Should Lawns Be Cut Shorter In Fall?

Remember how refreshing the aroma of newly cut grass is when you mow the lawn for the first time each spring? Well, the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt probably applies to the mowing season. By fall, lawn mowing tends to lose its luster, aroma or not. What about the mowing height for fall, are you supposed to cut the lawn shorter, longer, or somewhere in between?

All research universities that study lawn grass growth recommend a summer mowing height of 3 inches. At that height, the base of the grass plants is shaded, conserving moisture and reducing weed growth.

Most researchers also recommend decreasing the mowing height slightly in the fall. The University of Minnesota says “During September maintain a mowing height of about 2½ to 3 inches and then gradually lower the height in October. Longer grass blades in September allow the plants to make more food via photosynthesis. This means the roots will extend deeper into the soil. Developing a strong root system creates a healthier plant. By late October, the height should have been reduced to about 2 to 2½ inches. Shorter grass prevents matting and the formation of snow mold the following spring.” Shorter height sometimes discourages vole activity, although not always.

vole damage on lawn

The two extremes to avoid are a very short scalping of the turf, or leaving the lawn long and floppy.

Even though late-season lawn mowing isn’t maybe as exciting as spring’s first time, the last mowing of fall is a bit bittersweet, as another growing season ends. That’s what makes yard and garden work so refreshing: it’s really not the end, it’s the pre-dawn of next spring.

Happy Gardening!