How to maintain the perfect lawn with the one third rule

Superintendent, Tara Iti Golf Club

Brian Palmer

Mangawhai, New Zealand

For a perfectly cut lawn, less is more. A third less, to be exact, if you want to achieve optimal aesthetic and plant-health results.

Golf Course Superintendent Brian Palmer has years of experience on greens around the world and is currently responsible for Tara Iti Golf Club’s top-tier grounds, which sit off the rugged Te Arai coastline in New Zealand, which is maintained by a fleet of John Deere equipment.

His team’s dedication to the ‘one third rule’ is vital in building a healthy, pristine base.The rule dictates a process of regular maintenance cutting 1/3 off the top of the grass leaf to ensure the lawn stays in optimal healthy condition. This simple methodology can be applied to any backyard.

“If you have let your lawn grow long, don’t just go in with guns blazing…
Have patience and trust in the one third rule”

Brian’s tips on maintaining a legendary lawn.

What’s the best height for lawn?

The perfect height can vary between grass types but aiming to maintain a length of between 50 and 75 mm, should suit most. While some people might think grass height is as simple as preference, there is a correct length and an optimal mowing regime to make sure your lawn stays nice and healthy.

How does the one third rule work?

The one third rule means you are never cutting the grass leaf by more than a third in each cutting. Before starting your mower, assess the height of the lawn and adjust your mower height accordingly.

What happens when you cut the lawn too short?

Cutting your grass too short means you are running the risk of scalping the lawn. This can lead to lawn death or stunted growth. Too short of a cut can also create a void where weeds and undesirable grasses can germinate and take hold.

Are there any other benefits to only cutting grass by one third?

Cutting your grass to the correct height also means your clippings are much shorter and can be swiftly mulched back into the lawn if you are using a mulcher.

What can lawn owners do if their grass is getting out of hand? Say they have been away for a few weeks on holiday, or the weather has kept them off their mowers.

If you have let your lawn grow long, don’t just go in with guns blazing and get it back to your optimal height. Have patience and trust in the one third rule and mow every couple of days to reach the height you want to maintain.

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