As fall approaches and grass growth begins slowing down, I recommend lowering your mower blade height by about 1 inch for cool-season grasses or 1/2 inch for warm-season grasses compared to summer cutting heights. 

    This incremental reduction for the final two to three mowings of the season helps minimize several potential issues going into winter dormancy. Mowing your lawn slightly shorter in the fall also provides multiple important benefits. 

    I find that the small adjustment to following these mowing tips and recommendations takes a little time and effort but makes a big difference in the health and appearance of your lawn throughout the winter and into the next growing season.

    Why Lower Mowing Height for the Final Fall Cuts?

    During the peak growing season in summer, you should mow your lawn at the highest recommended setting for the grass type. Typically, 3 to 4 inches is optimal. 

    The extra height provides the following benefits:

    • Retains moisture in the soil so the lawn stays lush. Taller grass blades shade the soil surface.
    • Reduces weed growth. Weeds need sun to thrive, so they struggle when shaded by long grass.
    • Protects grassroots from heat damage. Longer grass insulates the soil and keeps roots cooler.
    • Improves photosynthesis. More blade surface area harnesses sunlight for growth.
    • Strengthens the grass plants. Longer stems lead to deeper, more expansive root systems.

    However, as daylight dwindles in fall, grass growth slows down dramatically. The lawn no longer needs the extra height for health.

    Leaving the lawn too tall through winter can cause many issues. Snow, ice, and rain weigh down the grass blades, which bend over and become matted. Trapped moisture within the thatch layer can also breed fungal diseases like snow mold.

    So, in preparation for winter dormancy, I recommend you lower mowing heights by 1 inch for the final two or three lawn cuttings of fall.

    Optimal Fall Mowing Height Per Grass Type

    The ideal mowing height reduction for fall varies slightly by lawn grass species:

    Lower mower blades by one notch or about 1 inch below summer height for the last two to three fall cuts.

    • Fescues: Summer height 3-4″; final fall cuts at 2-3”.
    • Ryegrass: Summer height 2.5-3.5”; fall cuts at 1.5-2.5”.
    • Bluegrass: Summer height is 2.5-3.5”; fall cuts are 1.5-2.5”.

    Lower blades 1/2 inch below summer height.

    • Bermuda: Summer height 1-2″; final fall cuts at 0.5-1.5”.
    • Zoysia: Summer height 2-3″; fall cuts at 1.5-2.5”.
    • St. Augustine: Summer height 3-4″; fall cuts at 2.5-3.5”.
    • Centipede: Summer height 1-2″; fall cuts at 0.5-1.5”.
    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    Check grass-type guides for optimal summer heights if unsure. Only lower blades by 1 inch (cool-season) or 1/2 inch (warm-season) below the summer cutting height.

    Transition Lawn Back to Lower Fall Height

    When it’s time to lower your mowing height for fall, don’t just immediately set the mower blades to the new level. 

    Making an abrupt single change shocks the grass plants, potentially causing damage. It also scalps the lawn, leaving unsightly brown patches. Instead, incrementally reduce the cutting height over a few weeks.

    When transitioning to a lower lawn height, make the incremental cuts slowly over weeks. 

    In the first week, lower the height by 1/4 to 1/3 inch. In the second week, reduce it by another 1/4 to 1/3 inch. Then, in the third week, make a final cut of 1/4 to 1/3 inch to reach the desired target height. 

    Making gradual reductions in height over several mowings reduces stress on the grass and allows it to adapt to the new, shorter height.

    Mowing Tips for Fall Leaf Management

    The reduced fall-cutting height helps shred and mulch falling leaves with each mowing. 

    For best results, use a sharp mower blade. A dull blade will tear leaf edges instead of slicing cleanly. 

    Mow as needed to prevent heavy leaf buildup and avoid letting layers of leaves mat down. Make a second pass with the mower over leaf piles to further shred and distribute the debris. 

    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    I also recommend not removing too many leaf materials. Leave clippings and shredded leaves to decompose and nourish the lawn. If necessary, rake excess leaves onto beds or compost piles, but leave some shredded leaves on the turf to provide nutrients. Mulched fall leaves decompose quickly to provide free fertilizer for grass plants heading into winter dormancy.

    Spring Transition Back to Higher Summer Cut

    In early spring, as temperatures start warming up, grass resumes growth after being dormant all winter. 

    At this point, you’ll want to gradually increase the mowing height back to its healthy summer level. Increasing the change over a few spring mowings helps avoid shocking or scalping the lawn.

    Increase height by 1/4 to 1/3 inch every two to three mowings until the species reaches the ideal summer height. This step provides time for the turf to adapt without scalping or shock. It also ensures the lawn canopy quickly shades the soil to deter weeds and retain moisture.

    For quick reference — in fall, mow 1 inch lower for cool-season grasses or 1/2 inch lower for warm-season grasses. Then, in spring, gradually increase the mowing height back to the summer height as temperatures rise. 

    Following these seasonal guidelines for mowing height will keep the lawn looking its best throughout the changing conditions of the year. The key points are mowing at the highest recommended height in summer, lowering the height in fall, and then increasing it again in spring.

    So, Is Mower Height Reduction Essential for Fall Lawn Care?

    Lowering the mower blade height in fall is highly recommended to help avoid winter damage and disease issues. The incremental height reduction prevents matting, moisture buildup, and fungal infections in the cooler months. It even allows for more effective shredding and mulching of fallen leaves.

    I also find it provides a smooth transition back to summer heights the following spring. The small change takes little effort but makes a big difference in the health and appearance of your lawn through the winter and into the next growing season. So be sure to lower those mower blades accordingly come fall.

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    FAQs About Lowering Mowing Height for Fall

    How much should I lower the blade for the last fall mowings?

    Lower cool-season grass (fescue, rye, bluegrass) by 1 inch below summer height. Lower warm-season grass (Bermuda, zoysia, etc.) by 1/2 inch.

    When should I start lowering the blade height in the fall?

    Lower the height gradually over two to three mowings, starting about four to six weeks before the average first frost in your area.

    Should I continue mowing in late fall/early winter?

    Mow until growth fully stops, as this helps minimize snow mold issues. Then, you can safely stop mowing for the season once winter dormancy kicks in.

    How short can I cut the grass in the fall?

    Don’t cut below the minimum recommended mowing height for the grass species. Cutting too short causes scalping damage.

    Does lowering the height help with leaves?

    Yes, I have noticed that the reduced height improves leaf mulching during fall mowings. But be sure to mow often to prevent heavy leaf buildup.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Coty Perry

    Coty Perry

    Expert Writer & Reviewer

    Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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    photo of Amy DeYoung

    Amy DeYoung


    Amy DeYoung has a passion for educating and motivating homeowners to improve their lives through home improvement projects and preventative measures. She is a content writer and editor specializing in pest control, moving, window, and lawn/gardening content for Today’s Homeowner. Amy utilizes her own experience within the pest control and real estate industry to educate readers. She studied business, communications, and writing at Arizona State University.

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