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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Mowing Time

Posted by John Fulton -

The spring mowing season has begun for some, and will shortly for the rest of the people. We are running a couple of weeks behind normal as for the starting time, but soil temperatures retreated about 10 degrees in the last 10 days. There is certainly enough moisture, so add a little bit of heat and we'll be hard pressed to keep up this spring.

There are a few very simple rules for mowing grass. The first is to use equipment that is ready for the job. Make sure the mower has sharp blades. Dull blades will show up as injury on the grass blades like brown tips and jagged edges. Blades can be sharpened in several ways. Using a file or grinder are the most common methods.

Next is the rule of one-third. Never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade at any one time. This rule must be followed if you don't want to catch, or rake the grass. A good general mowing height for combination bluegrass and fine fescue is about two inches. This would mean that you would need to mow every time the grass reached three inches in height.

Bagging grass clippings may actually add to the build-up of thatch (that dead matted layer on the soil surface). Thatch is broken down by microbes at the soil surface. Without a food source, the microbe numbers crash, and any clippings remain, without breaking down. The variety of grass also has a lot to do with the thatching tendency.

Mulching is OK. It isn't a cure-all, and it does take quite a bit of extra power to accomplish. The final word is that grass mowed on the on-third rule doesn't need to be caught or mulched. Bagging takes time and the clippings must then be disposed of. Mulching takes extra power and fuel.

Mowing intervals depend upon grass growth rather than a calendar schedule. The spring and fall periods will require more frequent mowing than during the summer. That is in a "normal" year. Mowing frequently really reduces the labor needed for overall operations.

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