GARDENING: Scalping doesn’t make the grass greenerFloyd is a horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. He can be reached at 498-4071 in Ector County or 686-4700 in Midland County or by email at

I’m always surprised to spot freshly scalped lawns in the first warm days of spring. I suppose it is just our way of taming the landscape.
Doing a lot of hard work tends to make us feel like we’re accomplishing something big. However, is it really worth all the toil and sweat, not to mention coating our lungs with several pounds of dirt to give the lawn that early season haircut? By my way of thinking, no.
Scalping the lawn usually involves setting the mower low enough to suck up the maximum amount of plant material possible. Too often, the blade rips into the delicate crown of grass plants; the point from which leaves originate. Most lawns usually recuperate by the end of the growing season, which may explain why the practice of scalping just refuses to go away.
West Texas lawns endure countless forms of stress from temperature extremes, poor quality water, and pests so why aggravate the pressure by injuring the cells that keep grasses alive. Turfgrass hates scalping but weeds love it. Scalping exposes weed seeds to sunlight and reduces their competition for water, space, and nutrients. Once perennial weeds get a purchase in the lawn, they don’t easily give it up. Remarkably, a popular reason for scalping is to eliminate lawn weeds.
While scalping has been cited in some studies to support spring greenup by allowing the soil to warmup quicker, other research suggests it can cause more harm than benefit. Some grasses should never be scalped. Fescue, St. Augustine, Zoysia and Buffalo grass can be injured beyond recovery. Proper irrigation and mowing is more effective at controlling weeds than any other method.
To learn how you can have the best looking lawn in your neighborhood, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 432-498-4071.