Cutting your grass seems like routine maintenance, but your mowing habits have a big impact on the health of your grass. Although many people enjoy the manicured, polished look of low-cut grass, cutting your grass slightly higher keeps it healthier and reduces weeds and other problems.

Mowing Basics

Grasses produce energy through photosynthesis performed by the blades of grass. Cutting the blades too low decreases your lawn's rate of photosynthesis and reduces the amount of food it can produce and store. Allowing your lawn to grow higher helps it grow deeper, stronger roots, making it more tolerant of droughts, insects, diseases, traffic and other stressors. In addition, taller lawns shade the soil and root system, reducing moisture loss.

Mowing Height

The ideal mowing height depends on the type of grass, but most types of grass thrive at a height between 2 to 3 inches. No grass should be cut shorter than 2 inches. You should let your grass grow slightly higher during the heat of summer. Grass cut at a lower height requires more frequent watering and fertilizing because its roots cannot get moisture and nutrients from the soil as effectively.

Mowing Guidelines

Mowing a smaller amount frequently is better for the grass than mowing large amounts at once. Avoid cutting more than 1/3 of the blade at any time. For example, if your grass is 3 inches tall, don't cut it any lower than 2 inches. In addition, avoid mowing when the grass is wet; wet grass may clog your mower or spread disease. Also change the direction you mow to prevent grass from laying down flat or becoming scalped. And leave the grass clippings on the lawn; they return nutrients to the grass, reducing the need for fertilizer, and they won't contribute to thatch.

See that your mower has sharp blades. Dull mower blades will tear the grass rather than cut it cleanly, leaving jagged edges and causing damaged brown tips. For best results, sharpen rotary blades every fourth mowing, and examine reel mowers before mowing. Getting your mower serviced every spring also helps reduce maintenance time.