Davis: When to stop mowing for winter

I have had several conversations with Clark County residents about when to stop mowing the lawn in the winter months.

I usually end up asking, “Are you asking yourself the right question?”

It is crucial to ask questions like why do we mow lawns in the first place? What are all of the considerations to take into account to figure if mowing is needed?

The most common reason for mowing by homeowners is to maintain the desired appearance, which is mostly important in the spring and the fall when lawn grasses are the most active.

Lawns mowed on a regular basis have a much better appearance.

In the fall, mowing helps take care of another lawn appearance issue: falling leaves.

Mulching falling leaves has many benefits for the lawn such as weed suppression and adding free nitrogen to the yard.

Mowing also minimizes issues which may arise from weeds.

Some of our lawn weeds can’t take frequent mowing or mowing them often suppresses their development and spread throughout the lawn.

Following recommended mowing practices produce denser lawns with less sunlight penetration to the soil.

Blocking sunlight also lessens the ability of weeds to compete with lawn grasses.

Perhaps one of the most important reasons to mow the lawn later in the fall is to suppress disease issues.

At this time of year, the soil typically stays damp, and the drying rate is slow.

Moisture accumulation can lead to an environment that favors the spread of some lawn diseases.

Reducing the mowing height in the fall of the year, usually in August or September, can significantly benefit the lawn by minimizing moisture buildup, which reduces favorable environmental conditions for disease development.

Maintaining the desired mowing height as long as lawn grasses continue to grow would be a good approach.

A good fall mowing height to shoot for with most cool-season lawns is two and a half to three inches.

If you are working your way down to that mowing height, make sure you do not remove any more than one-third of the current height of your lawn grasses in any given mowing session.

The problem of answering the question of how late should we keep mowing our lawns is no two years are the same. Temperature, the rate of growth, moisture, weed pressure and the amount of cover from falling leaves can vary from one year to the next.

It is probably best to mow the lawn as long as it continues to grow rapidly.

As temperatures fall, lawns begin to go dormant and growth rate decreases, it may be the best time to put the mower up for the season.

I am ready to put my mower up already. Only time will tell when we can do that.

If you have any questions about mowing your lawn or other lawn care practices, contact me at the Clark County Extension Service at 744-4682 or david.davis@uky.edu.

David Davis is a Clark County Cooperative Extension Service Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.