What are the biggest mistakes in lawn care

The biggest mistake in lawn care

It is widely used and the solution is to simply adjust the mower.

A short drive through almost any area with lawnmowers in the cooler season quickly reveals the biggest lawn care mistake known - you are mowing too short! Do you drive home from work constantly looking at the lawns, criticizing and jotting down notes on every lawn you see? Who is responsible for those lawns that are mowed too short and scalped to the point of peat damage? Unfortunately, it's the stressed, peeled lawns where you can see a lot more.

Why grass is cut too short

How does it come about that the majority of lawns in a given area are mown incorrectly? It is the culmination of several factors in both the lawn care industry and homeowners. Mowing the lawn has always been viewed as a necessary evil, often as a punishment for a teenager or at least a symbol of hard work when there is something better to do. This setting leads to the logic that mowing the grass that is extra short somehow avoids or delays the inevitable task of mowing the lawn again. You can go without mowing for a few days at most, but the cost of the grass is substantial and not worth sticking to a lawn maintenance routine.

People see very well-manicured lawns on television and they rightly want it for their lawn. It's just grass after all, mow it short, keep it green and graze like Fenway Park right?

Not really. Highly manicured lawns are mowed with specialized cylinder mowers and protected from pressure with a bewildering array of chemical fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers, and other products rarely seen by homeowners. Not to mention a computerized irrigation system and a caretaker and staff with more college degrees than you would think.

To be honest, many homeowners have unrealistic expectations when it comes to what their lawns should look like.

Why is it bad to cut the grass too short?

I understand why the brief look is desirable. It is very aesthetic to see a thick lawn mowed to about two inches or less, it really looks like a golf course or other fine lawn. The problem lies in the stress that these heights put on the lawn. A shorter lawn means less leaf blade on the plant, the less leaf blade, the less photosynthesis can occur, which means less shoot and root growth.

When the lawn is cut so low that the lawn is peeled and the canopy of the plant is injured, it opens up to a myriad of problems. As the plant invests all of its energy in recovering from crown damage, it opens up a weakness in the lawn and increases pressure from weeds, insects and diseases. It's not uncommon for these short lawns to fight weed invasions and infestation for an entire season. These conditions favor the never-ending cycle of resorting to herbicides and other pesticides to deal with problems that arise season after season. The multi-billion dollar lawn care industry is only too happy to cooperate with the notion that insecticides and herbicides must be used religiously every season.

Mow solutions

Mow the lawn as high as possible. It's that simple. Set the wheels as tall as you are ready to go, 3-3 1/2 inches is a great height. Mowing the lawn at this height, once a week (or less during heat and drought stress), will reduce the stress on the plant and result in an overall healthier lawn. It's even better with a mulching lawnmower. Returning the clippings to the lawn saves work and provides another source of organic matter on the lawn.

A longer lawn means more blades, and this has numerous advantages. More leaf blades means more photosynthesis, which leads to stronger, higher-yielding growth of roots and sprouts, which means the plant can better withstand stresses such as drought, insect infestation and heat. It also creates a denser lawn, able to displace weeds and provide a lawn that is arguably as attractive as a trimmed but unhealthy lawn.

A lawn can be spotty, thin, and relatively unkempt, but when mowed high it looks good out the window or street.

The weed-n-feed connection

Weeds are messengers, and their presence shouldn't mean "getting the chemicals out" like weed-n-forage. Solving the underlying problem is key to weed control and in many cases, just mowing the lawn a little higher is that easy. Try it.