A beautiful green carpet of grass is the ultimate frame for your home. It’s restful to the eye and a welcome view for your guests. And not only does it add value to your property, it provides health benefits to you and to the environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen as well as purifying the air by trapping and breaking down pollutants.
Of course it takes some work to keep a lawn thriving and healthy. And that means there are chores like fertilizing, seeding and weed and disease control to do in every season of the year.
The two constants of lawn care in all seasons are watering and mowing. Depending upon where you live, the watering might almost take care of itself. But no matter where you are, in Lexington or in Los Angeles, lawn mowing is one of those things you’ve got to do on a regular basis.
An established lawn generally needs only one inch of water per week for its roots to remain properly hydrated. Over-watering not only wastes money and a precious natural resource, but it drowns the soil and starves grass roots of the oxygen that is vital to growth. When a lawn is over-watered, the roots have no reason to dig further into the ground seeking moisture, and the result is that they remain shallow and weak and never gain the strength to resist the stresses of heat and disease.
A “smart” irrigation system can sense moisture in the air and soil and adjust watering accordingly. Instead of fixed timers, these systems operate off your home’s Wi-Fi to access weather reports and other data that affects watering schedules, and they can be monitored from a smartphone.
If you have a standard timed sprinkler system, set it so water runs deeply rather than frequently. Be mindful, too, that watering should be done in the morning after the dew has dried because certain fungal diseases will attack a continuously wet lawn. Then the best thing to do is keep an eye on the sky and make sure you adjust or even turn off the timers depending upon the weather.
One thing you may not have thought of is that water in the ground tends to be pulled by gravity from the top of the soil and then downward as the topsoil is saturated. This means that watering one part of the lawn does not mean that another part will receive water.
An easy way to test that your sprinklers are doing a good job in irrigating the entire lawn is to do what’s known as the tuna can test. Simply place empty tuna or other small cans at various spots on your lawn, turn the sprinklers on for fifteen minutes, and then measure to see how much water has been collected in each can. Along with telling you how long you need to run the system for the one inch of water per week, the test will let you know if your lawn is being watered evenly or if you need to adjust or replace sprinkler heads.
Keeping your grass trimmed is not only aesthetically pleasing (and keeps your neighbors from shunning you), but it contributes to your lawn’s health. The same way you pinch back or prune a plant to force lusher growth, cutting the grass encourages it to use its energy to put out healthy new sprouts rather than continue growing the same spindly blades upward.
The cardinal rule of mowing, assuming you haven’t let a jungle grow before you go at it, is to cut only one-third of the height of the grass blades each time. Depending upon the variety of grass you have, the optimum height of the turf should be 2-1/2 to 3 inches. Keeping the grass too short means that it won’t have enough surface area for photosynthesis and that grass roots will remain shallow and less able to retain moisture and nutrients. In addition, grass that’s too short lets more sunlight reach the soil and allows weeds to germinate and grow.
It’s best not to mow in the heat of the day and not when the grass is wet. Keeping your mower blades sharp will ensure that you don’t make ragged cuts that leave the grass blades susceptible to disease and pests. Because grass tends to lean toward the direction you mow, change the pattern of your mowing each time so that your lawn grows evenly and doesn’t develop ruts. And unless they’re excessive, leave the clippings in place to serve as mulch that adds nutrients and protects grass roots.
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