Common Lawn Care Myths
Every time one of our lawn care technicians visits your house, they're always asked a similar question to the ones below. These myths are have been around forever, whether they come from the media or misinformation read online.
Myth: If you let turfgrass seed heads grow in your lawn and then mow them off, they will germinate and grow.
Truth: Seedheads need to mature on the stem for several months in order to germinate. So the seedheads produced in spring will not germinate when they are mowed or if they are moved as mulch to the garden. The most effective way to control turfgrass seed heads is through mowing frequently with a sharp mower blade. Seedhead production usually lasts only about a month for cool-season grasses.
Myth: I will not have to mow as often if I mow my lawn shorter.
Truth: Grass needs to be mowed in such a way that no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade is removed in any one mowing. According to the 1/3 rule, grass mown at 3.0 inches will need to be mown about every seven days. Grass mown at 2.0 inches will need to be mown about every five days. Lawns mowed at a higher height of cut will be healthier and will need to be mown less often.
The optimum mowing height for most turfs is about 2.0 to 4.0 inches. When mown at the optimum mowing height, turf is thickest and requires the fewest inputs. Mowing above these heights will tend to create a less dense turf with coarser leaf blades and potentially a puffy or scraggly appearance. Mowing significantly below this height will create a weak turf that will require more inputs like fertilizer, irrigation, and pesticides.
Can a turf species be maintained below the optimum mowing height? Yes, but be prepared to spend much more time, energy, and money to maintain than turf.
Myth: It is best to fertilize in the spring since that is when the home improvement stores sell fertilizer.
Truth: Heavy fertilizing in the spring will result in excessive growth (additional mowing), reduced rooting, and a lawn that is more susceptible to summer stress on cool-season grasses. Cool-season turfgrass species such as bluegrass should be fertilized mainly in the autumn. Fertilization in September and November and an application in the spring after the flush of growth (April or May) will result in healthy cool-season turf.
Turfs damaged during summer months and newly seeded ones may need an additional fertilizer application in October to help with recovery and establishment.
Myth: It is best to control dandelions in the spring when I see them flowering.
Truth: We get many questions in the spring from individuals who want to limit the dandelion seed source by spraying, picking, or hand-pulling the dandelions from their lawns. Though this is very noble and makes theoretical sense, count the millions of dandelions along the roadsides, farm fields, parks, and rights of way that will each produce hundreds of viable seeds. Controlling the few dandelions on your property will not significantly affect the seed source. Instead, concentrate on maintaining the thickest turf possible in order to prevent dandelion seed from establishing in the first place. If herbicides are necessary, consider spot spraying the weeds to limit the amount of pesticide you apply.
Myth: It is best to seed in the spring since that is when everything is greening up, rainfall is plentiful, and the farmers are planting.
Truth: Ideally, bluegrass and other cool-season grasses should be seeded in late August through early September so that they have sufficient time to develop before the onset of cold weather and heat the following summer. A second choice would be seeding in March. The primary drawbacks of spring planting are potentially wet conditions, cool temperatures, early spring weeds, and poor summer survival.
Myth: Returning mulched leaves can be detrimental to turfgrass quality.
Truth: Heavy layers of tree leaves shading the grass can smother and kill the grass. However, research shows that moderate levels of tree leaves can be mulched without any detrimental effects on the soil or turf and usually result in improvements in soil structure. The easiest way to dispose of leaves is to simply mow them into the turf. Regular mowing during the fall will chop the leaves into small pieces and allow them to filter into the turf. Mulching leaves with a mower is much easier than raking, blowing, and/or vacuuming the leaves as some have done in the past. It still may be necessary if copious amounts of leaves accumulate between mowings.
Myth: Returning grass clippings will increase thatch.
Truth: In the 1960s, it was commonly believed grass clippings were a major component of thatch, and removing clippings dramatically slowed thatch development. In 1967, researchers at the University of Rhode Island completed and published a detailed study of thatch showing it was primarily composed of lignin containing tissues (rhizomes, stolons, and stems) as well as living turfgrass roots. They concluded that leaves and clippings do not contribute to thatch buildup. Their findings were confirmed in numerous other studies. Thatching tendency is only increased by up to 3% from returning clippings, which is likely the result of the nutrients added from recycling clippings.