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News / Life / Clark County Life

Gardening with Allen: How to mow and care for a lawn

By Allen Wilson, Columbian freelance writer
Published: May 18, 2024, 6:07am

Many of my neighbors have their lawns mowed by a landscaper. I think I can do a better job for what they pay. What is the best way to mow and care for a lawn?

You can definitely do a better job if you use the best mowing and other practices. Our lawns are predominately perennial ryegrass. Broadleaf weeds such as dandelion are easily controlled by using either a liquid or granular lawn weed killer.

However two grass weeds are harder to control. Annual bluegrass and bent grass are easily spread from one lawn to another by lawn mowers. Annual bluegrass develops seed at a very low height. These seeds can be clipped off and transferred. Cut stems of bent grass will actually take root and grow. That is how it is transferred from one part of the lawn to another. So both of these grasses, which spoil the uniformity of a lawn, can be transferred on a mower unless it is carefully washed between lawns.

Lawns mowed at a height of 2 to 3 inches will grow thicker and resist weed invasion. Grass blades are the manufacturing plant of the lawn. If allowed to grow to a height of 3 to 4 inches and then cut back to less than an inch, it is a shock to the grass plant. No more than 30 to 40 percent of the grass blade should be removed at each mowing. The lawn at the apartment complex where I live is mowed weekly at a height of 3 inches. It grows up to 4 to 41/2 inches before the next mowing.

Golfers are aware that golf fairways are typically mowed at 3/4 inch. However, what they may not know is that fairways are mowed every two to three days. So if you want your lawn shorter, just mow more often. Golf courses also apply fertilizer, weed and pest control products more often.

If clippings are allowed to fall between the grass blades they will be turned into humus by earthworms and soil micro-organisms. The amount of nutrients in one season’s clippings is equivalent to one application of fertilizer.

Another practice that will improve lawn health and appearance is keeping the mower blade sharp. A dull mower blade tears the leaf edges rather than cutting cleanly. The blade tips turn brown, giving an overall dull appearance to the lawn. This dullness goes away when the blade is sharpened.

It will also improve lawn growth if you apply lime to the lawn at least once every three years. Our soils and water are naturally acid. The lime reduces the acidity and improves grass growth. It also makes iron more readily available in the soil. Iron causes grass to grow dark green.

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Columbian freelance writer