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Mowing your lawn

by The Dream Lawn (Mantis)

When you mow your lawn, you enable the grass blades to receive sufficient sunlight and moisture and an ample flow of air. When you mow incorrectly—too short, for example, or with dull blades—you can ruin your lawn.

Climate, growing conditions, and variety of grass determine the height at which you keep your lawn. For most cool-season grasses, 3" is an ideal height. The exception is the first mowing of the season, for which you should set your mower at 1" high. This allows more sunlight to reach the new blades and stimulates the lawn into active growth.

A common mistake made by many homeowners is to cut their lawns too short because they think they'll need to mow less often. Higher cutting encourages deeper roots, reduces surface evaporation, keeps roots shaded, helps prevent weed seeds from sprouting, and inhibits the growth of crabgrass. The health and uniformity of the turf, not its height, determine the attractiveness of a lawn.

The rule of thumb is to remove no more than one-third of the height of the grass; mowing more than a third may cause harm by stressing the grass plants. If grass is allowed to grow too tall between cuttings, most of the green foliage will be mowed off, leaving short, yellowed stems which can't easily manufacture food for the plant. For cool-season grasses, spring and fall will be the time of most active growth and most frequent mowings. Warm-season grasses need more frequent mowing during summer months.

Mowing high and mowing often will eliminate the need to rake clippings because the clippings will be fine enough to filter down to the soil surface and decompose, usually within two weeks. Clippings act as fertilizer for your lawn, supplying as much as one-third the nitrogen the lawn needs.

Short clippings from frequent mowing will not mat and clump. (On the other hand, matted clippings should always be removed from the top of the grass.) Mowing only when grass is dry will help avoid clumps of clippings.

For ease of use and maintenance, gas-powered or electric rotary mowers are often preferred to reel-type mowers. For smaller lawns, a hand-powered reel mower is a good environmentally-friendly choice. Whichever type you use, make sure the cutting blades are sharp, otherwise they will tear, rather than cut, the grass blades. Torn grass is susceptible to fungus infection. Change your mowing pattern routinely to encourage the grass to stand upright and not lean in one direction and to avoid wheel ruts.

An edger will add the finishing touch to a well-kept lawn. Use it to put a crisp edge on your lawn around vegetable gardens, flower borders, and shrub beds.


Copyright © 2008 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission
from The Dream Lawn, © 1996 Mantis, 1028 Street Road, Southampton, PA 18966.



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