Why are you mowing you on the wrong ground

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It has always been surprising to me that despite the fact that the cultivated lawn is a purely human invention, we have such a tortured and painful relationship with our turf.

Lawns started out as a very public sign of wealth – think Downton Abbey and the like. If you could afford to have a team of tweed-clad gardeners spending their days on all fours with little hand mowers and precision scythes, you were certainly worth a guest at the neighborhood barbecue. Later, the 1950s Levittown Lawn was a contractual requirement imposed on all of its new owners. And that’s how the desire for American lawn was born.

By the time I found myself attending landscape architecture classes in the late 1970s, it was clear that the tide had turned. At that time, a large lawn was regarded only as the property of the non-intellectual suburban bourgeoisie who knew no better. Lawns were ecologically wrong and we were supposed to wipe them off the face of the earth.

And the horticultural quirk didn’t end there.

Not only were we taught that lawns were bad – we were also told that no one, and I mean no one, should ever plant flowers in the front yard for fear of distracting unsuspecting visitors and disturbing the only real one. feature a front yard landscaping – to help your distraught visitors find the front door. Not that the big red rectangle with the stairs leading up to it with a mailbox, a brick walkway and other various signs of civilization cannot do this on their own …

Woman mowing with electric mower.

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Go ahead and laugh … but I can show you the manuals! Anyone who dared to put a pot of annuals or, gasp … a herbaceous perennial … in the front yard was committing crimes against humanity and had to be strapped to a large stool, dressed in a donkey cap and locked in the city stocks for all to laugh and laugh at. What if you wanted a big lawn for subversive activities like a game of wrestling with your kids or badminton with the cousins, “well,” you were told, “that’s what the parks are for.” .

But despite our tortured past relationship with our lawns, there are a few basics we should all understand, whether we’re maintaining a sprawling Victorian landscape or a little patch of green in the backyard.

Why you should water your lawn

Grass sprinkler in action

Obviously, water is the life blood of a lawn. It only takes about a quarter of an inch of irrigation / rain per week to keep a lawn alive. It won’t keep it green, notice. At this low level, the lawn may just turn brown and dormant, but it probably won’t die. About an inch per week is best to keep the lawn green. But just like watering trees, it’s better to water longer at longer intervals than shorter waterings every day. Longer waterings send water deeper into the soil profile and result in deeper roots and stronger lawns.

Why you should use lawn fertilizer

Midsummer is not the time to do a lot of lawn fertilization. If you think back to that sturdy Emerald City lawn you mowed in May, you’ll understand why. You go out in the spring and pump the fertilizer. That, combined with the April showers, brings not only May blossoms, but also tons of soft, luxurious grass growth that you need to mow every 45 minutes or so. Trying to keep this type of grass growth well hydrated during the heat of summer would be a Herculean task.

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My advice is not to add fertilizer in the middle of summer, to take advantage of the reduced irrigation needs and the resulting reduction in mowing required. If you really feel the need (and a soil test indicates the need), you can do a little fertilizer dance in the fall.

In addition, you are probably mowing the lawn poorly.

Man cutting grass with lawn mower

There is rarely a quick fix in any field of study, but this one could be the exception. The most effective thing you can do to improve the quality of your lawn and your relationship with it is to get up off the couch right away, go to the garage, get out the mower, and raise the blades as high as possible. go – and leave them there forever!

First of all, mowing your lawn to 3.5 inches or even 4.5 inches tall (if your mower goes that high) will allow your lawn to compete better with many weeds. That is true. This research has been done and has yielded something like a hundred billion, billion, billion times. Mowing your lawn to a height of 2 inches actually encourages ungrassed weeds and puts your lawn at a disadvantage compared to the competition.

Mowing at 4 inches also means that you aren’t constantly scalping the lawn, bouncing the blades off tree roots, and having to resharpen your blade every 20 seconds.

Second, mowing higher doesn’t mean you have to mow more often. Adjust the height of the mower, take it for a spin once a week … and voila! … it doesn’t matter if you mow at 2 inches, 3 inches or 12 inches … it’s always once a week.

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Finally, the longer grass is much softer on bare feet. If there’s one thing that makes all that lawn care work worth the time and energy, it’s a barefoot night walk in the yard, a cold drink in your hand, while you watch. your neighbor scalps his lawn … and you chuckle softly.

Paul Cappiello is the Executive Director of Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, 6220 Old Lagrange Road, yewdellgardens.org.


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