Lawn & Yard Care
By Marty Ross
It’s lawn care season. Now is a good time to take a close look at some of the myths and misunderstandings surrounding the horticulture — and culture — of trim, green lawns. Let’s try to set the record straight. No matter what kind of grass you grow, growing it right makes all the difference.
The best time to water your lawn is early in the morning, between about 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., when evaporation rates are low. Watering early gives grass plants plenty of time to dry during the day and helps prevent development of turf diseases.
However, you don’t need to pad out into the garden in your slippers and bathrobe. With Gilmour’s Dual Outlet Electronic Timer, you can place the sprinkler where you want it in the evening and set the timer to turn on first thing in the morning. The dual timer allows you to connect two hoses to the same spigot and water the front and back yards simultaneously or one after the other. Watering the lawn for 20-30 minutes once a week should be enough to keep your lawn looking great.
Think of green grass clippings as free fertilizer. Instead of bagging clippings (which is a lot of work), let your mower do the job of chopping and recycling them directly back into the soil. Grass clippings decompose quickly. They are full of nitrogen, which grass plants need. If you’re mowing your lawn regularly, just keep the mulching attachment on the mower.
Occasionally, you may want to bag grass clippings. In early spring, and as often as you like during the season, grab a couple bags of clippings with the bagging attachment on your mower. Mix them into the autumn leaves in a compost pile. The grass will heat the pile and speed up decomposition. You can also bag grass clippings to use as mulch around tomato plants which help control weeds, limit evaporation of moisture from the soil, and prevent soil-borne diseases from splashing onto tomato plant leaves.
Although most weed-killers target clover, getting rid of it in a lawn isn’t necessarily a good thing. As a natural lawn fertilizer, clover adds nitrogen to the soil which benefits surrounding grass plants. It’s also green, hardy, and drought tolerant. It out-competes bad weeds and it grows well in shady spots. Its white flowers attract insects that are beneficial to the environment.
The idea that clover is a weed is actually a fairly new concept. Until the 1950s, clover was part of every healthy lawn mix. If you have clover in your lawn, enjoy it.
If you give your lawn a super-short haircut, you’re actually injuring it. Short blades of grass plants have a hard time producing the nutrients the plants need to survive. They can’t shade the soil properly, which leads to increased evaporation and eventually to brown patches of dead grass. Cutting the grass too short also makes your lawn vulnerable to opportunistic weeds.
The rule of thumb for mowing is to never cut off more than one-third of a blade of grass. Therefore, set your mower to 3 ½ inches when your grass is 5 inches long. You’ll definitely need to mow more frequently in the growing season, but your healthy lawn will resist weeds, tolerate drought, and look terrific.
Water conservation and in-ground sprinkler systems do not necessarily go hand in hand. Too often, these systems are programmed to water a little bit every few days, whether the lawn needs it or not. A properly-installed irrigation system can help you stay on top of your watering routine if you live in a dry climate. However, if you live in a mild climate that gets regular rainfall, a sprinkler and hose are sufficient, and may even save water.
Lawns should be watered deeply but infrequently, about once a week, for 20-30 minutes (if rainfall does not supply enough moisture). This type of watering encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil.
A good hose and sprinkler are infinitely adaptable and allow you to conserve water. Gilmour’s Pattern Master Circular Sprinkler can be set to water lawns of almost any size or shape, up to 5,800 square feet. The red flexible ring customizes spray distance at 12 different points for precise watering. Simply pull up on the pegs to shorten the spray or push down to lengthen it. Easily create your own spray pattern to fit any irregularly shaped yard while not watering the sidewalk or driveway.
Actually, lawns are a good thing. A healthy lawn helps control erosion, limits water runoff, and cools the air. In addition, they make the perfect frame for flowerbeds, while providing families with a great space to play.
Good lawn-care advice often comes from friends and neighbors, but sometimes following along with what others do just perpetuates lawn myths. Keep these tips in mind as you take care of your lawn this season.
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