Does Mowed Grass Need Less Water?

It would seem to me, purely off the top of my head, that if you keep your grass shorter then the plant should need less water and is less likely to dry up.

Is this correct?

I would say the opposite, first the repair of the cut surface, and the ‘bleeding’. Second the less shade received for the lower portions. Also I have noticed longer grass does better during times of no rain.

**Kanicbird **is correct, in my experience. Keep the grass long (3.5-4") and it shades the roots, retaining moisture. Don’t forget that dew is moisture.

Cut it short and the dirt is exposed. It dries up and the grass dies.

No, that’s wrong, although I see how you can reason it that way. Last time I mowed my lawn the blade kept slipping down and I scalped a couple of places before I realized. Those patches now look much, much drier than the rest of the lawn, and thus need more water.

Fun fact, my dog and I used to walk by a place a couple of blocks away, quite frequently. Every time we walked by this one house was watering a couple of places on the lawn. Not the whole lawn. They never moved the two sprinklers, and they were always going. The rest of the lawn, they ignored. This went on for at least a couple of weeks during which time they soaked those two parts of the lawn. Very peculiar. If they had just seeded those two places, well, I missed that, but I don’t think I did. I think they were just too lazy to move their sprinklers. This went on, I don’t know how long, but at least a couple of weeks, possibly that whole summer.

Now different people live there, who water normally. Yet even now, five years later, those two patches are lush and thick, and the rest of their lawn is patchy and full of dandelions.

A slight aside, but this image is a striking illustration of what makes grass such a poor choice for ground cover in places that don’t get oodles of rain.

Yes: the best method (and least work) is to look at what grows “naturally”, that is, in the wild by itself. Those plants will be adapted to the normal rainfall (so watering rarely necessary) and the soil type.

If you are not allowed to let natural grass grow long because local rules require you to keep grass green and short, it’s better for the environment and saves you money and time to just hire a company which sprays green colour on your grass. Done - it looks nice, but you no longer have to water it, or cut it.

Mowed grass will take less water from the ground and transport it into the air, because there’s less of it. That doesn’t mean it needs less to stay alive though, it’s going to be a complex calculation to determine the optimal height of grass for the least water requirements. It also depends on the type of grass, some varieties will become dormant when the supply of water is low while other types will die. And then there’s the definition of ‘need’, for the grass ‘need’ means staying alive and producing seeds, for you ‘need’ might mean not turning brown. For me ‘need’ means not growing and requiring mowing so my wife doesn’t complain, so my grass needs as little water as possible without dying entirely and unable to restore itself next spring when it will be in danger of drowning because of so much water.

It’s the opposite. Every time you cut, the grass loses a lot of moisture through the cuts. The more you mow, the more you should water.

The grass has to replenish it’s water daily or it dries out. When you mow it’s only losing the moisture that’s in the cuts, and it doesn’t need that anymore. It’s grass, it grows from the bottom up, that’s why it can be mowed.

Cutting a lawn excessively short is a proven method of really screwing it up. Golf courses fertilize and irrigate heavily, so they can maintain low cutting heights with good results. For bluegrass, set the mower as high as it will go in the summer. For most push type mowers this is around 3".

In hot weather as mentioned, longer blades shade the root system. The turf will go dormant if moisture levels get too low. I happen to like this, because it means I don’t have to mow so often. So long as heavy foot traffic is kept off it will be fine and bounce back in the fall when rains return.

If you decide to water most experts advise to irrigate infrequently, but heavily. About 1", this may take several hours. If you set some shallow (tuna cans work perfect) around wait until they have at least 1" before moving the sprinkler. The idea is to avoid light, frequent waterings that encourage shallow root systems. Wait until the turf shows some signs of stress before watering. The lawn that is lush years later was able to extend deep root system, exactly what is wanted.

Very good advice! My old Japanese gardener gave me a good tip on watering. He said don't water until the grass starts to loose its luster noticeably but don't let it dry out completely and then deep soak water. This forces the route system down after the water instead of a thick matter but shallow root system right below the surface. My watering dropped to about 8 times per year in southern California.

I cringe anytime I see a neighbor scalp his yard. It’s very stressful for the grass.

I’ve always watered a couple days after mowing. My own theory is the grass needs it to recover from the mowing.

Ideally rain will be forecasted and I’ll mow the evening before. Letting nature help it recover.

A pro tip, alternate your mowing pattern each time. Go horizontal across the yard one week. Diagonal the next week. Then vertical the third time. I was quite skeptical until I tried it and saw improvement in my lawn.

If the weather is hot and there is no rain in the forecast, leave the mower in the garage.