Volume 14, Issue 27 ~ July 6 - July 12, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Cut Your Turf Tall and Save Work in the Long Run

Tall bluegrass and fescue out-compete weeds

Bluegrasses and fescues grow upright; dandelions, plantain, crabgrass and Bermuda grass prefer to spread out over the surface of the ground. By mowing your turf tall, you encourage the bluegrasses and fescues to grow strong.

Each blade of grass is a factory that produces food through photosynthesis. The longer each blade of grass is allowed to grow, the more food it can produce. Because the blades of grasses are producing more food, they are able to develop more roots that penetrate deeper into the soil. The taller blades of grass also shade the soil better, thus helping keep the soil cooler and retaining more moisture, which favor bluegrasses and fescues.

By mowing the turf tall you are creating greater competition for the dandelions, plantain, crabgrass and Bermuda grass by forcing them to grow upright. This means that a greater portion of the leaves of these weeds will be mowed away every time you mow the turf. Also, these weeds prefer warmer soils, which are now becoming cooler due to a greater shading of the soil from the longer blades of grass. Because the turf is cut tall, the lawn clippings are better able to sift down between the blades of grass and disappear out of sight.

But you get those good results only if you mow your lawn frequently enough so that you never remove more than one-third of the height at each mowing.

Getting and keeping a weed-free lawn without the use of herbicides also requires you to have the soil tested at least every three years and spring-liming the soil to maintain a pH of near 6.5.

By following these recommendations, you get healthy, strong turf with only a single application of fertilizer or compost per year. By cutting tall and letting the clippings fall, you will be recycling the nutrients without accumulating thatch.

More on Zoysia

Q I have read inconsistent advice on the height for mowing a Zoysia lawn. I always collect the green grass cuttings for composting. Some readings suggest using a mulching mower, which I have, and leaving the cuttings on the lawn.

—Tom Ronaldi, Southern Anne Arundel County

A The recommended mowing height for Zoysia is 11⁄2 inches.

Zoysia clippings can be composted along with the rest of your garden waste. They contain about three percent nitrogen, which helps in the breakdown of leaves.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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