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Better, Healthier Lawns with a Lot Less Work and Expense

Do you ever wonder why you spend so much time mowing your lawn? Conventional yard care practice is to plant the greenest grass and then water and fertilize it so it grows full and lush. The faster it grows, the more often you have to mow, water, and re-fertilize it -- and don't forget the pesticides. The more you mow it, the more grass clippings you have to deal with. The more grass clippings you cart away, the more fertilizer you need to keep the grass "healthy." It's a crazy, increasingly expensive and time-consuming cycle.

Follow these steps to make lawn care less expensive and less time consuming, while leaving your yard much healthier.

The grass clippings should stay in the lawn. Clippings are the most natural and cheapest fertilizer you can get. And removing them is extra work. The key is to...

Mow when the lawn needs it. If you do not over-fertilize you will have a "window" of four days to a week during which you can mow the lawn without smothering the grass with clippings. Taller grass needs much less water than short grass. Taller grass also establishes strong roots and starves out weeds naturally. But make sure you...

Don't mow when the grass is wet or very dry. Wet grass clippings tend to clump up and promote harmful bacteria and mold growth. Very dry grass is weak and easily damaged. If drought is an ongoing problem, maybe you should pay more attention to xeriscaping. But if you must water...

Make sure you water thoroughly. Water evenly, to a depth of at least four inches. If you do not water thoroughly, you will promote shallow root growth. Shallow roots are weaker, can choke the lawn, and will make the grass even more susceptible to dry conditions, disease, and wear and tear.

Phase out chemical fertilizers and poisons. The next time you plan on fertilizing, use half as much as you used before, but this time apply a lower-nitrogen fertilizer. Then the next time, use a slow release organic fertilizer. If you keep the grass clippings in the lawn, you will probably not even need fertilizer after a year or two. And what's with all those weed killers and pest poisons?

Let the "pests" take care of your soil. Healthy soil has a lot of worms and grubs in it. Worms aerate and mulch the ground -- two of the most beneficial lawn care practices. And remember that...

One person's weed is another person's flower. And they all contribute to a healthy green carpet. Sure, dandelions can get out of control. But buttercups and violets are beautiful, and such wildflowers will establish themselves if allowed. Just as a healthy forest is a diverse forest, a healthy lawn is a diverse lawn.

If you have ever come upon a wild meadow, you probably noticed its intrinsic beauty. Granted, the grass is a little long, but if it is truly wild, no human labor or money went into it. Let that be an example of how a well-balanced ecosystem takes care of itself.

Here are some tips to make mowing easier and more sustainable:

For further guidance on lawns and lawn plantings, refer to Chapter 5.2 of PATH's Site Work Rehab Guide. Or consult the American Nursery and Landscape Association or the American Horticultural Society.

Content updated on 5/1/2003

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