Is it March or May? It's hard to tell. Forty-eight degrees, high winds and plenty of rain make it seem like March.
Plants are benefiting from the extra water after all the rain that we have gotten. They have put on plenty of new growth. I know in my yard, the shrubs have grown and my grass is growing and spreading, which is causing me to mow more often than last year.
This past week, I got a number of calls and e-mails about what to do with grass clippings. The question asked most often is about "grasscycling," or the natural recycling of grass clippings by leaving them on the lawn when mowing instead of bagging them.
This is a simple way to save you time, work and money.
The reason that baggers became so popular was that in the 1960s it was believed that grass clippings were a major contributor to thatch and that removing them would slow thatch development. However, research later determined that thatch buildup is caused by grass stems, shoots and roots.
How fast thatch builds up also depends on the type of grass and the amount of fertilizer being used. When thatch levels are a half-inch or less, you don't have worry, but when the thatch becomes deeper than this, it should be removed. You can reduce the thatch by dethatching or topdressing with good quality topsoil.
The key to successful grasscycling is proper mowing.
This includes mowing the grass at the recommend height, maintaining a sharp blade, mowing when the grass is dry and mowing often enough to remove no more than one-third of the plant height. The recommended mowing heights on centipede, bermuda and zoysia are one to 1 1/2 inches.
If you are mowing these grasses at this height, you would need to mow again when the grass reaches 2 inches in height. If the grass becomes too tall between mowing, you can raise the cutting height for the first mowing, then gradually lower it with later mowings until the proper height is reached. In times of drought, you can raise the cutting height, but continue to mow often enough to avoid excess leaf removal. A general rule of thumb is if you can see grass clippings lying on top of the grass, you took off too much.
All mowers can grasscycle; no special equipment is needed. However, many manufacturers sell mower attachments that chop clippings into smaller pieces and improve a mower's grasscycling performance.
Grasscycling can save you time by not having to empty the bagger. I bought a mower in 1985 that had a bagger on it. It seemed that I spent half of my time emptying the bag.
A study in Texas found that grasscycling meant an extra mowing per month but saved 35 minutes on each mowing. After six months of grasscycling, homeowners who participated saved an average of seven hours of yard work.
Another key to grasscycling is reducing the amount of fertilizer. We spend money to buy fertilizer to put on our grass. The fertilizer is heavily concentrated in the leaf. When we bag our grass clippings, we are taking away the nutrients that we paid for. If we are grasscycling, the nutrients are released back into the soil as the leaf tissue decomposes. This means you can often leave off one fertilizer application each year.
To determine the correct amount to apply, you need have a soil sample run. This will give you the nutrient levels in the soil, and a recommendation for how much and what balance of fertilizer to use on your grass. If you are bagging your clippings, you will notice on the bottom of your soil sample to increase the amount of fertilizer applied by 30 percent.
If you are bagging your clippings, properly dispose of them. There are a number of uses for these clippings. First, you can make compost out of them. The compost can be used around your plants or in your vegetable garden. You can mulch your plants with the clippings. Make sure that you don't put them on too heavily. All it takes is 2 inches of grass clippings. If they are thicker than this they can form a mat that will not allow water through.
Grasscycling is a proven and effective way to manage lawns. The clippings will add nutrients back to your soil, saving you time and money.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or email@example.com. The extension Web site is ugaextension.com/columbia.
Weekend Gardener n
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