Vail Landscape Logic column: Which lawn care myths do you believe?
What Americans think they know — and really don’t know — about lawn care might surprise you. Up to 64 percent of Americans who have a landscape believe faulty information about lawn care. And since about 81 percent of us do most of the work ourselves, the majority of our lawns are probably getting less than optimal attention. It’s no wonder that, according to data collected through a Harris Poll conducted by the National Association of Lawncare Professionals in February, 7 in 10 Americans admit their lawn could use improvement.
April is National Lawn Care Month, so now is a good time to debunk some of our common lawn-care myths before we all set off on the wrong path to grow lush lawns that fall short of our ideal vision.
MYTH OR FACT?
The best time to fertilize a lawn is in early spring: myth. According to researchers at Colorado State University, in most cases the common fertilizers promoted in early spring are best applied later on. Holding off until May gives the grass roots time to develop without having to support emerging top growth. The best way to have a green lawn in the spring is to fertilize in late fall around Halloween.
Sprinkler systems can save more water than using a garden hose: fact. A well-designed sprinkler system that includes water-conserving nozzles, drip irrigation, sensors and a smart controller can offer a cost savings of 15 percent to 20 percent on water bills. Watering deeply and less frequently and in the morning adds to the efficiency. Factor in rebates that might be available from local water providers and the return on investment adds up while you are also conserving our most precious resource.
A brown lawn is a dead lawn: myth. Kentucky bluegrass — the most common lawn found in Colorado — will shut down and go dormant during times of high temperatures and little water in the middle of the summer. While dormant, the grass looks yellow or even brown, but this is the lawn’s survival mode. When temperatures cool and there is sufficient water, the grass will again return to its normal green color. Bluegrass is more resilient than we give it credit for.
Mowing the lawn short for a trim, neat appearance is good for the lawn: myth. Cutting the lawn to a height of about 3 inches promotes a healthy lawn. This practice allows the lawn to shade itself, which helps it hold in moisture and stay cooler. Mowed at about 3 inches, the lawn will do a better job resisting weeds and have a deeper color. Also, try to avoid cutting off any more than 1⁄3 of the grass length at one time. This may require more frequent than weekly mowing when the grass is growing the most.
Leaving clippings on top of the lawn after mowing is good for the lawn: fact. Grass clippings are mostly water and decompose rapidly, which creates a significant amount of fertilizer for the lawn. Research shows up to 1⁄3 of fertilizer applications can be reduced by simply “grass cycling” clippings onto the lawn.
We should really have fewer lawns: myth. California’s recent “cash for grass” campaign seemed like a logical solution to severe drought. And while lawns may be larger than needed or improperly placed on some properties, they still provide important benefits, such as earthworms, soil microbes and fungi that contribute to the urban ecosystem. Plus, they also help cool the urban environment. When properly designed, installed and maintained, lawns are worthwhile within the landscape.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.