A GROWING CONCERN: Summer means mow chores to do

WELL, WE ARE close … today is Day 3 of late late-spring, and next Monday, June 21, is the beginning of summer!

In theory, that means sunshine and warm (maybe even hot) weather is around the corner. It also means your grass is on the way, about ¼-inch every day.

So with the arrival of summer, let us again review your turf — its needs, your jobs and the desirable outcome.

First. You face grueling, repetitive, annual, seasonal, service.(G.R.A.S.S.)

Then remember that short, green, perfectly weed-free grass is a product of post-World War II affluence. It’s a plague of our society. The obsession for a golf course in the front lawn is not as much a craze of the resident as it is the product of our particular society. It is supposed to signal to all who see the lawn that this house has all the time and money needed, regardless of the fact it is an endless job to achieve the perfect lawn.

Now that we have re-established my disdain for the American lawn as most folks pursue it, let’s review the vast list of jobs one needs to perform now that the days of summer are here.

1. The mowing of your lawn. An improper cut can harm your lawn faster than any group of insects or most diseases. Proper mowing keeps lawns dense, aids in maintaining a healthy lawn, encourages root production and lessens weeds. Removing too much of the blade at once shocks the plant. It also causes the plant to re-energize its leaves at the expense of root development.

It is also the number one reason lawns are brown in August. Also, grass cut too long does produce dense turf, and the long blades left do not break down but rather cause thatch.

So mow your lawn as often as needed, but leave at least two-thirds of the blade intact. In our region, a 2½- to 3-inch cut is ideal for the average lawn. As a bonus, a taller lawn uses less water, as the ground is cool and shaded.

2. Aerating your lawn. If your lawn is in an old, established yard, if it is compacted from heavy foot traffic or has top dense, heavy soils, then aerate it.

This chore does numerous tasks: From water-retention improvement, to root stimulation and development, to increased water flow and nutrient retention, all which is vital.

3. Weed control. Weeds love your grass. Why? Because you obsessively water and fertilize it, so weeds thrive.

Liquid weed killers work best, but can damage all your other plants. “Weed and feed” products are safer, but don’t work as well. Hand-pulling is the safest, but for most people, the size of the lawn and number of weeds makes this action unworkable.

4. Wash your lawn. Spray your lawn with liquid dish soap. Use a sprayer attachment for your hose and spray, typically over the entire lawn.

Soap has a great advantage in the summer, improving the water penetration ability of soil. In our dry summers, this is a big bonus. In addition, soap arrests many turf insects and even combats turf diseases. Give soap a try!

5. Water your lawn correctly. First, water your lawn early in the morning — that’s before 8 a.m. This allows water to soak in, not evaporate.

It also gives grass the much-needed moisture early in the food-producing phase of the day. Early watering also has the blades of grass and soil dry by the evenings when bugs and diseases need the moisture for their production. And water enough! Do not water less than half an inch, ever.

6. Disease Control. Know the disease before anything is done. Most turf disease must be attacked at specific times and with exact products. Here is where local professionals in your County Extension office are handy. Aeration with early spring dethatching greatly reduces disease problems.

7. Insect control. Same advice! Before any control, you need to know the exact bug. Also most insects in your lawn come and go quickly. Living with a few weeks of a problem, especially with the rate our grass grows here, is generally better than chemical warfare. Only attack with chemicals when you have a severe problem. And even then organic solutions are feasible (see Master Gardeners or County Agriculture agents).

8. Lie on the lawn. If you follow the above advice, then make sure you enjoy and relax. Get out that blanket, get your friend or spouse, gather the children and let the blades tickle your toes. With scenes of water, mountains and our great summer days, an afternoon on the grass with the family is what life is all about, so stay well all!

________

Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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