Mowing and Watering Tips to Avoid a Brown Lawn

bad mowing brown lawn

Spring-Green often gets asked, “why is my lawn turning brown?” or “why do I have a brown lawn and my neighbors don’t?”Often people think that the reason their lawn is brown is due to insect or disease activity. In most cases, the damage is usually the result of improper mowing and watering. Learn these mowing and watering tips to help avoid a brown lawn, and ensure a healthier and greener one.

Mowing Tips To Avoid a Brown Lawn

The number one reason for most lawn damage and having a brown lawn is improper mowing. Here are the proper mowing heights for the most common grasses found in home lawn areas:

  • Bermuda Grass 1/2 to 1-1/2”
  • Zoysia Grass 3/4 to 1-1/2”
  • Centipede Grass 1-1/2 to 2”
  • St Augustine Grass 3-1/2 to 4”
  • Tall Fescue Grass 3 to 4”
  • Kentucky Bluegrass 2 to 3”
  • Perennial Ryegrass 2 to 3”
  • Fine Fescue 2-1⁄2 to 3-1⁄2”

There is a rule in regards to how much to cut off each time a lawn is mowed and it is called the “one-third” rule. The goal is to mow so that no more than 1/3 of the grass blade is removed at any one time.  That is not always practical, especially when it seems to rain every weekend, which is the only time most people mow their lawns. If the lawn mower is set at the proper height, even if more than a third of the grass blade is removed, the grass will still look like a green and healthy lawn after mowing.

It is important to understand why mowing at a higher setting is important to the overall health of your lawn.

4 tips why the lawn should be cut at a longer length:

  1. The grass blade is where photosynthesis takes place. That is how the plant produces food.  When too much of the grass blade is cut off, less food will be produced by the plant.
  2. The longer grass blades will shade the ground underneath, keeping it cooler and, therefore, moister for a longer period of time, so watering requirements are reduced.
  3. By shading the ground, less sun is able to reach weed seeds that are always present in the lawn and prevent them from germinating. Mowing tall is one of the best ways to control weeds.
  4. It is a natural balance of nature that the roots will match the height of the grass plants. Short mowing will result in short roots.

How Much Should I Water My Lawn?

Watering is the second most misunderstood cultural practice. Homeowners either water too much or too little. As a general rule, a lawn needs about 1 inch of water per week to stay green and healthy.  Automatic sprinkler systems in the spring and summer make watering great, but watering too much can lead to turfgrass that is more water dependent than it needs to be. Too much water also saturates the soil, filling up the air space between the soil particles with water, causing the plant to drown. Watering less and letting the turf dry out between watering will develop deeper roots that need less water.

Turfgrass is a remarkable plant and can recover even after some extremely dry weather or drought. For the most part, cool-season grasses can go about 4 weeks without water. Warm season grasses can last much longer with little to no water and, in some cases, will survive through the entire growing season. There is no mistaking that lawns will go dormant and and cause a brown lawn. This is the plant’s defense mechanism – to shut off all unnecessary growth in an attempt to keep the crown and roots alive. At a minimum, supply about one-half an inch of water to the lawn each month to protect the crown and roots.

Before thinking you have a brown lawn due to an insect or disease problem, determine if you are mowing and watering the proper way. Contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green to have your entire lawn evaluated today.


A Brown Lawn Is Not Always a Bad Thing

One of our Field Service Professionals, Brandon Ward, from the Opelika, AL area likes to send me pictures of great lawns and landscapes as well as those that could afford some improvements.  He recently sent me an e-mail with a picture attached and wrote, “I call this a pre-emergent success. It’s one of the biggest residential properties we have, and it is spotless at the moment.”

I was at a loss for why he would consider this lawn a success since the entire thing was brown.  Then I remembered that he was talking about a warm-season turf grass lawn in January, and that this location in the US should still be dormant.

The reason he is so proud of the lawn is that it does not have any winter weeds, which would be green and very noticeable, detracting from the overall consistency of the lawn.  The turf variety in this lawn is Zoysia and it will probably begin coming out of dormancy in the next couple of weeks. The best part is that the turf will not have any competition from weeds as it starts greening up.

good/bad lawn

This does not mean that weeds cannot grow in this lawn. Weeds are opportunistic and will germinate wherever they can. Generally in a lawn as nice as this, the only place that weeds will most likely germinate is along the edges, next to driveways, sidewalks and landscape beds. There is less competition from the densely growing zoysia at those edges then in the middle of the lawn.

If you live in the north and have cool-season grasses growing in your lawn, then the best time to apply a pre-emergent barrier for crabgrass and many other annual weeds is in early spring to early summer, depending on the soil temperature.

In southern areas crabgrass has already begun to germinate at this time of year, so applying a pre-emergent barrier has to be completed in the late fall and winter. Winter annual weeds, or weeds that germinate in the cooler weather and die when it gets hot, are also active at this time of year.

The grass may not be growing, but there are plenty of other plants, especially the unwanted weeds, that are taking advantage of the weather and looking for a place to grow.

I hope you understand why Brandon is so proud of this lawn.  I am sure that as the weather warms up and the grass starts to green up, this lawn will be one of his best lawns.  Good job, Brandon.

Are you unsure about the condition of your lawn? Let us know by either commenting below or asking your local Spring-Green.

Take Back Your Lawn! How to Control Fall Armyworms

Where did my nice, green lawn go?

Reports are coming in throughout the southern portion of the US, from St. Louis, MO to Charlotte, NC to Baton Rouge, LA to Augusta, GA of green lawns that seem to go from green to brown in as little as three days. The culprit – Fall Armyworm. Continue reading to learn how to control Fall Armyworms and take back your lawn.

What are Fall Armyworms?

Fall Armyworms do not live through the winter in most parts of the US, but the adult females migrate north from the Gulf Coast areas, and they can even come all the way from Central to South America. They don’t fly as much as ride the prevailing winds that push them northwards. It takes a while for them to make their way to the northern part of their region, which generally ranges to the southern half of lower Midwest states like Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and Ohio. They can have up to four generations a year, but the largest populations seem to show up in the late summer into the fall.

Female Fall Armyworms can lay up to 1,000 eggs, usually in masses of about 50 eggs. They will lay eggs on many different structures including trees, houses and even light poles. Within two weeks after being laid, the larvae will drop to the lawn and begin feeding. They feed for about two to three weeks before pupating. After another two weeks, a whole new brood of Fall Armyworm adults emerge and start the whole process again.

Fall Armyworms feed on a range of plants, but they prefer turf, especially Bermudagrass, Fescues, Ryegrass, Bentgrass and Bluegrass. With all the rain that has fallen this year, most lawns are covered with lush green grass that has resulted in large populations moving across lawns in a mass, devouring what seems to be every blade of grass in a lawn.

Fortunately, they only feed on the upper portion of the grass plant, so many times the plant will recover on its own.

What is the best way to control Fall Armyworms?

The larvae can be controlled with an insect control application. An application of fertilizer will help the turf recover faster as long as there is adequate moisture to activate the fertilizer.
Your brown lawn may look bad for a couple of weeks, but in most cases the turf will recover. There is a good chance that some areas may see two generations this fall, so keep an eye out for the voracious feeders. They do have one interesting habit, though. They like to crawl up on the grass blades during the day, looking like they are enjoying a little sunshine and maybe working on their tan. This habit should make it easier to spot them as the year progresses.

Want to learn more about Fall Armyworms? Get more information on their habits, prevention methods and more at Be sure to check out some of the lawn care services we offer, too!