Mowing is one of the most important football pitch maintenance operations. Mowing can dictate the appearance, health and vigour of the grass sward. Mowing is basically the pruning of the grass and as with pruning a shrub or tree, grass needs different degrees of mowing dependant on seasonal factors. 

Mowing influences grass density, sward characteristics and weed invasion. The height of cut and frequency of cut will affect the balance of the grass specie. The playing surface will be greatly affected by the removal or return of grass clippings.

Mowing of football pitches is achieved in two principle ways;

1. Pedestrian controlled mowing machinery

2. Ride -on tractor mounted or trailed gang mowers.

The use of pedestrian mowers usually allows for the collection of grass clippings via the grass boxes while tractor mounted or trailed machinery return grass clippings to the pitch surface. There are four types of cutting action on mowing machines-cylinder, rotary, flail and reciprocating. Football pitches require the use of cylinder mowers for a better quality finish as cylinder mowers cut rather than tear the grass. While rotary mowers are sometimes used neither they, nor a reciprocating mower, will give the desired finish.

Cutting heights

Typical heights of cut;

The pitch: playing season ideally 25 – 30mm

Training ground ideally 25mm to 30mm to ensure protection of the surface

The above heights are recommended heights of cut. Pitches cut higher than this will result in dramatically slowing down the roll of the ball and make its movement erratic across the surface so reducing the quality of the game. It will also make running more difficult and be tiring for the players as well as increasing the risk of injury.

Quality of cut

Quality of cut is affected by the setting of the mower blades. Implications of incorrect mower adjustments are:

a. ribbing

b. tram lining

c. tearing.

All of the above will detract from the look of the pitch and are easily avoided by attention to detail when setting the mower up.

General mower maintenance and summary

If the guidelines set out above are followed then the mowing operation will give a good quality cut and help to maintain a healthy sward. Remember, all moving parts should be oiled or greased as stated in the manufacturer’s handbook. Ensure that excess oil is not applied as this may drop to the grass and cause damage. If a machine is regularly used it may require a periodic regrind to the cylinder to maintain the cut quality. All grass clippings should be removed after use either by a stiff brush or airline, or high-pressure water jet. After washing a protective lubricant such as duck oil should be applied to prevent rusting.