Improve Your Lawn's Appearance
Joining the contemporary foibles of ‘road rage’ and ‘wrap rage’ is a recently real something tentatively titled ‘lawn envy.’ Real, that is, if you are a regular subscriber to poll factoids. Here’s the factoid: Something like 64 percent of consumers think a neighbor’s lawn is the best lawn on the block. (This from an April 7, 2008 posting on the landscapemanagement.net website summarizing the results of a Consumer Reports National Research Center January-February 2008 poll.)
If nothing else, this factoid is consistent with a serious claim made by Aaron Patton, an Assistant Professor and Turfgrass Specialist, and Professor John Boyd, a Weed Scientist, both of the University of Arkansas (UofA). Their claim is: “The primary purpose of mowing a lawn is to improve its appearance.”
They say further that, “Proper mowing technique, equipment, frequency and height will improve the quality of a lawn while also increasing the health of the turf-grass plants and decreasing weeds.” We think a lot of Boyd and Patton’s four page (non-commercial) PDF. And we think you should download it and read it. Here’s the link: Not just another pretty lawn mower—“Mowing Your Lawn.”
Here are some bullet points Boyd and Patton want you to remember when mowing.
• Only remove about the top third of the grass.
• Mow high.
• Keep lawn mower blades sharp.
• Let the grass clippings fall where they may. (Nourishes the lawn.)
And here’s something that came as a surprise to us, so we’re going to give it to you as a direct quote: “Mow in a different pattern each time to reduce wear, compaction, scalping and grain.”
Lawn Mower (Very) Basics
As you may know, there are only two basic lawn mower types: Rotary and reel. The difference is that a rotary lawn mower has a single blade that rotates on a vertical axis. The reel (or cylinder or push) lawn mower has blades rotating on a horizontal axis. A rotary lawn mower requires a motor. A reel lawn mower is human powered, though there are models that can be towed by a tractor.
There is a consensus that the reel lawn mower does the least damage to the grass and gives a more precise cut. That’s why you can see them used on golf greens. The cut delivered by a rotary lawn mower benefits from an often sharpened blade.
Of course there are numerous different manufacturers and models of mowers to choose from: Riding mowers, electric-with or without cord, lawn tractors and so on.
Consumer Reports, in our opinion is the best source for recommendations if you are in the market for a lawn mower. You can find the Home and Garden section of their website by clicking on Lawn Mower Buying Guide.
Lawn Aerator (Very) Basics
A lawn aerator pokes holes in a lawn so that oxygen, water and nutrients can flow to the grass roots better, and any compacted soil is loosened to provide a better habitat for earthworms.
There are two types of mechanical lawn aerators: A spike lawn aerator and a core lawn aerator. A spike lawn aerator uses a strong metal spike to make the holes. A core lawn aerator takes out a plug of soil. The consensus is that the core type is preferred because the spike pushes the soil to the sides of the hole and may actually increase soil compaction.
Grass Seed: The Long and the Short and the Tall
A one page grass seed fact sheet from Ohio State University (OSU) points out that grass seed sales are regulated by the Federal Government. Grass seed packets are subject to labeling restrictions, which means that there is an element of safety in purchasing grass seed.
The authors of this fact sheet, William Pound and John Street are both agronomists with the OSU Extension Service in Columbus, Ohio, and on the fact sheet they list 200 plus varieties of four different species.
If you want a quick rundown on grass seed, by all means download the OSU fact sheet. Here’s that link: Watching the Grass Grow – “Lawn Grass Cultivar Selection.”
You might also want to take a look at a lawn care brief from the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University. It says it’s a fact sheet, but it’s longer than that (four pages.) We liked the detail and especially the fact that it discusses acid-y soil and lawns, a topic that we didn’t see much of in the other publications we found. Also, it takes into account that not everybody will want to be out there manicuring their lawns all season. So it gives advice on low maintenance practices as well as the manicuring bit. Just click on the blue underlined publication title right after this: “Your Lawn and Its Care.”