Why Cutting Grass Too Short is a HUGE Mistake (And How to Avoid It)

by Daniel Hunter

One of the quickest ways to turn a beauty of a lawn into an absolute wreck is by cutting grass too short. And I see lawn owners do it all the time.

They let their grass grow several inches tall and then mow it to the bone. Then they wonder why their lawns turn yellow, grass becomes sparse and weeds and/or moss take over.

So I’m going to explain why mowing your lawn too close is a bad idea.

Busting The ‘Myths’ Behind The Reasons For Low Mowing

cutting long grass short

There are 2 ‘myths’ behind the reasons why so many people cut their lawn too short.

Myth #1: Cutting Your Lawn Short Means You Don’t Need to Do it As Often

Let’s be honest, some people would rather stand on Lego than mow the lawn.

Does that sound like you?

Well, you might think that by giving your lawn a crew cut, you won’t have to mow as often.

And you’d be right!

But, and this is a BIG but! You only have to do this a few times and you’ll damage your lawn to such an extent it wont be a lawn for very long. You’ll have an area of weeds and moss where your lawn used to be.

All you’ll do is give yourself a sh!t load more work to do to fix it.

Myth #2: Cutting Grass Short Will Make Your Lawn Look Like a Putting Green

I mean, who wouldn’t want their front lawn to look like the 18th hole at St Andrews?

But here’s the reality.

Golf course owners spend MILLIONS every year to keep them in tip-top shape. They use specialised soils and grass types bred for close mowing. On top of that, they’re cut every day with cylinder mowers which are as expensive as some cars.

And that’s only the start.

Golf courses get aerated weekly and scarified with specialist, very expensive machinery. They’re sprayed with all kinds of fertilisers, fungides and herbicides. Stuff that home owners aren’t allowed to buy or use. They also have irrigation systems controlled by super computers.

On top of that, only the most skilled, highest qualified greenkeepers ever get the chance to do this work.

I hate to break it to you, creating a bowling green lawn takes more than low mowing. Unless you have the time, knowledge and skill to execute it, creating this type of lawn is unrealistic.

Another Reason For Cutting Grass Too Short

I have a secret to tell you…

I’ve worked on some of the UK’s finest golf courses and football grounds. Yet, I’ve done this more times than I want to admit. But another reason for scalping your lawn is by pure mistake.

Sometimes we drag our mowers out of the shed and mow the grass without checking the height setting first. Only to find out when it’s too late that it was set far too low.

What can I say, we’re all human!

Why Mowing Your Lawn So Short is The WORST Thing You Can Do

lawn damaged from low mowing

Whatever your reasons for cutting the grass so short, let me explain why it’s such a bad idea.

Then you might be more open to keeping it a little (but not much!) longer.

Grass Acts Like a Solar Factory

You know the solar panels on the roof of your house trap sunlight to power your house? Well, a grass leaf works in exactly the same way. It traps sunight to power the production of food through photosynthesis.

It also stores that food in it’s leaves to use when times get tough. Hot summer, cold winters for example.

The bigger the grass leaf, the more foor it can produce and store.

What Happens to the Grass When You Cut it Too Short

Every time you mow the lawn you take away part of the leaf. In doing that, you reduce;

  1. The amount of sunlight it can trap, and
  2. The amount of food it can produce and store

When you mow your lawn at the right height and remove no more than a third of the leaf, the grass can cope well.

But if you come along with your mower and hack your lawn to the bone, you take pretty much all its food (and water) supply. You also rob it of it’s ability to trap sunlight and produce more.

And that’s not all…

Scalping also damages the crown of the grass plant, and without the crown, it can’t grow leaves.

So you put you lawn in a position where it can’t recover. Individual plants become so weak they die and your lawn becomes patchy and sparse. You’ll see weeds and moss take over where grass used to be.

So How Do You Mow Grass Without Cutting it Too Short?

proper mowing


When learning how to mow a lawn, the two biggest rules are:

1. Never Cut More Than a Third of the Grass’ Current Length

Grass copes well with losing up to a third of its leaf. In fact, it’s a good thing as it causes the grass to release a hormone which stimulates growth.

Remove any more though and you’ll risk damaging it’s ability to produce and store food.

By cutting every few days you’ll be able to mow long grass and bring the height down in a gradual way.

2. Mow at a Sensible Height For Your Lawn

How high should you mow your lawn then?

If you and your family use the lawn, keep the grass a little longer.

The longer the leaf, the healthier the grass will be. It’ll be able to cope better with wear and tear, tolerate drought and it’ll look greener and lusher.

We’re only talking 30mm – 50mm tall, not 6 inches.

But What if You Want a Putting Green Lawn?

putting green lawn

You can have one.

Be aware though, the amount of time, effort and money you’ll need put into creating and maintaing it will be high.

Most lawns don’t contain the right types of grass so chances are, you’ll need to start from scratch.

You’ll also need to;

  • Mow every 1-2 days with a cylinder mower
  • Feed it often with a combination of specialist granular and liquid fertilisers
  • Apply wetting agents during before dry spells to prevent drought sufferage
  • Scarify 3 – 4 times a year as constant feeding causes heavy thatch buildup
  • Verticut monthly

And that’s to maintain it.

If disease creeps in, which it often can if your maintainance isn’t on point, you’ll need to fix it. This involves expensive fungides, herbicides and other cultural methods.

Key Takeaways

For most people, a lawn which looks like a professional putting green isn’t realistic. Most of us are too busy to create and maintain that kind of turf.

Thats said, if you’ve got the time, knowledge, budget and access to the the products, go for it.

For the rest of us, keep the grass a little longer a lawn between 30mm – 50mm will still look pretty epic. It’ll be greener, lusher and it’ll be a nice surface to play on.

You’ll be able to create some pretty epic lawn stripes too!

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