Warm Season Grass Establishment Mowing Is Critical to Stand Success


In order to most effectively begin your Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) project, you will need to establish a solid protocol for mowing your grass from the start, typically beginning in June. The seeds we plant need lots of heat, sun, and moisture in order to germinate. The soil temperature needs to stay above 65 degrees day and night for germination to occur, and the once germination does take place, the plants spend most of their energy in the first year putting down a root system. The above ground growth will be small, and if you don’t know what to look for, you likely won’t even notice it. Partridge pea and Black-eyed Susans will be some of the first plants to show up. Everything else will follow as the summer progresses. We at FDCE recommend to not seriously start looking at plantings until end of August, and more commonly, not until well into the second growing season to see how they are coming along. These plantings can need up to two full growing seasons before they start looking good.

The most crucial practice to establish warm season grass plantings post-plant is to keep up with your mowing. Every time the vegetation (whether it is what was planted with FDCE seeds, or weeds) reaches between 2.5 and 3 feet tall, you need to mow it down to 12 inches with a mower that distributes the debris evenly across the width of the mower. You will need to keep that regime up throughout the first summer. If you continue this mowing practice, you will end up with a great stand.

The two main reasons mowing during the warm season is so imperative are:

  1. It is essential that the sun is able to penetrate down to the ground to warm up the soil. You typically start to have canopy closure when plants reach a height of 2.5-3 feet. All you are trying to do is cut the canopy to let the sun get back down to the ground. You don’t want to cut any shorter than 12 inches because you don’t want to put too much debris down on the ground and smother the planting at the ground level. So when it hits 3 feet, you mow it down to 1 foot.
  2. It’s important to prevent the weeds from going to seed. Using the 3 foot down to 1 foot method, you prevent most of the weeds from producing viable seed. By mowing throughout the summer, you will help limit more competition in the future.

Mowing in the first year is the key to a great establishment. By choosing FDCE for your planting project, we can assist you with this practice and provide even more advice and support for your CRP venture. Please click here to learn more about how FDCE can aid with your conservation project.