Q. It's been at least a couple of weeks since my husband last mowed and our one-acre lawn is looking pretty shaggy. He says there's no need to mow in November and that he's done for the year. What do you think?
A. Even in years that snow that falls in late October or early November, lawns in the lower elevations of Central New York may not completely stop growing until almost Thanksgiving! Therefore, the short answer to your question is that it is important to keep mowing until your lawn stops growing.
First, you don't want the grass blades to become so tall that they start to flop over. If this happens, the blades will shade each other and reduce the amount of photosynthesis (i.e., the process that results in the creation of simple sugars which are, in fact, real plant "food") that can occur throughout much November, and maybe even into December - depending upon weather conditions. Also, when grass blades fall over and mat together, they create an ideal environment for the development of snow mold.
Meanwhile, do not mow your lawn too short. Keep your mower's cutting height at three inches right through the end of the season. Mowing at three inches will retain enough leaf surface (i.e., essentially miniature solar panels) to support a high rate of photosynthesis without the risk of leaf blades falling over and matting together. Lawns mowed consistently at three inches, at right in photo above, are always more vigorous than lawns mowed at two inches or shorter, above left.
And, you also want to keep mowing because the best way to dispose of all the leaves falling from your trees (and maybe your neighbor's leaves, too) is to mow them into your lawn every three or four days. The shredded leaves don't damage your lawn. In fact, research has shown that they can actually improve the condition of your lawn over time!
Besides mowing until your lawn stops growing, mid-November is an excellent time of year to make one last application of "winterizer" lawn fertilizer. Research going back the better part of thirty years has shown that a "late fall" fertilizer application enhances root growth over the winter months and especially next March and April. It also enhances early green-up and resumption of photosynthetic activity without excessive top-growth as the weather begins to warm next spring.
Finally, spend some time over the winter thinking about just how you want to manage your lawn next year?
Consider, for example, focusing the majority of your efforts on maintaining a really nice lawn only in very small areas right next to your home and outdoor living spaces. That way you can stop worrying about the "back forty" that no one ever uses - other than as a place to waste time and money on gasoline, fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides?
And, make sure to download copies of my "Central New York Lawn Care," "Recommended Lawn Care Product," and "Lawn Seeding and Renovation" guides from the Lawn Care section of this website.