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Mowing Dormant Grass: How to Do It Right. With Helpful Tips

Are you unsure how to care for your lawn when it’s not growing? Lawn care can be complex, but we’re here to simplify it. Our years of experience and understanding of the intricacies of dormant grass will ensure your lawn remains lush and beautiful all year round.

Mowing Dormant Grass: How to do it right

Mow grass to the recommended height before dormancy. Avoid mowing dormant grass. Never cut more than 1/3 of the blade height if mowing is necessary. Use sharp mower blades. After dormancy lifts, trim to remove dead material. Proper mowing helps grass survive.

Do you want to ensure your lawn’s survival during its dormant phase? We have the answers. Learn the do’s and don’ts of mowing static grass from our years of experience. Keep reading to discover how proper mowing can help your grass survive.

Dormancy during summer

Grass becomes dormant in summer in response to the stress caused by intense heat and drought, which can burn the grass. While grass can survive for three to four weeks without dying in a dormant state, it may kill grass over time if the drought or heat is intense enough.

Dormancy during winter

Grass goes dormant during winter, turning brown to conserve water and nutrients to sustain itself.

Mowing during summer and winter dormancy

Maintaining a good grass height during summer is essential to protect the roots from the harsh heat. Longer grass also helps to reduce water loss and prevent weed invasion.

Fall and winter months can make taller grass matted and diseased; therefore, mid-length grass is preferable during these seasons.

It’s essential to avoid overcutting the grass as growth is minimal during these seasons and can expose the roots to damagingly cold temperatures. You should maintain a good grass length without overcutting it to prevent serious harm.

Timing is everything when it comes to mowing dormant grass. The best time is when the weather conditions have improved, and the grass starts to grow again. This is a lesson I’ve learned from two decades of experience in lawn care.

• Understanding the Importance of Mowing Before Dormancy

It’s always advisable to mow the lawn before the dormant period begins. This encourages the growth of roots after the fixed period ends and protects your lawn from getting damaged by fungi or bacterial growth.

However, if you haven’t mowed the lawn before the start of the dormant period and your grass is too tall, following the one-third rule, you can still mow your lawn to neaten its appearance. The one-third rule demonstrates that you should never cut more than one-third of the blades’ height because doing so can be harmful.

Effects of mowing the grass short during dormancy

If mowed too often, a dormant lawn becomes more vulnerable to weather stress, weeds, and diseases.

The growth of the roots is also inhibited; consequently, mowing the grass too short leaves fewer blades available for photosynthesis, which damages the growth process and weakens the roots, making them less able to endure drought.

Short grass requires protection from pests, weeds, disease, and drastic weather conditions, such as during the summer, when the turf is exposed to direct sun, which causes it to dry quickly.

Dormancy and different types of grasses

Before discussing the ideal mowing heights during dormancy, let’s look at when different types of grass go dormant. Each grass type has specific characteristics for surviving through different seasons.

Therefore, it’s crucial to identify the grass type in your lawn to ensure you can adequately revive it from dormancy. Suppose you live in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, or Northeast regions of the U.S.

In that case, your grass falls into the cold-season category, including Tall Fescue, Fine Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, or Perennial Ryegrass. As the name suggests, cold-season grasses are suited to cooler climates and continue to grow throughout the cold seasons.

Cold-Season Grasses: An Overview

Cold-season grasses, however, require extra care, including frequent watering, to survive the hot seasons. These grasses also tend to go dormant in both summer and winter.

For example, Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescue go dormant for a short period during both seasons, and they require final mowing in May and December. Suppose you live in the Southern or Southwestern areas of the U.S.

Warm-Season Grasses: An Overview

In that case, your grass belongs to the category of warm-season grasses, which include Bahia, Bermuda grass, Centipede, Zoysia, and St. Augustine. Warm-season grasses go dormant during winter and experience little or almost no growth during these months.

These grasses require less maintenance, watering, and zero mowing during this period. For example, Bermuda and Buffalo grass grow during summer and enter dormancy in late fall, requiring final mowing in October.

The ideal height for mowing dormant grass is no shorter than 2.5 to 3 inches. This varies depending on the type of grass, but it’s a general rule that I’ve found effective in my 20 years of experience.

Mowing heights and dormant grass

Proper mowing height promotes profound root growth and increases the density of the grass, which helps the turf fight against environmental stresses, such as weeds and diseases.

When the dormant season is approaching, you should give your lawn a final mow and allow it to grow to the recommended height. Always bag the clippings and rake extra leaves from the yard before it enters the dormant state.

Taller grass has deeper roots and a more extensive root system, allowing it to withstand weather stress during dormancy. Once dormancy starts, try to avoid mowing your lawn, as its growth has nearly stopped, and it’s already under a lot of weather stress.

• The Importance of Proper Mowing Height

Mowing can damage the roots, the grass’s only hope for revival post dormancy. Mowing the lawn at the proper height is vital for its health.

The ideal height for mowing varies based on grass type, weather, and growing conditions. Determining the perfect height and allowing it to grow one-third higher is essential. You can set the mower height on a flat surface and measure the ground’s distance to the blade.

The following chart shows suitable mowing heights for different grass types and at what height you should mow it.

Grass Type
Recommended Mowing Height (inches)
Mow When Grass Reaches This height (inches)
11/2 – 2
Bermuda grass
1-1 1/2
11/2 – 2
St. Augustine
2 1/2-3
3 3/4-4 1/2
1 1/2-2
Kentucky Bluegrass
2-2 1/2
3-3 3/4
Tall Fescue
3-4 3/4
Fine Fescue
2-2 1/2
3-3 3/4
Buffalo grass
1 ½-3
Colonial Bentgrass
½ -1
¾ – 1 ½
½ – ¾
¾ – 1 ¼
Kikuyu grass
1-1 ½
1 ½  – 2 ¼
Perennial Ryegrass
1 ½ – 2 ½
2 ¼ – 3 ¾

– Recommended Mowing Heights for Different Grass Types

Warm-season grasses, such as Zoysia, Bermuda grass, and St. Augustine, grow the most during summer. Mowing heights can vary within the sub-categories of the same grass. For example, Zenith Zoysia grows better when cut to 1.5 inches, while the ideal height for Empire Zoysia is 0.75 to 3 inches.

Cool-season grasses such as Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescues grow better in spring and fall and must generally be cut from 1 to 4 inches.

If you follow the recommended heights for your grass shown in the above table, your lawn will likely survive dormancy and thrive again when the growing season starts.

Mowing after dormancy

After dormancy, your lawn will begin to revive, encouraging green growth. Having survived weather stress, grassroots will start to grow and gather essential nutrients, so frequent watering is necessary for grass to grow healthy in the growing season.

When the grass is completely recovered from dormancy and looks healthy and green, you can mow the lawn to a suitable height.

The 1/3rd rule

As a rule of thumb, never remove more than one-third of the grass blade in a single mow, as this reduces the carbohydrates necessary for healthy growth. In other words, allow the grass to grow one-third higher than your ideal height before mowing it.

Mowing more than one-third of the leaf tissue during dormancy may cause scalping, and the grass will not be able to recover from its dormant condition.

Mower’s blades and dormant grass

It’s also important to check your mower blades before mowing your dormant lawn. It’s often said that dull blades are the worst thing to which you can subject your lawn. Worn blades could result in rough and ripped grass that looks uneven.

When the dormant grass is cut with dull blades, its sick leaves are vulnerable to diseases, and as its growth is already inhibited, the leaves cannot regenerate faster. To avoid ruining your lawn, inspect your mowing blades; if there are chips and gaps between them, it’s probably time for a new one.

Lawn Care: Essential tips for mowing dormant grass

  • Suitable height: Mow the grass to an appropriate height beforehand to prepare it for the fixed period.
  • Avoid mowing when dormant: Avoid mowing the grass unnecessarily during the fixed period.
  • Lower height after: After dormancy, cut the grass to a lower cutting range to remove dead, dormant blades.
  • Drought: During drought summer conditions, reduce the stress on your lawn by allowing the grass to grow to the upper cutting range.
  • Snow mold: To prevent snow mold, mow the cold-season grasses shorter for the final fall mowing.
  • Change pattern: Change your lawn mowing pattern every time you mow your lawn.
  • Sharp blades: Use sharp blades while mowing the dormant lawn.
  • Mow when dry: Always mow the lawn when the grass is dry.

Over the years, people make common mistakes when mowing dormant grass, such as mowing too short or too frequently. These mistakes can stress the grass and promote weed growth.


Dormancy is a natural process that can’t be avoided. The best practice is to prepare your lawn for the dormant period to have the most substantial chance of survival. During dormancy, grass growth is minimal, so mowing during this time is damaging.

Instead, preparing beforehand is essential. The trick is to mow the lawn before the start of the dormant period to a height of 1.5 inches and avoid mowing once the dormancy strikes. This will help the grass survive the stressful period and allow the leaves to grow after the dormant period.

However, if you must mow your lawn during dormancy because it looks rough, always keep the one-third rule in mind. Healthy lawns cut at a suitable height can better withstand dry summer weather.

• The Impact of a Single Moisture Application

During the summer months, it’s essential to water the lawn adequately. A single application of moisture can help the grass green up. When watering the lawn, do it midday to maximize absorption and minimize evaporation.

Aim for 1.5 inches of water in each watering session to ensure the foliage gets enough hydration. If your lawn starts to look brown and dry during the dormant period, it may be due to insufficient watering.

– Maintaining a Green, Healthy Lawn Year-Round

In such cases, lawns mowed at a suitable height can better withstand the stress. But remember, even if you need to trim, the grass should be cut at a height that leaves enough leaf area for photosynthesis.

This is especially important for cool-season turfgrasses, which can struggle in hot, dry conditions. Remember, the goal is to maintain a green, healthy lawn throughout the year, even during the dormant period.

So, prepare your lawn well before the onset of dormancy, and it will thank you with lush, green growth when the dormant period is over.

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  1. Duane Fleming says:

    Should I change my mowing pattern when mowing dormant grass?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Changing your mowing pattern isn’t necessary for dormant grass. It’s best to mow before dormancy begins and avoid mowing during the dormant period to protect your lawn’s health.

  2. Flenn Jensen says:

    Can grass survive dormancy without being mowed?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Yes, grass can survive dormancy without being mowed. Follow our guidelines for proper mowing before and after dormancy to ensure your lawn remains healthy.

  3. Misty Henderson says:

    How can I ensure my lawn is properly hydrated during dormancy?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Proper mowing height is key for hydrated dormant grass. Ensure you mow to the right height before dormancy. Avoid mowing during dormancy to keep your lawn healthy.

  4. Zoe Carroll says:

    Can dormant grass recover from being cut too short?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Proper mowing before dormancy is essential. Avoid cutting dormant grass too short, and mow to recommended heights after dormancy. Keep your lawn healthy year-round.

  5. Leslie Horton says:

    Is it okay to mow my lawn during its dormant period? I’m worried about damaging it.

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Leslie, mowing dormant grass can stress it more. Avoid mowing during this time, and when you do, never remove more than one-third of the height. Protect your lawn for a healthy revival.

  6. Brittany Hawkins says:

    How often should dormant grass be mowed?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Brittany, mow dormant grass to the recommended height before dormancy. Avoid cutting dormant grass; if needed, never remove more than 1/3 of the blade height. Use sharp mower blades.

  7. Marc Barnett says:

    What happens if I don’t mow my lawn before dormancy sets in?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Mowing before dormancy is crucial to protect your grass. Avoid mowing during dormancy to prevent damage. Following the one-third rule, mow only if necessary to keep your lawn healthy.

  8. Elizabeth Chapman says:

    How can I prevent snow mold on my dormant grass?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      To prevent snow mold on dormant grass, mow to the correct height before dormancy and keep sharp mower blades. Avoid mowing dormant grass if possible to ensure lush growth after dormancy.

  9. Marian Lynch says:

    How does mowing height affect the health of dormant grass?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Mowing dormant grass ensures healthier roots and grass density. Avoid mowing during dormancy to protect roots from stress. Stick to recommended mowing heights for optimal grass maintenance.

  10. Avery Peters says:

    Are there specific types of grass that are more vulnerable during dormancy?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Different types of grass have varying vulnerability levels during dormancy. It’s important to know your grass type to ensure proper care and maintenance. Contact us for more personalized advice on your specific grass needs.

  11. Kevin Lucas says:

    Is it okay to mow my lawn during its dormant period? I’m worried about damaging it.

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      It’s best to avoid mowing dormant grass to prevent damage. If necessary, follow the one-third rule and use sharp mower blades. Proper mowing ensures your lawn remains lush and healthy.

  12. Maurice Ellis says:

    What are the signs that dormant grass needs to be mowed?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Maurice, mow your grass to the recommended height before dormancy starts to help it survive. Avoid mowing dormant grass, but if needed, follow the one-third rule. Proper mowing is key.

  13. Harry Jones says:

    How do I know if my grass is ready to be mowed after dormancy?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Hi Harry, it’s best to mow before grass goes dormant. If it’s too tall after dormancy, follow the 1/3 rule. Avoid overcutting to maintain a healthy lawn.

  14. Joseph Snyder says:

    What is the impact of dull mower blades on dormant grass?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Mowing dormant grass with dull blades can lead to rough, ripped grass susceptible to diseases. Make sure to use sharp mower blades for a healthy lawn year-round.

  15. Larry Horton says:

    What is the best time of day to mow dormant grass?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Mowing dormant grass is best avoided to aid grass survival. Pre-mow before dormancy for success. Avoid overcutting and use sharp blades. Remember, proper mowing ensures lush grass year-round.

  16. Lesa Neal says:

    What are the benefits of mowing before grass goes dormant?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Thanks for your question, Lesa! Mowing before grass goes dormant promotes root growth & protects from damage. Avoid mowing dormant grass & never cut more than 1/3 of the blade height.

  17. Keith Wood says:

    Should I bag the clippings when mowing dormant grass?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Do not bag clippings when mowing dormant grass. Follow the recommended mowing heights to promote healthy growth post-dormancy. Let the clippings break down naturally for added nutrients.

  18. Sofia Robinson says:

    What is the one-third rule in lawn mowing?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      The one-third rule in lawn mowing means never cutting more than one-third of the blade height in a single mow. It helps maintain grass health and resilience during dormant periods.

  19. Paula Ward says:

    Can dormant grass be overwatered?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Yes, overwatering dormant grass can cause more harm than good. It’s crucial to strike a balance to ensure your lawn’s health. I recommend checking out our tips for proper lawn care during dormancy.

  20. John Peck says:

    What are the risks of mowing dormant grass too short?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      Mowing dormant grass too short can expose it to weather stress, weeds, and diseases. Following proper mowing guidelines is crucial for your lawn’s health and survival.

  21. Pauline Ortiz says:

    Is it necessary to use professional lawn mowing services for dormant grass?

    • Allard Vdhooft says:

      It’s best to avoid mowing dormant grass. Proper mowing before dormancy helps in maintaining lawn health. Consider mowing at recommended heights for different grass types.