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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Proper Mowing

Many people who want a handsome lawn do not realize just how important the job of mowing really is. There are five dimensions of mowing to be considered. (a) Cutting height (b) Mowing Frequency (c) Mowing pattern (d) Blade Sharpness, and (e) Disposal of clippings.


Cutting height of different varieties of grass is mentioned below. Lowering the cutting height can be disastrous. Removal of a large portion of the leaf results in reduced carbohydrate production, because the leaves are largely responsible for photosynthesis.


The general rule for mowing is that no more than 1/3 of the leaf should be removed with any one cutting. Mowing frequency varies according to the time of year, weather conditions, and general rate of growth.


The mowing pattern is far less critical but should be considered. A side-by-side mowing pattern is acceptable if the 360° turns can be made on sidewalks or roadways. If the turf is thinning due to about face sums, try a circular cut.

Blade Sharpness

Sharp mower blades cut the grass blade cleanly. If the blades aren't they don't cut cleanly they will shred your grass. Shredding the grass blade makes the grass more susceptible to disease.

Do not remove clippings.

Short clippings decay quite rapidly and do not contribute to thatch formation. The only two situations when clippings should be removed (a) When excessive clippings may smother the lawn. (b) When surface clippings give the lawn an objectionable appearance.

The two most common errors of mowing are:

Lawn isn't mowed often enough.
Lawn is mowed too short.

The proper heights are:

Bluegrass (Common Kentucky) — 2" to 2 1/2"
Bluegrass (Improved Varieties) — 1 1/2" to 2"
Fescues — 2" to 3"
Ryegrass — 2" to 3"

Landscape Watering

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of potential insect or disease problems is to water the landscape properly. Nothing is more important to a plants ability to survive than proper watering. Too little water will reduce the plants ability to establish itself and thrive thereby leaving it susceptible to possible pest damage. Soils kept too moist will weaken a plant thereby leaving it susceptible to rot and other diseases. When asked to try and diagnose a particular insect or disease problem, more often than not it will somehow be related to moisture.

Factors that influence how often you may need to water are temperature, soil types, amounts of sunlight and mulch (types and amounts). The easiest way to check if supplemental watering is necessary is to check the soil. If the soil is dry to a depth of approximately ½", watering will be necessary. Some plants in the landscape could also be used as indicator plants. These are plants that typically will wilt or begin to scorch when sufficient water is lacking. When daytime high temperatures are in the mid-70s, watering once a week may be sufficient, whereas when the daytime high temperatures are in the mid-90s, watering as often as every other day may needed. Clay soils will typically hold more moisture than sandy soils so adjustments may be needed based on the soil types. Heat stressed areas of the landscape may also need more attention than the shaded areas. Stone mulches may also require more water than a wood type mulch since moisture will evaporate faster from the stone mulch.

As for the amount of water, the soil should be kept moist but not water logged. Watering once a week thoroughly is better than a quick brief showering every other day. Watering the area underneath the plant is best. Simply let a slow gentle stream of water run from the garden hose in this area. An occasional watering over the tops of the plants will also be beneficial in washing the plants free of potential insect problems. Yes, washing is beneficial in pest management.

The best time to water is in the morning. This gives the plants time to dry off thus reducing the possibility of disease problems. Midday watering is O.K. but realize that more water may be needed to offset the evaporation that occurs. Also, plants may scorch in the mid day sun if water is left on the plant surface. Evening would be the worst time to water. It lets the water sit overnight on the plant surface and increases the potential of disease activity. Watering at the least preferred time is still better than not watering at all.

Watering the landscape today is much easier than in the past. Complete irrigation systems can be installed using the latest equipment. Various types of irrigation heads, hoses, connectors and nozzles can be purchased at the local Home and Garden center.