It’s summer and time for outdoor activities like mowing the lawn. Healthy grass forms a dense cover and is very effective in reducing erosion, nutrient losses, and stormwater runoff. You can lighten your lawn care load, leaving more time for a bike ride to the ice cream stand, a refreshing dip in the pool, or a cool walk in the woods by avoiding these common mistakes.
Not maintaining your mower. Dull blades tear rather than cut cleanly, leaving grass open to diseases and pests. Sharpen blades after every 20 to 25 hours of use. In addition, check the mower for leaks, clean or replace dirty air filters, change the oil on schedule, and keep your mower free of debris. Be sure to recycle your used oil!
Mowing too often. Most of us have cool season grass varieties like bluegrass and fescue which do most of their growing in the spring and fall. During the heat of the summer, it may not be necessary to mow as often. A good rule of thumb is to mow often enough that you do not need to remove any more than one third of the height of the grass.
Mowing too low. Some people think that mowing low means less mowing overall; however, the reality is that it leaves your lawn less able to survive the stress of drought and other environmental events. Ideally, cool season grasses should be mowed to a height of 3.5 to 4 inches. Scalping the lawn allows sunlight to reach the soil surface, helping weed seeds to germinate.
Wasting grass clippings and fall leaves. Blowing grass clippings and leaves onto hard surfaces such as the sidewalk, road, and driveway makes those surfaces slippery and dangerous. Blowing or dumping clippings and leaves into storm drains and road ditches feeds unsightly algal growth, negatively affecting the water quality of our rivers, streams, and lakes. Shredded leaves and grass clippings contain the beneficial nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium a healthy lawn requires so keep them on the lawn. Why not take advantage of these free nutrients and save yourself money, time, and energy?
Too much watering. Central Ohio, on average, receives about 37 inches of rainfall each year. Cool season grasses are adapted to Ohio’s weather and go dormant when moisture is scarce. Once the rain returns, the lawn will “green up” again. Our lawns usually like about an inch of water per week and overwatering causes diseases, fungi, and insects to invade. If you feel the need to water, consider investing in a smart hose faucet timer, sprinkler control system, and/or soil moisture sensor. Your lawn will be happier and you will save on your water bill.
Not soil testing. A soil test is inexpensive and provides the information you need to maintain optimum conditions for your grass. Too much or misplaced fertilizer can harm your lawn and can lead to water pollution. Read your soil test, follow all label directions on fertilizers, and keep the product on the grass and off driveways, sidewalks, and roads. Ohio State University Extension’s Ohioline has an excellent fact sheet with step by step instructions on soil testing at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-1132.
An attractive lawn can be achieved without excessive fertilizer, pesticides, water, or labor. By implementing lawn care best management practices, you will have more time for summertime fun in the sun!
For details on Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District conservation programs, visit soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to https://soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/.