What I think I know

I understand that the recommendations for lawn cutting height are based on rotary mowers, and because of a combination of their design and the way they hack & tear at the grass that it was supposed to be cut to around 3 inches tall, preventing damage to the grass.

I have also been led to believe that a reel push mower that cleanly cuts the grass is supposed to be capable of a 1.5 inch height without harming the grass.


What is the correct height to cut grass to with a reel mower for optimal lawn health?

3 Answers 3


I think you know correctly, generally speaking.

I think it will depend upon the ground (is it bumpy or relatively uniform and smooth) and your grass type as to how low you can go. Those creeping grasses such as Zoysia can be cut pretty short - maybe 1.5 inches - while something like Kentucky Bluegrass or Fescue (most lawns have this) could be cut at up to, say, 3 inches. Zoysia is apparently hard to cut with some reel mowers. I don't have any of this but I could imagine it might be.

The point made most of the time by mowing (regardless of whether we're talking rotary or reel) is that you shouldn't cut more that 1/3 of the height off for the health of the grass. Personally, I live on a farm and the blades on the various mowers I have are set at the same height and it gets cut to that height regardless of what percentage it is cutting off of the grasses in the pasture.

Folks I've talked to in the past about their reel mower were cutting at 2 inches and did so, they said, for both the look and the shading the grass provided the ground. I guess what they were hoping was that it would help with lessening the drying up of the soil.


The correct cutting height has substantial more to do with the type of grass you have and the season rather than with the type of mower. Some grasses tolerate being cut short but most do better when they're cut longer.

Can't answer the question without knowing what type of grass you have.


Regardless of mower type, you should never cut more than one third of the grass blade. Mowing any more than 1/3 of the grass blades damages the lawn. Known as “scalping” a super short cut looks cool on a golf course, but they have the resources to take care of the grass well. It makes the yard more prone to weeds, and forces the grass to focus on regrowing its blades than deepening its roots. Healthy lawns have deep root systems.

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