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Lawn Cultuer Practices


Mowing  -

Ø      Mowing practices have more impact on weed invasion in turf than any other cultural practice.  Infrequent mowing in which turf is severely scalped causes root die back, forces re-growth  from auxillary buds which consumes stored carbohydrates, and results in thin turf that is slow to recover and to gain density.  In hot weather, turf may die on irregular patches after severe scalping.  Reduced turf density allows weed invasion due to lack of competition.  Once weeds invade, they often spread rapidly, since many (rosette types) are relatively unaffected by the infrequent scalping.


Ø      Regular mowing (i.e., approximately weekly) will allow the turf to achieve maximum density throughout the course of the year.  Under these conditions, turf will compete favorably with many  common weed species, including common dandelion.


Ø       Proper mowing height is critical to maintaining turf density.  In general, mowing below optimum height will increase invasion of weedy grasses such as annual bluegrass.  Some desirable grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, and red fescue, may not persist well with continued low mowing.  Acceptable mowing heights for the commonly used turfgrasses are listed in the table below.  Minimum height in spring and fall and maximum height in summer.


Mowing Height Ranges for Northwest Turfgrasses


Optimum height range




*Colonial bentgrass

1.2 to 2.5

.5 to 1

*Chewings fescue

2.5 to 6

1 to 2.3

*Red fescue



Hard fescue

2.5 to 6

1 to 2.3

Tall fescue

3 to 8

1.2 to 3

*Perennial ryegrass

2.5 to 6

1 to 2.3

*Kentucky bluegrass

3 to 6

1.2 to 2.3

*Okanagan  varieties.



Ø       Irrigation ranks with mowing in impact weed encroachment.  Over-irrigation is a primary reason annual bluegrass invades many lawns.  Surface wetness is conducive to seed germination and also shifts the competitive edge toward existing annual bluegrass plants.  Proper irrigation means thoroughly wetting the root zone, then allowing soil to dry until incipient wilting occurs in desirable grasses.  Thus, turf density remains high, and surface conditions are not conducive to germination of weed species.


Ø       Lack of irrigation (e.g., prolonged summer drought) causes turf grasses to go dormant and survive via crowns, rhyzomes, and stolons.  Turf density decreases, which allows weeds to compete under this drought cycle since many are exceptionally deep rooted.  Lawns allowed to go dormant every summer require more intensive efforts to control weeds chemically than lawns that are irrigated enough to ensure optimum turf density.


Dr. Eugene Hogue

Pacific Agri –Food Research Centre

Summerland, B.C. May 2002