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Timely Tip – Excessive Spring Growth & Proper Mowing

Why is my lawn growing so fast?

The month of May can be a very challenging month for the homeowner trying to properly mow a lawn that seems to be growing at an accelerating pace.  There is one word to explain the rapid growth of your lawn at this time: Reproduction.  From early May through late May/early June, the grass plants in your lawn are trying to push a seed head up above the competition.  Regular mowing prevents the appearance of seed heads, but the accelerated growth is inevitable.      

How do I manage my mowing in May?

The first rule of mowing is to remove no more than 1/3 of the grass blade per cutting.  Violating this rule puts unnecessary stress on the lawn, lowering its ability to defend itself from insects and disease, for example, at a time of the year when both problems are becoming prominent.  Proper mowing at this time of the year is understandably easier said than done.  Most of us are accustomed to a ritual of weekly mowing, and the burden of mowing every four or five days is more than many of our schedules can readily accommodate.  The good news is that the reproductive growth spurt is short-lived and may only require more frequent mowing for a period of two to three weeks.  A few extra cuttings over the month of May will certainly pay dividends in terms of a reduced incidence of stress-induced summer lawn problems. 

Should fertilization be avoided or reduced to limit excessive spring growth?

Reducing spring fertilization may seem like a logical solution to excessive growth during the month of May, but it misses the mark and is detrimental.  The lawn’s accelerated growth rate is associated with the natural reproductive cycle and will occur whether the lawn is properly fertilized or not.  The lawn’s reproductive push consumes a great deal of stored plant nutrients.  Balanced, slow-release fertilization assures that these nutrients get replaced without the plant suffering nutrient deficiencies that can invite weed, insect, and disease problems as warmer summer weather approaches.