BEST LAWN MOWING PRACTICES
by Wes Yohey
In mid-season form, I can gas, cut, and trim and be back in the air conditioning in just under an hour. While a great time-saver and workout, it's probably the worst way to tackle this regular lawn maintenance chore.
Like most plants, grasses produce food through photosynthesis. As the grass grows, the blade surface area increases which enables the plant to gather more sunlight and generate more food. This translates proportionately to more growth at the root level as well.
As the grass becomes more established, the root system digs deeper into the soil, providing greater access to moisture and nutrients. This is part of the plants natural defense systems to ward off against weather, bugs and weeds.
It also helps the plant survive the regular scalping the lawn receives. From the grasses perspective, lawn mowing is a pretty violent procedure, and if done incorrectly, potentially deadly.
Lawn Mowing height and cutting frequency can greatly impact your lawn's quality and health. By whacking off some of the leaf's blade, you're decreasing its surface area, thus its ability to collect sunlight and produce food and build effective defenses.
While a little variance exists between species, a couple good general rules to follow are, first, not cut the grass below 2-2½ inches (2½-3" in the summer), and second, not cut more than a third of the grass blade's height. This provides the grass with enough blade surface to encourage growth and a healthy root system.
A recent study revealed root growth of grass kept above 2 inches was double the root growth for grass mowed to the height of ¾ inch. Besides its ability to gather sunlight, the blades of grass provide shade to the soil level of the lawn. This not only cools the topsoil but also preserves moisture in the top layers of the dirt, particularly important in the hot and dry summer months.
Now that the lawn is cut, what to do with the clippings?
A common site in my neighborhood after a weekend is the bags of grass clippings along the side of the road. While it's nice the clippings will be recycled for use in mulch, it's still a little disappointing. Besides the cost to have the large truck careen through the neighborhood and pick them up, homeowners are depriving their lawns of a valuable resource.
Recent studies have shown that up to 25 percent more fertilizer was required to obtain the same look and quality of a lawn which returned the clippings to the soil. A great source of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, lawn clippings also help break up thatch accumulation as it decomposes into the soil.
As the soil becomes richer and your lawn's health begins to improve, the grass will send out shooters to expand horizontally as well. Besides thickening your lawn it's also a great natural deterrent to weeds.
A lot of benefits for less work, less money and less resources.
Share your lawn mowing experience or if you'd like more information.