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It's time to break out the mowers

It's amazing how quickly lawns green up in the spring. Since our lawns are comprised of cool season grasses, it isn't long between the time the grass greens and the time we are out mowing the lawn. With all the rain we have had recently, I have found myself having to mow twice this past week!

Since mowers have been sitting idle all winter, now is the time to do some simple maintenance. If you didn't drain your oil in the fall, change the machine's oil to prolong the life of the motor. Now is also a great time to sharpen your mower's blades. A sharp blade helps to keep the cut even and not frayed. When you do remove the blade from the mower, make sure that you remember how you took the blade off. You'd be surprised at how easy it is put the blade back on upside down! I even made that mistake once. Blades can be sharpened at home, but it's fairly inexpensive to take the blade to your local hardware store to get sharpened.

When cutting the grass, the correct height for cutting is 3 inches. There are several reasons why to cut your grass at this height. Grass root length tends to mirror grass blade length. If we have a dry spell, the longer grass will stay green longer without watering because the roots extend deeper into the soil.

Another reason to keep your grass longer is that a 3-inch grass height reduces the amount of mowing required. A general rule of thumb for cutting grass is to cut no more than one-third of the blade's total height. This reduces stress on the plants, keeping them green, healthy, and disease-free. If you cut your grass at 1 inch, you would need to mow again when your grass is 1 and one-third inches long. If the grass is cut to 3 inches, you can grow your grass to a height of 4.5 inches before needing to mow again.

Finally, research has shown that taller grass is better able to out compete weeds. Fewer weeds in the lawn mean less weed killer needed and/or less time spent pulling weeds from the lawn!

Anne Lenox Barlow is a professional horticulturist who enjoys gardening with her family in Plattsburgh. She also chronicles her gardening experiences at her blog www.northcountrygarden.wordpress.com. She can be reached at a.lenox.barlow@gmail.com.

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