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Cutting Height vs Scalping Height

4640 Views 16 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Spammage
First year with a reel mower, so first year going low. Just finished scalping my backyard at 11/16" with the McLane. I think if I scalp at the next lowest setting (5/8"), I'll start to get a lot of scalping in some places. So, question is, how high above that 11/16" do I need to maintain at? Next two heights are 7/8" and 1" on the McLane. Would love to go at 7/8" to start with, but wasn't sure if that was enough difference between my scalping height and my cutting height.

Also, probably more for @Spammage. What is the optimal height for maintaining my emerald zoysia in my front yard? It's relatively shady, so it's a pretty slow grower. 1"? 1-1/8"? It's starting to show signs of greening here in North Alabama.

Looking forward to getting some pictures up as things start to green around here.
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mrigney said:
What is the optimal height for maintaining my emerald zoysia in my front yard? It's relatively shady, so it's a pretty slow grower. 1"? 1-1/8"? It's starting to show signs of greening here in North Alabama.
I'm looking forward to seeing your results this year too. If you have only been maintaining it with a rotary at 2-2.5" previously, then it may need to thicken at ground level. Have you scalped it down with your bermuda? I would probably keep it at 1.125" this year. Keeping grass cut reel low is the ticket and the best appearance, but leaving it a little longer will help it thicken up. You can gauge the year next off-season to determine if you want to lower it - ideally keeping it at <1".
mrigney said:
I haven't scalped the zoysia (yet). Won't take me long to do compared to the bermuda, though. scalped it in the middle of the summer last summer b/c it had been maintained really long for way longer than I've lived here. But "scalped" was w/my rotary at about 1.25-1.5" (whatever the lowest and next to lowest setting on the Honda 217HRX is). Could easily take the zoysia down to 11/16" (or even 7/8") this weekend before the green up starts in earnest. What would you do?
I would step it down while monitoring the thickness of the grass at soil level - ie growth points. Removing to many existing growth points could result in patchy and/or slow grow-in. (don't ask me how I know :oops: ) That is why I would take it slowly given the grasses history.

I just scalped mine (Palisades and El Toro) down to 3/8" and had to go over the lawn 4 times with a fixed blade dethatcher and cut multiple times to get it there. I pulled twenty three 39 gal trash bags off of 6000sf that was maintained at <1". This grass can get so thick it will make bermuda blush, but it isn't as fast to respond to change or mistakes.
Well, it's hard to say. There is a lot of horizontal dormant growth there. Your mower may have been "floating" a little I would dethatch, bag it, and then see what it looks like.
mrigney said:
Any tips for dethatching? Looks like about $50 to rent one for the day around here. Sounds like a good project for next weekend😊
+1 on the trash bags. $50 is about right. I would set the blades at about 3/8" off the ground, run one direction (go back and forth) and then bag it with a rotary. Then you can cut again with the reel and see where you are. You may want to then repeat the process with the dethatcher running 90° to the first pass.
@mrigney @TulsaFan

I'm pretty sure that Mr. Reeves is saying to be careful of scalping during the growing season. Many people want to believe the myth that zoysia "can be cut once a month or less" and that just isn't the case. The scalping I'm referring to is just removal of last year's dormant top growth. Leaving that growth can work for people cutting once a week at 3", but even then the grass will start to decline in a few years. I was very nervous when I first scalped mine, but now I would be nervous not to. Once it greens up you just have to make sure you are cutting frequently enough to avoid scalping every time.
mrigney said:
Ok, @Spammage, what do you think? Ran the dethatcher three ways. Had it set at about 3/8". These pictures are from the same area as the original pictures I posted. Did I dethatch right?:) First time dethatching. Based on what you're seeing here, recs on cutting height for this season? Definitely looks a little more naked than it did before I started.
Me likey. I would bet that if you go over it again with the reel at the same height as before that you will get it a little lower just due to having less material in the yard. From there, raising the mower one notch will be a good start. Keep in mind that having exposed soil will allow it to dry out faster, so lighter more frequent irrigation may be needed if you aren't getting any rain.
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