During a summer of discontent about 20 ago, I cut lawns to survive. Actually, that was the job of Gary, Rick and Tony. I was more the Wench of Weed Whacking, the Pope of Pulling Poison Ivy. Every morning at 5:30, I’d drag my aching bones out of bed, look out the window and pray for rain. Rain meant no work and more sleep. Rain also meant no money and thicker lawns. I couldn’t win.
We never cut tiny postage-stamp lawns. Oh no, these were the lawns of the wealthy. You could smell the money and the fertilizer. On one particularly hot and steamy afternoon, we pulled up to an estate with a lawn the size of Rhode Island. Every week we came here. I turned to my good friend Tony and rather sullenly asked, “Do people really need lawns this big?” The lawn was gorgeous, green and lush. I vowed never, ever to have a lawn that size. I kept that promise — until last year.
My New England property was once studded with hemlocks, maples, ashes and something I call the “bean tree.” Over the years and the storms, trees tumbled and branches fell like World War II buzz bombs. Now I have nearly 2 acres (0.8 hectare) of, um, lawn. I cut it myself with a tiny 24-inch (61-centimeter) mower (I’m not the brightest spark plug on the engine). Over the years, which included the heady days of working with Gary, Rick and Tony, I learned a few things you should never do to a lawn. Here are 10.
10. Don’t Use Salt to Melt Ice
Winter can be harsh. Snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain. Many people in cold climes have concrete or stone walkways carved into their lawns. To keep these frozen avenues of egress open, people may put salt on them. While salt will melt ice, it also will damage the lawn when the ice dissolves and leaches into the soil.
When spring comes, brown patches of dead grass might appear where the salt has settled. In many cases, spring snow melt and rain often will flush the lawn of accumulated salts. Within six to eight weeks, your grass may green up again. If it’s a dry spring, experts recommend watering the damaged area three or four times.
9. Never Scalp Your Lawn
Cutting your lawn too short, or scalping, will damage the root system of the grass. Scalping happens when two-thirds of the leaf blade is removed and the stem is left standing. Studies show that by cutting your grass high, the roots grow deeper, allowing them to take in more moisture and nutrients. As a result, the grass grows thicker.
Experts caution against removing more than the top third of the grass blade. A taller lawn will not only blossom better than a shorter lawn, but it also will cut down on the number of weeds. Taller grass also shades the soil, which means the roots won’t dry out as fast.
8. Do Not Bag Grass Clippings
I mow “Big Dog Farm,” the name I christened my property with when the landscape work was finished, every two weeks during the summer. We have big dogs but not a farm in the Old McDonald sense. The task takes me about two hours to accomplish on a not-too-humid day. It would take me six if I bagged the clippings, which I don’t. I mulch them instead.
Little did I know that my sloth was helping my lawn stay green. Mulching clippings provides lawns with nourishment. I also found the clippings cover any bare spots. Moreover, bagging grass saves valuable landfill space and transportation costs to the dump [source: West Virginia University].
Here’s another tip: Don’t rake leaves in the fall, mulch them with your mower. Scientists from Michigan State University say mulching leaves into your lawn stops weed seeds from germinating on bare spots, while providing ample nutrients to the rest of the lawn. As an added benefit, you won’t need to spread as much fertilizer come springtime.
Read more: http://home.howstuffworks.com/10-things-you-should-never-do-to-lawn4.htm