A weekly blog for all things conservation
Isaac Walker, BCCD, Ag Resource Specialist
As we enter a stretch of warmer weather, one thing is on a lot of people’s minds. Mowing the lawn. I know that I’ve been thinking about it too, as parts of my yard get taller and taller while others stay relatively short. While it may be tempting to get out there and mow on the first day that the temps reach 70 degrees, I’d like to provide you with some information and hope that you consider waiting before firing up the mower early this year.
Commonly in our region we do not need to cut the grass until the very end of April or beginning of May but with this year’s unseasonably warm spring temperatures, the grass is growing quicker than normal. Did you know though, that the first few weeks of grass growth are important not only for a healthy lawn but also for many pollinators that hibernate in the soil, dead grass, and leaf debris that is in your yard? The first few weeks of growth are important for the grass to establish a good root structure which in the long run will make your yard healthier and keep it looking good all summer long. Mowing the grass when it is in this growth stage can hinder root development and lead to dead grass when it gets dry in July and August. Another thing to consider is all those insects that are good for our gardens are still living in the grass and the debris that is on top of the grass. Many butterfly caterpillars and bees hibernate in thatch (dead grass) and leaf litter that was left in the fall. Mowing this can cause those insects harm and ultimately lead to a decline in an already declining population.
So, what are some things that we can do as landowners to keep our grass looking good and be good stewards of the environment? Well, the easiest and best thing to do is refrain from mowing the lawn early in the season. This isn’t as easy as it sounds for those of us who are keen on keeping a nicely manicured lawn. If you feel the need to get out and mow, do so on the highest setting that you can put your mower on. Think of it as just giving those high spots a little haircut. This will help reduce stress on most of the lawn while it is growing and keep the grass from getting frost burned when we inevitably get our May frosts. Also, avoid areas that are covered with a mat of leaves. As I said before, those leaves are harboring many beneficially insects. Another good thing to do is to not mow as often as you would in the peak of mowing season when the grass is at its thickest. Most people mow every week but letting the grass grow for two or three weeks between cuttings is a beneficial thing, especially in April and May. This also ties into a campaign called “No Mow May” which has been written about before in this column. Letting the grass go the whole month of May makes a world of difference for pollinators, and yes this means your yard may have dandelions in it. As someone who worked in landscaping all through high school and college, I fully understand the dislike of dandelions, but they do provide a good early season source for pollinators.
Before you get that mower fired up this season, I hope that you will keep some of these techniques in mind. These practices can help promote good lawn health and preserve a good environment for many beneficial species. Happy mowing (but not until the end of April)!
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely. You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.
Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District