slowly over a few weeks, irrigate properly in the early morning and adjust watering when it is raining frequently to avoid overwatering. With these basic lawn mowing tips, you can get a green lawn early in the season and keep it thick all summer long. More tips are below:
|Check Soil and Roots||Dig up a tiny section in a few areas to make sure the soil is healthy, and the roots are thick and white||You will get a great idea of the condition of your turf and soil if you dig up and check it at least once a year|
|Remove Weeds||While preparing to thicken your turf, you will want to manually remove as many weeds as possible and treat any that spread via rhizome with a selective herbicide||Eliminating weeds is a crucial part of lawn care as living weeds steal nutrients and weeds dying, leave bare spots that invite moisture loss, erosion, and pest damage|
|Add Fertilizer||In spring and fall or whenever your turf and climate call for it, apply a slow-release organic fertilizer to your lawn or topdress with compost||Replenishes natural nutrients grass needs without adding salt or other chemicals that may weaken some turf and encourage weed, fungus, or pest development|
|Irrigate||Sprinkler and underground irrigation systems work best to completely evenly water a lawn and reduce evaporation||The correct amount of water will thicken your lawn, whereas not enough or too much will greatly thin it out adjust your irrigation each season and set it to automatically adjust to rainfall|
|Overseed||Throw seed in bare spots or where there is discoloration to promote new grass growth and suppress weed growth and erosion||Seeds will sprout when the correct conditions are met and fill in any gaps when root division and stolen propagation are not possible or too slow|
|Plugs and Sod||Remove dead grass and replace it with healthy sod or plugs after proper soil remediation is completed||Quickly turn sparse dead grass into lush green turf that can save time and frustration when compared to growing from seed|
It can take 3 to 4 months for the grass to thicken after starting a care routine, but it immediately prevents common lawn diseases and weeds by giving you a healthier base. If you start mowing frequently, you will see more of the issues in the yard sooner and avoid larger problems later. If lawn aeration isn’t enough to promote lawn thickening add sand or fine compost as a top dressing to reduce compaction and improve water absorption and drainage.
For the first mow of the season, set the mower deck to the highest setting and remove just the tips of the grass so as to not shock the newly growing blades. Some common lawn mistakes can be avoided by only mowing when it’s dry, as wet grass will not cut evenly, and damp soil compacts easier.
Mowing slowly also results in better cuts. If you never change your mowing direction, you could create ruts and compaction across the lawn, so mix it up and reverse mowing patterns from time to time.
Why Do I Need Thick Turf?
Thick turf is important for lawn health and looks much better than a thin sparse lawn. It can take time and effort to achieve turf growth that really fills the lawn, but once it is done, the benefits are instantly apparent. Thick turf can also prevent erosion and helps hold more water in your soil.
More water stored underground means less water needed from irrigation systems saving you money and allowing your systems to last longer. Thick turf has far fewer pests and weeds and can heal after heavy traffic better than thinning turf.
Does Not Cutting Grass Make Thick Turf?
Letting grass grow makes it taller, not thicker, which doesn’t really benefit anyone. Although grass blades will eventually fall over and give the appearance of a full lawn, it is an illusion and can create conditions where pests, fungi, and weeds can flourish.
While there are very low-maintenance grasses, to get a thick turf, you will need to mow, as letting grass go is not a solution. If you do let the grass grow too tall, you will have to mow the grass down slowly when you are ready to cut. If you cut more than 1/3 at a time, it will shock the turf and lead to brown spots or even dead areas.
You will need to mow frequently to clip the grass down to a reasonable height and that means a lot of clippings to handle before either summer or winter dormancy.
Should Lawn Grass Be Allowed to Seed?
Letting grass go to seed to try and create a thick lawn is not really effective. While some annuals will gladly put up seed in the fall and usher in a new generation of naturally occurring seeds may not have the same high germination rates and, in some cases, will not germinate at all due to genetic modifications.
For these reasons, it is better to resow in the spring properly with bought grass seed or seed collected specifically for planting. You can save time and money by letting fields and pastures go to seed with native annuals and beneficial plant species, but that method is not useful in manicured lawns and home turf setups.
Frequent mowing will result in a thicker lawn making reseeding annually less and less crucial for the greenest healthiest turf imaginable.