There are many reasons why lawns are left to become overgrown, the property may have been left vacant for a long period of time, the property may be rented and the gardens not cared about by either the owner or the tenant, a busy lifestyle may just push our lawn care routines so low to the bottom of our list of priorities that we realize one day we have a real problem with an unsightly overgrown yard that now needs to be dealt with.
No matter the reason why our turf may have become overgrown, it’s now time to deal with the problem and to bring our lawns back into full health and control once more. However, mowing an overgrown lawn can bring risk of damage to the lawn if we’re not careful in how we go about cutting back the excess growth, as mowing an overgrown lawn can actually result in severely damaging the lawn or perhaps even killing the lawn if the mowing is not done correctly.
Why Mowing An Overgrown Lawn Can Cause Damage
All growth of lawns comes from a part of the grass called a crown. It is from these crowns which spring forth new runners in warm season grasses, as well as new lawn leaf material in all grasses. If these crowns are damaged or removed during lawn mowing then it becomes impossible for new lawn growth to occur at all, which in turn can kill the grass in any affected turf areas where this occurs.
In cool season grasses, if we kill the crowns the entire affected area of turf will also die as a result. However for some warm season grasses such as Zoysia and Bermuda grasses, these lawn types also have underground runners which can repair a lawn where the above surface lawn has been killed or had its crowns removed with lawn mowing. Though it is not a guarantee that all warm season lawns will repair when they are severely damaged.
The problem we have with overgrown turf is that these crowns can raise far higher above the soil level whenever the lawn becomes overgrown. Then when we mow the overgrown lawn at our regular lawn mowing heights, we can in fact be removing the now raised crowns in the lawn mowing process, thus severely damaging or even killing the lawn in the affected area where this has occurred.
We therefore need to adjust our mowing practice whenever we are tackling an overgrown lawn to bring it back into an orderly state.
Mowing An Overgrown Lawn Safely
If we are going to begin to mow our yards more frequently from now on, then the very best solution for us in managing an overgrown grass is to slowly reduce lawn mowing heights over time. Not taking too much leaf material off in the first lawn mowing, and then perhaps slowly reducing lawn mowing heights at every third service, until slowly we get our lawns back to their optimal mowing heights.
This method is the safest of all, and while it does take some time to bring our lawns back to their best appearance, it will never risk damaging the turf. What is happening in this process is two-fold: firstly we are never removing these crowns while lawn mowing, so the grass doesn’t die off; secondly, as the turf is slowly being lowered over time, the turf will adjust itself to this new growing environment by continuously growing all its new crowns at the lower heights that we have introduced. Slowly, over time, we have safely lowered the lawn height and safely trained the lawn to grow all new crowns lower and closer to the soil level where they belong.
Mowing An Overgrown Lawn In A Single Lawn Mowing
As already discussed, this will be safer to do with a warm season lawn than with a cool season lawn, so the risk and results of this remain with the lawn owner or whomever is mowing the overgrown lawn.
If this is a single lawn mowing meant to quickly tidy up an overgrown lawn, then it would also be expected that we wouldn’t want to kill the lawn in the process. Therefore the best method of mowing an overgrown lawn which is not going to be regularly mowed thereafter would be to mow the lawn at the highest height possible which is acceptable to the lawn owner.
By mowing at this higher height we are doing our very best not to be damaging or removing too many grass crowns during the lawn mowing process, therefore this will give us our best result to maintain a lawn which remains alive and in the best possible health after this lawn mowing. While the lawn will not look at its best, it is the safest possible option for us in this situation and to ensure the ongoing survival of the lawn.
Final Notes About Mowing Long Grass
There are often hidden obstacles in long overgrown grass, this could be anything from rocks, toys, glass, tools, or any manner of things. Such objects could become dangerous if hit with lawn mower blades, creating a projectile which risks damage to people or property. Therefore all long grass areas should be carefully checked prior to any lawn mowing taking place.
Finally, whenever we remove a lot of grass leaf material with a single mowing, we are going to be cutting into the brown thatch layer of the turf, and the longer the lawn becomes, so too will the thatch layer increase in height also. Therefore we should expect a browning off on the grass wherever a lot of green leaf has been removed at once. As long as the lawn is properly watered and cared for after the lawn mowing, this thatch layer should decrease over a short period of time and new green leaf grown by the lawn.