Volume 16, Issue 22 - May 29-June 4, 2008

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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Frank Gouin

Grow a Lush, Bay-Friendly Lawn

Cut it tall and let it fall

With regular gas approaching $4 per gallon, I have good news for home gardeners who mow their lawns. Follow my recommendations for a healthy, weed-free lawn, and you’ll use less gasoline for mowing and less fertilizer to make your grass green and healthy.

Recently, I recommended to an acquaintance that he mow to a height of three and a half inches.

“If I do that, I will have to mow my lawn every day,” he insisted.

I assured him that I mow my lawn to a height of four inches and mow it only weekly. He was speechless, and when I asked him how often he mowed his lawn, he walked away. It’s not true that if you mow your grass tall, you have to mow it more often.

Mowing your grass down to three and a half or four inches crowds out dandelions, crabgrass, plantain, chickweed, henbit and other weeds. You’ll also use less gasoline because the mower engine does not have to work so hard as it does when you cut your grass short.

When you mow your grass tall and allow the fallen blades to remain in place, the clippings are better able to filter down and come in contact with the moist soil, where they decompose and return their nutrients as slow-release fertilizer for root uptake. By allowing the grass clippings to recycle, you reduce your fertilizer bill by one-half. Mow tall, and you’ll also encourage the roots to grow deeper in the soil, making your lawn more hearty and drought-resistant.

You can have a green, lush lawn by applying only one pound of nitrogen — equivalent to 10 pounds of 10-6-4 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet — in mid-October. Follow this prescription, and you’ll eliminate the need to apply weed-and-feed fertilizers, which should be outlawed in the first place. If you are as concerned about the Bay as I am, the less fertilizer and pesticides you apply on your lawn the better.

To make the system work properly, lime your lawn at least every three years with approximately 40 to 60 pounds of dolomitic limestone per 1,000 square feet, depending on your soil-test report. Maintaining the soil at the proper pH improves absorption of nutrients by the roots of the grass and helps grass clippings to decompose rapidly as they come in contact with the soil. Furthermore, dolomite limestone is not harmful if it enters the Bay. Most likely, even if it falls on your driveway or sidewalk, it will never make it to the water because of its low solubility.

Make your lawn Bay friendly by cutting it tall and letting if fall.

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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