You may have heard of the term “scalping” when it comes to caring for your lawn. This specifically means to mow your grass using the lowest possible setting on your lawn mower, or using a vertical blade mower to cut the grass very, very short. If you choose to care for your lawn in this way, now is the time to do it. Scalping your yard in March, after the chance of a frost has passed, is a great way to help your grass grow in thick, healthy, and green all summer long.
Scalping works best on Zoysia and Bermuda grass, but is also effective on St. Augustine as long as the grass is healthy to begin with. Start by lowering your mower’s blade to the lowest possible setting and mow your entire yard, bagging the clippings. Exercise caution on uneven surfaces, as the low blade may hit the dirt on a bump or small hill and cause damage by cutting the grass all the way down to the roots.
Be sure to bag the clippings, as there will be a lot of them and you want your grass to be exposed to all of the sunlight it can get in this delicate, low-cut state. Scalping helps rid your yard of excess thatch (the layer of grass between the blades and roots, made up of decomposing clippings) that can build up over time and restrict water and nutrient delivery to the soil.
Scalping your yard clears away the debris that builds up over winter. It also will expose your grass to better sunlight, help warm up the soil, and promote healthy growth. Some opponents of this method of lawn care say that scalping can damage your roots and provide a nice environment for weeds to grow. However, if you have properly fertilized your yard, these risks are greatly reduced.
The benefits of scalping include an earlier “greening-up” of your lawn in the spring, help controlling broadleaf weeds and removing the debris that can cause slow-growth and harbor fungus and insects.