Monday, April 11, 2011

Greener Grass on the Other Side of the Fence

It may surprise you, but many common lawn care practices are actually harmful. Here are some common lawn care myths:

To keep grass healthy, it should be watered daily. Wrong! A light daily watering encourages a shallow root system which will eventually weaken the turf. Instead, water deeply and infrequently. The idea is to water the roots, not the grass blades.

To keep a trim-looking lawn, mow the grass short. Wrong, again. The shaved look is great for the golf course, but for most home lawns, grass cut higher will develop deeper roots and will stay greener and healthier during hot, dry summer months.

Grass clippings are harmful to your lawn. Not so. Grass clippings contain moderately high levels of nutrients and when recycled provide a good source of fertilizer. Excessive clippings, however, should be removed to prevent smothering. Newer type mulching mowers chop the leaf blades into finer pieces for more rapid breakdown.

Lawn Mowers:A sharp mower will keep a lawn looking neat and well clipped. Dull mowers can cause irregular, chewed off grass blades, giving the lawn a ragged look. The type of mower you use, reel or rotary, isn't as important as adjusting it to the right height and keeping the blades sharp.

Aerating Your Lawn:If your lawn is heavily used or planted on hard soil, aerating your lawn will loosen the soil and allow water to penetrate to the roots. If your lawn is large, you may want to rent a tool that will spike the turf. Our hand-operated aerator has two ejector tubes that we step on to make the holes. We do this every three months.

What is Thatch?Some lawns, especially one that has been neglected, might develop thatch. Thatch is plant debris that hasn't yet decomposed. A little thatch is good for your lawn because it helps to retain moisture. Look closely at the base of the grass. If you see ½ inch or more of organic matter surrounding the blades, your lawn has too much thatch. If you have a serious thatch build-up, you can rent a dethatcher. To prevent thatch, mow your lawn on a regular basis. Lawn clippings rarely contribute to excessive thatch.

Food For Your Lawn:Most commercial lawn fertilizers are balanced for different kinds of growth. The ratios for these fertilizers are indicated on the package in numbers such as 5-10-5 or 28-3-4.

The first figure indicates nitrogen, which makes the grass grow up, green and thick. The second figure indicates phosphorus, which makes the grass grow down to the root system. The third figure indicates potash, which makes the grass grow vigorously and helps keep it healthy and hardy.

Insects and Diseases:If your lawn has developed a problem with insect pests or diseases, it might be a good idea to study a garden book for pictures of grass patches resembling your problem and follow the book's suggestions. Many garden supply stores have a large garden book for their customers' use with illustrations and suggestions for treating pests and diseases.
Insect and disease problems will diminish with good lawn management practices such as proper watering and mowing.

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