You want to make your lawns and landscapes, the places where your children play and your vegetables grow, as safe as possible. We provide the information – and practical experience – to help you do it.
Lawns & Landscapes
June is here. Even in high elevation and northern locations — where we’ve just set out plants and are seeing germination from the previous weeks’ seed sowing — we’ve already mowed our lawns a handful of times. In earlier zones, we’ve been mowing for months. No matter where we live, it’s time to review some lawn mowing tips and tricks.
How is summer mowing different than spring mowing? It’s less frequent. As spring moisture conditions give way to the dryness of summer, lawns grow less quickly. Higher temperatures also encourage faster moisture evaporation. The most important thing you can do at this time of year is to encourage moisture retention. The best way to do it? Set your mower to cut less grass. Generally, three-and-a-half, even four inches is a good height for the most common grasses (Bermuda, zoysia and other warm-climate grasses can be cut shorter). This is the highest setting on most mowers. Carrying a yardstick around your lawn and measuring different places — shaded and not, northern exposure and southern exposure — will give you a good idea how your grass is faring (and bring a kid-friendly pun to the common usage of the word “yardstick”). Longer grasses in your yard help shade the ground, thus lessening moisture evaporation. Shading the ground also discourages weed seed from germinating. Different types of grasses require different mowing heights. (more…)
Grasses may not be the centerpiece of your gardens but they are a great addition (see Ornamental Grasses). They provide texture and variation; their movements draw attention to everything around them and their rustling, especially when added to bird calls, creates a soothing garden soundtrack. If chosen correctly for your hardiness zone and moisture conditions, landscaping with grasses will provide year-round interest. They’re hardy, need little care and are often overlooked by pests (except deer). Many varieties are available, in both seed and transplant form (wind, erosion and hungry birds take a toll on grasses sown directly in the garden; start them in containers). They’re often the most native plants in native-plant gardens and therefore the most suited for local conditions.
In their wonderful book, Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought-Tolerant Choices for All Climates, Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden list 17 grasses — from the common buffalo grass to the heat-tolerant giant sacaton — that will add color contrasts and dimensional interest to any landscape. They not only tell you which zones particular grasses are suitable for, they note those that are rarely browsed by deer. (more…)
Lest we forget — and it’s easy when we’re all wrist deep in soil — gardening is healthy! But you already knew that. Want to burn calories? The estimates suggest that gardeners burn 300 calories an hour, 600 calories an hour if they’re doing heavy yard work. Spading the garden burns 150 to 200 calories per half hour (the rates vary between women and men). Women burn 138 calories per half hour weeding, men 181. As Sherry Rindels of the Iowa State University Extension Horticultural Division points out in the article linked above, using herbicides doesn’t come anywhere close to burning the calories of hand weeding. And you’re not exposing yourself — and your children, pets, and neighbors to chemicals that may cause harm.
The strength, endurance, and flexibility that gardening requires is especially beneficial to the aging (and who isn’t aging?). And its been found that the kind of activities associated with gardening can reduce the risk of cancer. Not only that — as this article points out — “gardeners eat a wider variety of vegetables (rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals), and have a higher overall intake of vegetables than non-gardeners.” If your garden is organic, the benefits are better still. (more…)