Lawn Care

Mowing    |    Frequency    |    Clippings    |    Equipment    |    Watering    |    Fertilizing

Mowing – Mowing events are often overlooked when diagnosing problems in a home lawn. Some things to consider when developing a mowing schedule is mowing height, frequency of cut, quality of cut, weather or not to return clippings, and what to cut with.

When choosing mowing height, imagine an old farm field, what the grass looks like and what the environment is doing. The grass is breast height and there is a plethora of insects all working together to make a micro climate. Notice there is no weeds in the field, they have been out competed. With home lawns we take that same plant out of its environment, walk on it, cut it at shoe lace height, remove all the insects and expose the soil to the sun. this allows weeds to germinate, the denser the turf canopy the less likely a weed seed will germinate. The taller the turfgrass plant, the greater ability it has to shade the soil. The longer the leaf tissue the more food the plant is able to produce and the larger root system it will develop allowing the plant to become much more competitive in its environment. Often a home lawn can be cut at three to fore inches high and eliminate the need for herbicide applications. Also mowing can be delayed to ten or even fourteen days as long as you never cut off more than one third (1/3)of the plant, that will result in the depletion of carbohydrates. [Back to Top]

Mowing Frequency – How often you cut the turfgrass stand will directly effect the density of the turf and your root growth development. Typically home lawns are cut at seven day intervals. Golf course putting greens are cut once a day even twice a day in tournament conditions. Why is this? Physiology the plant responds to being cut and hormones travel through the plant trying to protect itself by producing more leaf tissue to protect the crown of the plant. We have manipulated this response to provide esthetically pleasing land. The removal of leaf tissue should be measured and calculated based on the vertical extension rate of the grass or how fast the grass is growing. No more than one third of the plant should ever be removed. The higher the turf is the greater the measurement will be and the longer it will take to reach one third. [Back to Top]

Clippings – Bagging or the collecting of clippings is often performed when more than one third of the leaf tissue is being removed. A good indicator of weather or not you are cutting often enough is if the turfgrass canopy is excepting the clipping yield. If your developing clippings on the top of the turf you might consider mowing more often, reducing watering, reducing fertility or increasing your mowing height. Mowing consistently leaving clippings on the turf may result in the thinning of the turf. Returning clippings can also fertilize the turf. The leaf tissue has a lot of nutrients in it that can be released to the plant as the tissue breaks down. By returning clippings you can produce one pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet per year witch may result in a reduction in fertilizer applications. [Back to Top]

Mowing Equipment – The area being cut should dictate what type of device to cut with. Small areas cut with a large piece of equipment can result in damage, ripping ad tarring and soil exposure ultimately resulting in lower turfgrass quality and weed encroachment. Typically the smaller the equipment the higher the quality of cut. A smaller piece of equipment has a lower tendency to scalp or remove more then one third of the tissue and provides a higher quality of cut. The usual primary factor in determining mowing equipment is time and money. Weigh them out do determine your turfgrass quality. Keep in mind while mowing or line trimming where the clippings are being discharged. Refrain from discharging them into planting beds or over mulch, this may result it added weed infestation. [Back to Top]

Watering – Irrigation systems have come a long way in the past few years. Irrigation heads provide a more uniform distribution of water, use less water and shut down slower. In an irrigation system the more heads you have and the more zones the greater control you have over the watering and the shorter the watering event is. Systems now offer rain sensors and moisture meters to control the amount of water the system provides or to shut it off when watering isn’t needed. The amount of water a plant should be given is determined by how much water the plant uses known as the ET or evaporation transpiration. Typically an irrigation system waters the soil and the plant extracts the water from the soil and transports it through the plant and into the leaf tissue. The leaf tissue has pores in it that open known as guard cells. When sun light hits these cells, potassium rushes to them and opens them allowing gasses to be exchanged in the plant. While the cells are open water is pushed out through turger pressure and the water evaporates and cools the plant. The rate this process occurs should dictate the rate the water is applied. Watering at night in the middle or towards the end of dew development can assist in the reduction of disease. Dew carries vital nutrients in disease development, washing the dew into the soil can eliminate the disease potential.

The reason for zones in an irrigation system is to micro manage your turf. In a home lawn there may be sunny areas, shade, dry, windy, wet, high traffic areas. All will have different watering needs. Determine a threshold for each zone based on your aesthetic expectations of your turf. Keep up with irrigation repairs and monitor the spray or distribution of the water. Fatly heads may encourage over watering and develop dry areas. Keep in mind deep and infrequent watering has been shown to provide water savings. There is now blanket watering program, each watered area and each home should manage there watering needs individually.

To reduce watering needs consider increasing your mowing height, decrease fertility, decrease traffic, decrease insects that consume leaf tissue or root tissue, manage your soil PH and keep up with cultural practices like aeration and vertical mowing that can help gas exchange and water infiltration and retention in your soils.

When establishing a turfgrass stand or a new planting bed consider using wetting agents. They are known to make water wetter. There are granular wetting agents that are amended to the soils and retain water around the root system of the plan an there is liquid wetting agents that are applied to the leaf tissues of the plants that spread out water molecules. They work by reducing the tension of the hydrogen molecules. [Back to Top]

Fertilizing – It is often though of as feeding a plant when fertilizers are applied. In fact the plant produces its own food through photosynthesis, fertilizer provides nutrients for the plant like vitamins. Choosing a fertilizer program should start out first by establishing the the aesthetic value of the turfgrass. Second the type of fertilizer, synthetic, organic or half and half. Fertilizers come in granular and liquid forms. They are applied many ways, rotary spreader, drop spreader, spray rig, or a hydrojectors. The most common in home lawn is granular with a rotary spreader. Most turf fertilizers provide both micro and macro nutrients. The macro nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. All three are responsible for different things in turfgrass development. Usually fertilizer programs are based on the amount of nitrogen provided to the plant. Typically fore to six pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet per year are applied in fore to six different applications. No more than one pound of nitrogen should be applied at one time. If you exceed one pound you would be encouraging leaching of the nitrogen and burning of the plant. The number one ground water contaminate is nitrogen. Synthetic fertilizers have a higher risk of leaching than organics because they dissolve and saturate the soil. Organic fertilizers become organic matter and are fed on by microbes. The microbes digest the fertilizer and release the nutrients to the plant in a controlled slower more readily available manner. Synthetics flood the soil and change the ph of the soil slowly changing the environment the grass is growing in like road salt would. A result of using organic fertilizers is an increase of microbes in the soil, these microbes break down mower clippings, leaves, and thatch. Decreasing the thatch without mechanical injury to the plant will provide less injury to the plant, higher water infiltration, and better gas exchange. [Back to Top]