Mowing your Sod
Mowing possibly has more to do with the long term survivability of your sod than any other function you will perform. Proper mowing will provide a beautiful, thick, uniform turf. Improper mowing will provide a thinning, weedy, patchy lawn.
Tall fescue sod should be maintained at a height of 2.5 to 3 inches. Usually this is the highest possible setting on most walk behind or push mowers. Blade height can be easily measured by placing the mower on a concrete surface, removing the spark plug wire, and measure from the blade tip to the floor. It may be necessary to change spacers on the blade shaft or even replace the mower wheels with larger wheels to obtain the correct mower height.
No more than 1/3 of the blade length should ever be removed at a single mowing. Thus is you are maintaining a 3 inch turf, you should mow when the blade length is no longer than 4 inches long.
It is always best to leave the clippings to naturally breakdown into nutrients and organic matter, however, if due to wet weather, the spring growth gets ahead of you, bring the growth down with multiple mowing until you can achieve the desired blade length. If excessive clippings or windrows of clippings develop, it will be necessary to vacuum or rake the clippings off the turf. Avoiding mowing when the turf is damp will also reduce the accumulation of clippings. Excessive clippings can cause smothering of the living turf and at the very least cause excessive thatch to build up which will slow water movement and may make any applications of pesticides ineffective.
Regular mowing will cause the individual turf plants to spread horizontally by a process called “tillering”. During tillering, new shoots are sprouted from the crown (just above soil level) area of the plant and these new tillers grow as new branches of the plant.
Always mow with sharp blades. If a day or two after mowing, the turf tips appear to be brown, torn, and tattered, your blades are dull. These blades should be sharpened and balanced or replaced with new blades before mowing again.
Mowing is in fact pruning each individual branch of these plants, so avoiding mowing when heat is excessive, above 90 degrees, will improve the health of the plant and the individual mowing.
Mowing should only be done with equipment which is in good repair, all safety guards are in place, and proper safety precautions are taken by the operator including wearing proper shoes and ear protection.