In the Garden:
Lower South
July, 2003
Regional Report

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A reel mower works great for small lawns and is popular with the neighbors too!

Mow Your Way to A Beautiful Lawn

The single most important part of building a beautiful lawn is to mow it frequently. Infrequent mowing intervals are more stressful to the turf and leave the lawn unsightly after each mowing. The more often you mow, the less is "pruned" off with each mowing. This minimizes stress and causes the turf to fill in nice and thick.

Professional turf fields are mowed every day or two, while golf greens may be mowed daily to attain the short, dense, top-quality turf. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, this is nowhere near practical for most of us home lawn weekend warriors. Therefore try to aim for a 5 to 7 day mowing schedule to keep your lawn looking great.

Blade Height
Set the lawnmower a little higher for summer mowing. Short mowing heights result in turf that has a more limited root system. Such turf is more dependant on frequent watering. Turf mowed at a taller height will develop deeper roots and be more resilient.

St. Augustine can be mowed at a 2-1/2- to 3-inch height while zoysia and standard types of bermudagrass will do fine at 1-1/2 to 2 inches tall. Centipede does well at about 2 to 2-1/2 inches.

Check your lawn mower blade periodically. Nicks and dents may indicate a need for a new blade. Sharpen your mower blades regularly. This makes it easier for your mower to do its work and can make for a more attractive lawn too. Examine a few blades of grass. Stringy, ragged ends that are turning brown indicate a dull blade. Multiply these tiny tan to brown tips times a million and your lawn takes on a less attractive color and appearance.

Mulching Mowers
Mulching mowers are now the standard for the industry. They work great and really chomp up the clippings to return them to the lawn. This is a great way to feed the turf. If you were to send a clipping sample to the lab, get a nutrient analysis, and then multiply it out for all the mowings from the growing season, you would find that you apply more fertilizer through the lawnmower than through the fertilizer spreader. So think of that ol' mower as a fertilizer spreader and every mowing as an application of slow-release fertilizer.

The Return of the Push Mower
New lawns are getting smaller as the days of the giant city lot give way to townhomes, garden homes, and a trend toward smaller lot sizes. A gasoline mower may be more than you need to do your small turf area. Electric mowers, including battery-powered models, are a popular item these days. So are the old fashioned push reel mowers. They are great for small lawns, and I like the quiet swish of the blades as you mow. Plus, I'm sure the neighbors will be grateful when you get up early on a weekend morning to mow the lawn!


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