By Dan Burns
OSU Ext. Master Gardener Volunteer
For some of us, spring lawn care is welcomed with an “I just can’t wait” attitude.
For others it is met with “I hate to mow” dread.
Whichever group you belong to, spring care can make your lawn look better and (hopefully) take some of the drudgery out of it.
Most lawns were planted when the home was built.
Lawns are the least expensive and the quickest way to deal with the bare ground. They also are the most expensive and labor-intensive groundcovers to maintain. But they contribute to the appearance and comfort of your home.
Lawns capture rain run-off, control soil erosion, reduce glare, filter air pollutants and lower temperatures around your home.
In some communities, a well-kept lawn is expected. Some people consider them toxic environmental disasters. Still others feel they are being held captive and must work feverishly to maintain a quality lawn.
Even if people use a lawn care service, they still harbor ideas and opinions on levels of maintenance and the products that are used.
The level of care is determined by several factors. The use of the area will affect turf grass selection and cultural requirements. Grasses used on golf course putting greens are high-maintenance grasses. Grasses chosen for playgrounds and parks require less maintenance and can tolerate heavy use, soil compaction and drought conditions much better than finer types of grasses.
Grasses used in home landscapes can require less maintenance if proper mowing, watering and fertilization practices are followed.
Grass varieties for Ohio are called cool-season grasses. They look their best and grow most rapidly during the cool weather of spring and fall. Common cool-season turf grasses include Kentucky bluegrass, tall and fine fescues and perennial ryegrass.
Mowing frequency is highest in cool weather. The “once a week no matter what” mowing schedule may result in a lawnmower clogged with clippings and really ugly clumps.
During the heat of summer, growth is greatly reduced. If drought conditions occur, mowing may not be required for a few weeks.
In fact, I have a friend who purposely mows his lawn too short so it will burn-out early to cut his mowing time.
While drought (and mowing too short) reduces mowing frequency, it will drastically alter the appearance of your lawn.
Frequent mowing is best; infrequent mowing stresses the plant because too much leaf surface is removed, forcing it to devote stored energy to regrowth of lost leaf surface.
As with other plants, grasses need to be fertilized more during periods of rapid growth. For Ohio, this means spring and fall. Plants do not need fertilizer when they are dormant or growing slowly.
Mowing is the most time-consuming part of lawn care. The cycle of cutting and regrowth is what produces beautiful lawns when mowing is done at proper height and frequency. Proper mowing removes no more than one-third of the length of the leaf blade. The recommended mowing height in Ohio is 2 to 3 inches. The recommended height varies with the species of grass.
It is advisable to cut lawns higher during hot weather and shorter as the temperature drops. Keeping grass at 3 inches shades soil and roots, decreasing water needs and reducing weed germination by crowding and reducing light. Mowing too short reduces photosynthesis, increases weeds, dries the soil and dehydrates the plant.
For details on selecting the right grass, fertilizing schedules and diseases, go to http://go.osu.edu/Lawn
For a complete organic approach to lawn care and maintenance, visit http://go.osu.edu/OrganicLawn.