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The Art of Scalping

Dew” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by DanielaC173

It might confuse your neighbors when they hear you crank up your mower, but late winter is the best time to scalp your lawn before the growing season begins in the spring. 

“What’s scalping,” you ask? 

It’s a lot like what it sounds like: dropping the cutting height on your lawn mower down to about an inch, then mowing your grass down to its stalk. 

It may sound counterintuitive—scalping is an ugly process that gives your grass a stubbly brown appearance and exposes stolons, crowns, dead leaves, and bare soil—but it’s a good restart for your lawn. Scalping helps with weed control, and it removes debris that might contribute to thatch accumulation.

Once dead matter is cleared away, more light can get to your grass and warm the soil. As a result, your lawn will start to green up earlier, and your grass will grow stronger.

The ins and outs of scalping

Timing is critical—scalp too early and you’ll expose your grass stems to extremely cold temperatures, which isn’t good for growth. If you scalp too late, after growing season is well underway, you’ll stress your turf, which will cause your grass to grow slower.

Keep this thought in mind—if there’s a chance of extended sub-freezing temperatures, it’s too early to scalp. The best time to scalp is just prior to the grass breaking dormancy. In north Mississippi, that’s mid to late February.

  • Before you scalp, make sure to sharpen the blades on your lawnmower. As I’ve discussed previously, mowing with a dull blade tears up your grass and opens it up to diseases. 
  • Scalp when your lawn is relatively dry. You don’t want mud to cover your grass stems and keep them from getting sunlight. 
  • Finally—and this is so important—you must bag your clippings from scalping. If you don’t, you may as well have not scalped your yard in the first place.

Remember, landfills are not appropriate sites for disposing yard waste. Use the clippings in your own compost pile or bring them to a commercially owned compost site. 

One more thing…

Scalping works best on warm-season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia. Never scalp Centipede, St. Augustine, or cool-season grasses like fescue. 

We’re here to help you get the most out of your lawn. Call us at (888) 534-4535 or reach out through our estimate page today to set up your free assessment with a certified Lawn & Pest Solutions technician.

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