Bermuda Grass Mowing Height and Frequency
Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon [L.]) is popular as lawn grass for home and public lawns, athletic fields, golf courses, and other spaces. It occurs in the United States’ southern regions and transition zone (where both warm-season and cool-season grasses are adapted), and other regions including India, Australia, South America, and Africa, and grows well in almost all types of soils and is drought-resistant.
Its leaf texture ranges from very fine to coarse, and its growth habit is low and dense. Since it spreads both by above-ground stems (stolons) and below-ground stems (rhizomes), it’s very much dense and traffic-tolerant and competes well with most types of weeds, but its downside is that it’s very aggressive. Unless the gardener mows the Bermuda grass lawn regularly, it can creep into flower beds.
Bermuda grass has some specific mowing needs which the gardener should know and follow.
Published: October 21, 2022.
Does Mowing Help Bermuda Grass Grow?
Yes, mowing does help Bermuda grass grow faster laterally, resulting in a fuller/denser lawn. Moreover, a Bermuda grass turf that’s frequently mowed grows evenly and has a higher aesthetic appeal.
Recommended Mowing Height
The recommended mowing height of Bermuda grass common varieties is 1 inch and that for hybrid varieties is 1.5 inches. However, the height, as well as the frequency of mowing, may sometimes have to be adjusted according to the season and the type of Bermuda grass the gardener has grown on their lawn. This is necessary to maximize the health, density, and growth of the lawn.
Best Bermuda Grass Mowing Height
The best mowing height for Bermuda grass can be decided based on the variety the homeowner has grown on their lawn. This is because common Bermuda grass has an inch-long stem, whereas hybrid varieties are produced to have shorter lengths and low-lying crowns.
Actually, the gardener can best mow the hybrid varieties when they are around 2 inches long. That gives them a chance to mow it around 1 ½ inches and still maintain the dense, lush green foliage of their Bermuda lawn.
While the best mowing height of common Bermuda grass is thus 1 inch, it can be mowed at higher heights to save the lawn from getting most of its leaf blades cut off and having an unsightly appearance.
Experts recommend avoiding cutting more than one-third of the grass blade length of the lawn in a single mowing session.
Taller grass has a healthier root system and gets more sunlight for photosynthesis, whereas shorter grass blades cannot acquire the required energy.
Although a gardener may plan to give a buzz cut to their lawn so as to avoid mowing for a length of time, they should remember that this will adversely affect the health and vitality of their lawn.
Best Time to Mow
The best time to mow common Bermuda grass lawn is when the blades reach a height of around 3 inches.
After cutting off 1 inch (1/3rd of 3 inches), the gardener will be left with around 2 inches of healthy and dense common Bermuda grass.
Bermuda Grass Mowing Frequency
If the gardener has recently established a Bermuda grass lawn that they haven’t yet mowed, they should wait till the end of the winter to mow their lawn for the first time.
The first mowing of a newly established lawn should be done at the end of the winter: The end of winter is the period when the warm-season Bermuda grass is still in dormancy and brownish in color. This first mowing helps eliminate the unattractive grass blades that failed to withstand the cold season.
Second mowing should be done in early to mid-spring (when the lawn turns green): Second mowing should be done right when the grass starts turning green again, probably from early to mid-spring.
After these first two mowing sessions, the frequency of subsequent mowings depends on the mowing height settled upon during the second mowing.
For example, home Bermuda grass lawns should be mowed at least once a week, whereas golf greens which are generally mowed at higher heights for visual appeal need to be mowed every three days.
As a rule of thumb:
- For a 1-inch mowed height, the grass should be allowed to grow only to 1.5 inches
- For a 1.5-inch cut, the gardener should mow the lawn when it reaches a height of 2.25 inches
- For a 2-inch cut, they should mow when the grass reaches a height of 3 inches
Another factor that decides the height and frequency of mowing the Bermuda grass lawn is the season. During some seasons, the gardener has to mow more frequently, whereas in some others they may need to take conservative measures.
Spring (March to May)
Spring is typically a period of vigorous growth for Bermuda grass. Therefore, it’s recommended to mow lower than the recommended height during this period, to discard the dead leaf blades left behind from the period of winter dormancy.
- For common Bermuda, this should be between 3/2 and 5/2 inches
- For hybrid Bermuda, this should be between ½ and 3/2 inches
Summer (June to August)
Since this is the warmest season of the year, the gardener should mow their Bermuda lawn less often during these months, preferably once a week.
However, Dennis Martin, a turfgrass specialist and a member of the Bermudagrass Development Team at Oklahoma State University, says that regarding summer mowing height, mixed opinions have been expressed over the years. He further says that while increasing the height of the cut in summer does enable deeper rooting, indiscriminate increases in the mowing height can result in scalping to be unavoidable by late summer.
Scalping leads to an uneven and unsightly browning of the lawn, and the grass will need time to overcome the damage. Martin recommends increasing cutting height carefully to help the grass withstand heavy traffic and environmental stresses like extreme temperatures and low soil moisture.
Older, less thick common Bermudagrass types are less prone to scalping when their cutting height is raised during the summer. Modern, thick hybrid bermudagrasses do well if not mowed at heights more than 1.5 inches.
Scalping: Scalping is mowing the grass so low that the shoots are cut off at the growing point or crown. The taller the grass, the higher the growing point.
Fall (September to November)
The gardener should continue mowing their Bermuda grass lawn up until the end of the fall, though less often (once a month), because around this time, warm-season grasses like Bermuda stop growing.
The final mowing should be at a height that’s a bit lower than the recommended normal mowing height.
Winter (December to February)
This is typically the period of dormancy for Bermuda grass lawns. During this dormancy period, the gardener should only continue mowing if they have overseeded the lawn with other types of annual/perennial varieties.
How Tall does Bermuda Grass Grow?
If it’s not cut, Bermuda grass can attain a height between 4 and 12 inches and has pointed leaves. However, leaving the lawn uncut and grown to such heights would lead to a visually unappealing appearance; hence, low mowing is necessary.
It’s recommended that gardeners should monitor their Bermuda grass lawn and make sure that it doesn’t grow excessively tall in between consecutive mowings. A good height at which the Bermuda grass lawn should be maintained would be 2 inches.
Can Bermuda Grass be Mowed Too Short?
The gardener will want to avoid cutting their bermudagrass too short because cutting it too short will cause damage to the turf in the form of scalping and bare spots. Grass that’s cut too short will have lesser energy reserves, and thus will be more susceptible to weed invasions.
Besides, since grass that’s mowed too short is less capable of producing energy through photosynthesis, it takes up energy stored in roots. This in turn hampers root development, weakening and eventually killing the grass.
Bermuda grass grows by above-ground stolons as well as underground rhizomes. Hence, mowing too low can damage the above-ground stolons.
Is it Better to Mow the Grass Short or Long?
There are events in which gardeners may want to mow longer.
For example, if they notice that there are signs of stress in their Bermuda grass turf such as blades yellowing after mowing, it could mean that they’re mowing too low to an extent that more than one-third of the length of leaf blades is being taken off.
But otherwise, it’s better to cut the grass short rather than long, because doing so promotes lateral growth at the cost of vertical growth.
When lawn grass grows laterally wider, the lawn becomes thicker and nice-looking. Also, letting the grass grow too long can form an ideal habitat for critters and insects. A lawn that has been maintained at a proper height is typically attractive to look at and is also more resistant to weeds, pests, and diseases. However, while mowing the grass short, such as at a height that’s a bit lower than 1 inch, one should use a reel mower as it won’t scalp the lawn.
Other Factors that Determine Mowing Height
- During summer and drought conditions, the gardener should let their turfgrass grow taller.
- If the lawn is partially shaded, then they should let the grass grow taller.
- Gardeners can improve the re-growth rate of their warm-season lawn during spring (after dormancy) by mowing lower to remove dead blades of grass.
Types of Mowers
Rotary mowers come with blades that rotate rapidly around an axis and cut grass with a machete-like action.
Reel mowers on the other hand have a reel and bedknife, which pinches grass blades and cuts them in a scissor pattern. Reel mowers are perfect for low-cut lawns since they don’t scalp the lawn on uneven ground, unlike rotary-blade mowers.
Bermuda Grass Mowing Tips
- After knowing about the best mowing heights, frequency, and seasons for Bermuda grass lawn, it’s recommended to remember certain tips so that gardeners can have a denser, greener lawn.
- Irrespective of the type of mower used, it’s important to keep it in good working condition and keep its blades sharp. Otherwise, the result can be:
- Reduced plant health
- Torn or bruised leaf tips
- A dull look on the lawn resulted from frayed leaf blades
- Slow recovery
- Increased water requirement
- On the other hand, sharp blades help grass soon recover from injuries, increase photosynthesis and reduce water loss.
- The gardener should vary the mowing pattern 45-90 degrees from the previous pathway all through the growing season to reduce soil compaction, distribute wear and improve lawn appearance.
- They should make turns on drives or sidewalks or make wide turns to save turf from tearing.
- Gardeners should avoid mowing wet grass. Cutting wet grass makes it difficult to obtain a quality cut, clippings turn into clumps on the mower and turf, and disease-causing organisms are more likely to spread.
- Gardeners should make sure they mow hybrid Bermuda grass more frequently (around 3 times a week) than common Bermuda grass varieties since hybrids typically come with finer texture.
- If gardeners choose a close cut, they might want to use a reel mower, since it’s designed to cut grass blades in a vertical way, whereby it leaves behind more leaf blades to promote photosynthesis.
Moreover, these landscaping machines are also designed to help close cuts & thus enable gardeners to mow low without scalping the lawn and creating brown lawn spots, a problem quite common with traditional lawn mowers.
- If their ground is uneven, the gardener should set a higher mowing height to avoid scalping the turf unless they are planning to fix the bumpy ground by adding topsoil, dirt, or sand.
- They should keep in mind that the right way to measure mowing height is to measure the distance between the mower blade and the hard surface of the lawn.
- After mowing, it’s advisable to leave clippings behind as they decompose quickly and return several nutrients to the soil for the lawn. If gardeners remove the clippings, they should consider composting them to use back in the landscape. If trashed, clippings take up valuable space in landfills.
Bagging clippings take much longer than mowing with a mulching mower.
- Gardeners should remember that mowing low means setting a high lawn mower height whereas mowing high means setting a low lawn mower height.
Fertilizer and Other Requirements Depending on Mowing Height
For higher mowing heights, fertilizer requirements are slightly higher because of more plant material.
For lawn grasses grown under shady conditions, a slightly higher cut should be maintained so as to increase leaf area to compensate for a lower amount of light.
However, these same lawns in shade should be provided less nitrogen fertilizer since they typically have less plant material than if they were at the same height in full sunlight.
The shoot density of a Bermuda grass turf tends to reduce slightly at a higher mowing height because there are fewer lateral buds that break dormancy to form shoots and there is more plant growth that is directed upward rather than laterally.
Bermuda grass is a great lawn choice for high-traffic areas like golf courses, athletic fields, etc. as well as for home lawns because it doesn’t tear up easily and if it does, it will grow back soon if taken care of properly.
To grow a dense lawn, gardeners should make sure to mow often and at the ideal heights to induce lateral growth that can provide it support against the impact of traffic.