Lawn Care Tips for in-between Treatments
Mow it Higher
There’s more to mowing than just cutting the grass every Saturday. One of the most fundamental steps to a perfect lawn is getting the mowing height right for your type of lawn and for the season. Many well-intentioned property owners forget the importance of proper mowing height in the lawn care regimen.
Most grasses do best with a length of 2 – 3″. This applies for spring and early fall. In the summer, set your mower deck even higher. Never go below the minimum recommended height except for the last mowing of the season, which should be around 1.5″ for most turf grasses. Height is important because the grass uses the extra length to absorb the sunshine it needs to grow and develop into a healthy plant. Never remove more than 1/3 at any one mowing. This may mean you’ll have to mow more often during prime growing times (usually spring and early fall). Leave the clippings on the lawn after you mow. This not only saves time and energy, but the clippings decompose and add vital nutrients back into the soil.
Mow your lawn in a different direction with each mowing, especially with lawns of shorter grass types. Altering the direction ensures a more even cut since grass blades will grow more erect and less likely to develop into a set pattern.
Use a Sharp Blade
The type of mower doesn’t matter, but the blade’s condition does. A dull blade tears at the grass. Take a close look at a grass blade a few days after mowing. If the blade is dull you’ll notice a jagged brown line across the tip of the cut grass. This is a good indication that your blade needs sharpening.
Professional mowers sharpen their blades about every 8 hours of use. For most homeowners, once a month is recommended. The jagged edges caused by a dull mower blade make it more difficult for the grass to fight off pests and disease.
Lawn Mower Tune-Ups
According to Briggs & Stratton, nearly 70% of Americans say they are willing to do more to help the environment, but not knowing what to do is among the top obstacles to their taking action, according to a recent survey conducted by Briggs & Stratton Corporation, the world’s largest maker of gasoline-powered engines for outdoor power equipment. In response to this survey, Briggs & Stratton developed a lawn mower tune-up campaign. They determined that a gasoline-powered lawn mower could reduce its emissions by as much as 50 percent over an un-tuned engine. Not only that, but it can also save fuel and prolong the life of the mower—all with a simple lawn mower tune-up each spring.
In the spring, don’t use that old gas unless you properly used a fuel stabilizer, it can cause a number of problems. Better to use fresh gasoline to begin the new mowing season.
Most grasses require 1 1/2″ – 2″ of water per week. This is enough water to moisten the soil to 4 – 6″ below the surface for clay soils and 8 – 10″ for sandy soils. Don’t guess at how much water your lawn is getting. For measuring Mother Nature’s contribution, invest in a rain gauge. If at the end of the week she’s contributed enough, hold off adding more. If she comes up short, you’ll want to add some supplemental watering. Again, measure how much water your sprinkler is putting down.
During certain times during the summer when high temperatures are the norm, you should allow lawns to naturally slow down in growth during those extreme conditions. You may let the lawn go almost completely dormant in hot weather. Many factors such as the soil and weather all have a role in the lawn’s water needs.
A healthy lawn makes a very good filter for absorbing many things that can be washed into our streams. The ideal lawn is one that will grow best in your environment without lots of supplemental watering. There are parts of the country where various turf grasses are well suited without the need for daily watering. In many places, grass can be grown without any supplemental watering, or only very minor supplemental watering.
Decide Before Hand
Decide before summer heat and drought conditions arrive, to either water lawns consistently as needed throughout the season, or let lawns go dormant as conditions turn hot and dry. Do not rotate back and forth. In other words, don’t let the grass turn totally brown, then apply enough water to green it up, then let the grass go dormant again. Breaking the lawns dormancy actually drains large amounts of food reserves from the plant.
When is it Time to Water?
The first few warm days of summer does not automatically mean to water lawns. In fact, allowing lawns to start to go under mild drought stress actually increases rooting. Watch for foot printing, or footprints remaining on the lawn after walking across it (instead of leaf blades bouncing back up). Grasses also tend to turn darker in color as they go under drought stress.
Water as Infrequently as Possible
What we mean by this is when you do water, water thoroughly so the moisture soaks down to the roots. You should only have to water 2-3 times a week to apply 1.5 – 3 inches of water on the lawn. Over watering your lawn will promote shallow root growth. Exceptions to this general rule would be for newly seeded lawns where the surface needs to stay moist as well as newly sodded lawns that have not yet rooted into the soil. These need watered daily. So we recommend watering heavily and infrequently as possible to promote a healthy lawn and strong root system.
You’ll have to follow local regulations when there are watering bans, but just remember that less water is acceptable and grass is a very resilient plant. When the rains do return your lawn will come back with a little encouragement on your part.