Proper Mowing is the Heart of Responsible Lawn Care
Maintaining a lawn takes a little bit of tender loving care every so often. The great thing about a healthy and well cared for lawn is that once it is established and doing well, it pretty much takes care of itself. A strong stand of grass will actually choke out weeds just because it is protective of the ground and sun space the grass uses to grow and thicken. For the most part, your lawn gets what it needs from the rain, an occasional watering and the soil. And if you give it a little fertilizer every once in a while, that helps things along as well. But you don’t need to do that more than couple times a year because you can do as much damage over tending your lawn as neglecting it.
The one routine maintenance step you should plan to work on probably around once a week depending on growth is mowing the lawn. It sounds like this is just a basic step to keep the lawn from looking ragged and to keep the neighbors satisfied. But mowing does a lot for your yard to keep it healthy as well. Grass is unique among wild vegetation because it thrives on being mowed. The cutting stimulates growth and spreading. If some or all of the cuttings get down into the soil, that provides mulch for nutrients.
But maybe most valuable is that weeds do not thrive on mowing. When you cut off the heads of weeds, they do not have that upper growth to gather sunlight and produce spores for reproduction. The weakened weeds are then easy prey for aggressive grass sprouts to crowd them out of your yard. In that way, mowing is a natural form of weed control. This is why early in the season, mowing low works because not only does it encourage grass growth but it sucks up much of the residue, which prepares the turf for new growth. In addition, you want a relatively clean grounds early so the fertilizer you put down to jump start the yard can get down to the roots.
But as the summer progresses, lawn experts call for raising the blades of your mower so you are cutting the yard higher and leaving it somewhat longer than earlier. This encourages root growth. And the deeper the root system, the better your grass becomes at finding water and nutrients. The more well established your yard will be which helps it survive the dormant months ahead.
The court is out on whether to catch your grass or to allow the cuttings to go into the soil for mulch. In general, you will get some residue from mowing even if you catch and that is probably sufficient mulch. If you allow too much mulch, it can become a “thatch” which restricts airflow and even water penetration to the roots of your grass. So be smart in how you approach even this basic task of mowing your lawn so you are doing so in a way that encourages long term growth and health for this important part of your property.
Proper Mowing is the Heart of Responsible Lawn Care
New Lawn Care Means Getting It Right the First Time
It doesn’t happen very often but if you are looking out of the windows of your new home at a plot of bare dirt because you decided to establish your new lawn yourself, you might feel a little intimidated. But this is a rare opportunity to lay down a superior lawn from the very beginning. And that strong start may be the beginning of a lawn that continues to grow in lush and full each year and that resists disease and weeds even better than average lawns.
You made the right decision if you decided not to let the builder put in the lawn. Builders are not master gardeners and while they would put in a lawn that would probably grow, they are not going to look at this project in terms of a decades long investment in your yard. They just want to get the job done as cheaply as possible so you will sign off on the job so they can move on to the next job. But by keeping this job back until how it is done passes your scrutiny, you can make sure that before the first seed is dropped or piece of sod is unrolled, the soil was prepared and everything is as it should be.
Many times, there will be preparation of the soil to be done. This is a perfect time to have the soil evaluated for acidic levels and to determine that it is rich enough to support a strong yard. If not, you can have lime treatments done and do other remedial work to the soil before the grass goes down. You can also turn the soil and smooth it out as well as add compost and other rich nutrients so your new grass will have a great bed of soil to start its new life with.
You also have a lot of choices about what kind of grass to put in. The choices will impact the look and the health of your yard. This is a good time to make it your passion to learn all you can about how different varieties of grass do in your part of the country and how they would fit on your plot of land. Some grasses such as Bermuda grass are tough and spread well but it loves the open sun and lots of heat. If you have a shady lot or you don’t get that much heat where you live, look at other grasses more adaptable to where you are.
All of this preparation will serve you well. Also, consider whether to go with a seed based installation or sod. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Seed will probably give you a more assured installation and sometimes sod comes with weeds already started along with the grass. But seed takes a lot of watering and care in the first months of yard life so be sure you are prepared to make that kind of commitment. If you do and you have done your preparations well, you are assured of a beautiful lawn that will take root and continue to be healthy and make your home look beautiful for many years to come.
Being Smart in the Use of Any Lawn Care Product
If you walk out in your garage, you probably have dozens of bottles of different products you may have bought over the years for your yard. The lawn products industry does a good job of convincing us that we need to spray something on our yard for just about any yard related correction we need to make. And the outcome is you often find yourself overrun with half used bottles of everything from broadleaf weed killer to sprays to kill grubs that might (or might not) be eating the roots of your grass and attracting moles.
This is not to say that these various products are not effective because they may very well do exactly what their labels say they will do. But no product can replace your judgment and wise decision making about how to use different products so you not only do what is best for your lawn but do so in an environmentally responsible way. Being smart in what products to use on your lawn and how to use them just makes sense and if you have a plan for each potential problem, you may not have to buy so many lawn chemicals which will make your garage easier to manage as well.
A good example is weed control. The purpose of weed control is twofold. First, you want to get rid of weeds because they look terrible in your lawn and you don’t want your yard to degenerate into a wild field. Secondly, you want to discourage weeds so they don’t crowd out your grass and take away valuable water, nutrients and sunlight from the vegetable life you want to see thrive on your property.
The chemical approach to handling weeds then is to kill them. Broadleaf weed killers are good for some of the problem weeds because they cause the weeds to wither and die which leaves room for healthy grass to spread and grow into the available space. However, whenever you spray a liquid weed killer on your lawn, the potential for damage to the root systems of trees or that the toxins will kill desirable non-grass plants like flowers or bushes is a real concern.
So one way to head off the problem before it starts is to do your lawn treatment in the early fall and then the late winter by putting out a pre-emergent product which does not kill weeds. Instead is simply prevents germination of weed seeds that are lying dormant in the ground. When the weeds cannot germinate and grow into mature plants, that gives your grass the chance to grow and spread with the aid of the limited application of fertilizers. This is smart weed control and an approach that takes care of the problem before it really takes over your yard.
You can use some common sense and wise advice from your local expert gardeners that you can find working at one of the better greenhouses in your community to devise a smart plan for handling just about any lawn related problem. You may still find yourself using chemical products to get a problem area under control. But by being smart before you buy, you are using the right chemicals and not just anything that you find that will only clutter up your garage even further.