Don't Mow so much,
Lawn Care

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Lawns: Lower Expectations,
Raise the Blades

Expectations for lush lawns run high all summer long.  Instead of battling it
out for the best lawn on the street, Gary Fish, Coordinator of the Maine
YardScaping Partnership says to consider lowering your expectations of lawn
perfection, and raising your lawn mower blade instead.

“People are fanatics about their lawns,” says Fish.  “It’s radical for a lot of
people to embrace the idea of a less than perfect lawn.  But ecologically
conscious Mainers have already caught on to the benefits.  We’re hoping
more people get the message that a healthy lawn is a noble expectation.”  
Here are some tasks to get you “growing” in the right direction this summer:

A MINDFUL MOWER.  Raise the mower blade to three inches high.  Root
growth is only as deep as the grass blade is high.  Mowing higher promotes
root growth, reduces weeds like crabgrass and dandelions, helps the lawn
through dry periods and discourages insects.  A credit card is a handy
mowing gauge—it’s a little over three inches in length.

CUT TO THE CHASE.  Keep mower blades sharp to prevent water loss and
fungal disease.  Do the finger test.  If it doesn’t crease your finger when you
press on the blade, it’s not sharp enough.

GRASSCYCLING.  Don’t deny your lawn a free lunch—leave your grass
clippings behind.  They provide turf with a helping of nitrogen, and decrease
weeds and water loss by acting as natural mulch.

SEED, SEED, SEED.  Nature abhors a vacuum and will jump at the chance to
cover bare spots with weeds.  Keep a bag of good seed (50% Perennial Rye &
50% Creeping Red Fescue) handy and reseed bare spots as soon as they
develop.  Avoid the use of herbicides by preventing weeds from starting in
the first place.

PEST WARFARE.  Before you swat, stamp or spray, use common sense pest
control.  Let the phrase “some weed and insect pests are okay” be your
motto.  Try growing insect resistant grass varieties, pulling weeds by hand,
fighting bugs with bugs, and if using pesticides, spot treat only.

A SOIL TEST IS YOU LAWN’S BEST FRIEND.  For $12 and a box of your
dirt, you can find out your soil’s secrets.  This simple test analyzes fertility,
pH and lets you know if adjustments are needed.  Maine soils are typically
too acid for lawn grass.  If your test confirms this, sweeten the soil with
palletized limestone.  Test kits are available from your local Cooperative
Extension and Soil & Water Conservation Districts.

In short…a picture perfect lawn is not necessarily a “healthy” lawn.  Practice
good “lawn etiquette” for all your neighbors to see!

The Maine Yardscaping Partnership offers the free pamphlet “The How-to
Guide: Six Steps to Growing a Healthy Lawn.”  Call 207-287-2731 or e-mail for a copy.  Many other tips are available at  

This column was submitted by Gary Fish with the Maine Board of Pesticides Control,
Maine Department of Agriculture.  
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