It’s summer, which means it’s time to look at your sad, weedified, dead-patchy lawn and mentally kick yourself for not taking care of it in the spring when you were supposed to, but you were too busy fixing the snowblower which you put off in February because you were still getting your Christmas decorations off the roof which you put off in January, which, etc. But it’s never too late to get ready for next year, until next year is here, of course, so let’s take a look at 5 ways you can improve your lawn’s chances of making you look like a competent homeowner next spring. For those of you in drier climates, such as Arizona or the moon, you may return, laughing, into your air-conditioned bunkers, free from having to learn such words as “crabgrass”, “pre-emergent herbicide”, and “looks like another mower toe laceration, doctor.”
Cutting the grass
Mowing the lawn is a somewhat existential rite of passage for many home owners. Consider the fact that we purposely plant, fertilize, water, and nurture a living thing whose created purpose in life is to happily thrive and grow, only to have its head cut off every Saturday by surly teenagers who want to get this over as soon as possible so they can get back to playing “Death Drive Decapitator 4 (Extended Version)” in your basement. And no sooner is it mowed than it seems the lawn has re-junglified itself, and we have to get out there in the heat again and dodge the dog poop. But you came here for useful facts, so: regarding grass length, experts say never cut off more than one-third, or 33%, or approximately nine-twenty-sevenths of the turbicle of the blade (measuring from the root shank, near the vesicle), unless your lawn pH is a sub-cultivar of 7.8 and is batting below .200 at home. Cutting any more than this shocks the grass, and it will retreat, embarrassed, into its shell, waiting for winter. Make sure your mower blades are sharp, as using dull blades may cause your old shop teacher Mr. Jorgensen to show up and lecture you in front of your kids about taking care of your tools.
[pullquote type=”right”]The difference between a fertilized lawn and an unfertilized one is about $200.[/pullquote]The difference between a fertilized lawn and an unfertilized one is about $200. Fertilization also helps the grass grow strong and confident, so it can get into Grass College and maybe someday get a job as a golf course instead of embarrassing its parents by just hanging out in front of the bowling alley. Using the right type of fertilizer is important, so make sure you find out what that is. Really, you may have to ask a professional; we can’t be expected to know everything.
There are two schools of thought on watering at night. One says it’s okay and the other says “we don’t really think it’s a good idea. Come to think of it, we’re going to say we strongly feel you shouldn’t do it. Is that okay with you?” Watering at night may produce fungus, and not the good kind you can put on your steak, but the bad kind that will have you out in your yard with a huge tube of Lotrimin and some Q-tips. The best time to water is either pre-dawn, before cockcrow, but after the first blush of early morning; in other words, when you are asleep.
Mulch your grass
In the olden days, as we fired up our ozone-killing coal-powered earth-kill mowers, we used to have to collect the grass clippings in saggy attached mower bags that seemed to fill up and fall off about every 10 feet. Not so anymore, enlightened suburban ecologist! Today’s Lawn Scientists recommend you mulch your grass, which allows natural nutrients such as Death, Stench and Decay to invigorate your lawn organically. As long as you mow your yard every two days this is great, but if you’re like us, your mulching session creates mounds of dead grass that turn your yard into a hay field, suitable for baling, but, more hopefully, to just blow into the neighbor’s yard.
What about weeds?
Every year they return, no matter what preparations we made in the fall, or how diligently we spray them with herbicides the moment they appear. How we wish they would just die already and leave us alone! We’re talking, of course, about Reality TV Shows. But you may have noticed a close relation to another suburban curse, which is weeds. For those of you who have desire to take your lawn to the next level, or just have a jerk of a neighbor who likes to make clever jokes about you starting a dandelion farm, here are some weed control ideas:
- Use that old flamethrower your Uncle brought home when he got dishonorably discharged from the Army.
- Check to see if concrete or asphalt prices are decreasing in your area.
- Put up a sign in your front yard that says “Abiotic Prairie Eco-System Reclamation.”
- Leave them alone until you sell the house, when it will be the next guy’s problem.
If all of this seems like too much work, you may just want to wait until winter arrives and kills it all off again, and you can get back to fixing that snowblower you never finished repairing last February.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]