BOONSBORO — Do you have lawn envy? Have you always wanted the greenest, healthiest lawn on the block? Then listen up while I share some lawn care tips and bust some myths.
It’s been hot, hot, hot, so everyone is reaching for their sprinklers. Resist the urge. Lawns naturally go dormant in high heat. Dormant isn’t dead. Rain and cooler temps bring them back.
There. I just lowered your water bill.
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Oh, and that crew cut may look good on you, but not your lawn. Tightly shorn lawns are stressed, inviting insects and disease. Scalping also encourages exposed weed seeds to germinate.
So set your mower height to 3 or 4 inches. That’s just right for the tall fescue lawns most of us have. It’s also high enough to shade out many weeds including crabgrass.
In fact, mowing to the right height can reduce weeds and disease by 50 to 80 percent.
Let clippings lie. Grass clippings do not — I repeat, do not — cause thatch build up. Plus, they act as free fertilizer, providing 25 percent of the nitrogen your lawn needs.
I’m not saying that you should leave clumps on your lawn. Mow often enough so that you take off no more than a third of the blades of grass. This keeps your lawn healthy and avoids lumps and dreaded raking.
“I love to rake!” said no one ever.
But if the lawn gets ahead of you and you must rake, put those grass clippings to good use as mulch. As long as they aren’t treated with herbicides, they make great mulch.
Now let’s bust some fertilizer myths. The first is that year-round fertilizing builds lawn health. Wrong.
The best time to fertilize is in the fall when plants are sending energy down to their roots. Grass is a plant, after all. Healthy roots build healthy lawns.
Fertilizing in spring and summer just makes for more mowing, not improved vigor.
The second lawn fertilizer myth is that any fertilizer will do. Soils and fertilizers vary greatly. Only a soil test will tell you exactly what nutrients your lawn needs.
We make soil testing easy. We have the forms, instructions and bags at our offices and online at https://extension.umd.edu/resource/soil-testing-and-soil-testing-labs.
Stick to the fertilizer recommendations on your soil test results. More isn’t better.
Excess fertilizers pollute our waterways, running from lawns into drains, culverts, local waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. Use only the fertilizer you need to help protect everyone’s clean water.
You can have a lawn that’s the envy of your neighbors. Mow high. Let clippings lie. Fertilize right. And give yourself — and your lawn — bonus points with more best practices at https://extension.umd.edu/resource/lawn-care.
Annette Cormany is the Extension educator for horticulture and the Master Gardener program in Washington County for the University of Maryland. She can be reached at 301-791-1604 or [email protected]