A GROWING CONCERN: Work today, lawn tomorrow

SO HERE WE are — full bore into June with the official start of summer, June 28 at 5:43 p.m., less than two weeks away.

Right now you and your lawn mower cannot stay away from your grass.

Since the stay at home order has lifted, you might not be noticing the condition of your lawn as much.

But just so you know, the perfect American lawn is an unattainable myth we pursue due to the societal mindset of our particular culture, and with this year’s impending dilemma, it could be a disastrous pursuit as well.

A low trimmed lawn actually causes the grass to look and grow poorly.

If you are to have any chance at achieving a nice lawn, you must first mow at a proper height of 2¼ inches or higher.

This will also conserve vast amount of moisture lost to sun and wind-caused evaporation.

When the grass is not stressed by being repetitively butchered, as a plant, it is rather an aggressive creature.

Turf grass will grow fairy lush and thick, reproducing quickly by asexual means.

Because mowing eliminates all flower and seed heads, germination is not a reproduction option for your lawn.

But with all those nutrients available and no flower heads to develop, reproductive energy and food are switched over to new root and shoot production.

A massive balanced web, above and below the ground, develops a healthy lawn, provided that said nutrient is abundant, consistent and available.

Therein lies the rub.

We Americans, as a whole, really adore our chemical lawn fertilizer (God bless weed ‘n’ feed).

Here on the North Olympic Peninsula, turf lawns must have abundant, readily available nutrients year round.

And readers, lime is a must. It is the miracle drug.

Our perfect mild weather is ideal for grass — never too cold to force dormancy, never too hot to stress it out, so it just grows and grows.

You can tell by the gasoline you’ve been repeatedly buying for your lawn mower this spring and the hum of others throughout the neighborhood.

When you mow properly, it is a method of pruning, stimulating the new blade development.

Plus, being cut higher allows the grass to grow an inch or so before re-cutting, the now even healthier lawn produces even more new roots and shoots.

All of this growth activity needs nutrients. Lots of nutrients.

Typical lawn fertilizers have been developed to instantly release massive of amounts of nutrients upon first watering, distributing nitrates and phosphates into the environment.

These fertilizers are so highly soluble that they leach down into the aquifers.

In Sequim, with its “potatoes” (abundant rocky soil) moving nutrients quickly into our ground water source, and in areas with ditches and creeks carrying this flow downstream, algae on the beach just loves your smorgasbord, sucking up all the oxygen during their feasts.

Still concerned about soil fertility?

Healthy, fertile soil is dependent on a living soil structure.

To be a complete platform for plant growth, your soil needs a plethora of organisms, from worms and grubs all the way down through bacterium, mold and fungi.

When weed and feed or turf builder urea are applied, they kill off a large population of life in the soil due to their quick-release nutrient dump, or chemical herbicides and pesticides that are used today.

The remaining soil, now just dirt, is sterile and addicted to its next fix of turf builder.

Microbes, all those fungi and bacteria, are needed as catalysts for nutrient availability.

It is their interactions of feeding, breeding, dying and excrement that breaks down and forms the slurry of nutrients that the plants’ hair roots take up as food.

If your fertilizer’s amount of release destroys this web of life, then your fertility is ruined.

Organic fertilizers have many advantages for you to consider.

They release slowly and uniformly in an amount beneficial to complex soil and healthy, long-term plant growth.

They persist longer in the soil, unlike highly soluble fertilizer that releases very quickly and leaks or runs-off rapidly.

They sustain and promote bio-diverse soil, which dramatically increases its ability to stave off or manage pestilence without the use of destructive chemical compounds.

Organic fertilizers do not pollute in the detrimental ways that commercial urea salt-based lawn fertilizers do.

Be mentally prepared to even further question and challenge some of our long-held beliefs about your yard and grass.

Remember, the taller the grass, the less water it will need, thus leaving more water for all of us to use as we see fit this August.

But for now, make sure to use plenty of water on your landscape plants, flowers and especially your Corona Garden.

They are ready to produce.

Remember to sow some new rows of radishes, beets and lettuce.

I hope everyone gets a chance to move about safely, but please, 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 news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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