Lawn tips to save you money

Five tips for maintaining a lawn while doing less and hopefully saving some cash.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Do more with less,” and I’m also fairly confident no one has ever told you to “do less with more.” When it comes to managing a home lawn, there are certainly some homeowners that would like a nice lawn by doing less with less – less work with less cash. Here are five tips Michigan State University Extension suggests for maintaining a healthy lawn while doing less and saving some cash.

  1. Mow high and follow the one-third rule of cutting only one-third of the top growth at any one mowing. If you set your mower to a cutting height of 3 inches and follow the one-third rule, you would not need to mow until the turf reaches 4.5 inches in height. The growth between mowing is 1.5 inches. If you mow at 2 inches and follow the one-third rule, you’d only have 1 inch of growth between mowings. Mowing higher is healthier for the turf and should result in fewer mowings, which means less gas, less time and less cash out of your pocket.
  2. Give your mower checkups. How often do you change the oil in your car? Do you know where the oil goes in your mower? Tuning up your mower will help improve engine and mower efficiency. Invest a little in a mower tune up before the grass really starts growing and you could save a lot in the long run on repairs or even having to buy a new mower.
  3. Sharpen mower blades. Have you ever had your mower start to “bog down?” One way to improve mower efficiency, turfgrass appearance and health is to sharpen mower blades. I try to sharpen my blades at least two times a year to keep the mower humming and turf at its best. Dull mower blades result in fraying and tearing of the leaf blades that result in a poor aesthetic look and increased water loss from the turf. Sharper blades will give you better looking and performing turf and once again could save you some gas and cash.
  4. Return clippings. Mulching blade mowers really do a great job of chopping up the turfgrass clippings, but even if you don’t have a mulching blade don’t let that stop you from returning clippings. Turfgrass clippings typically contain about 4 percent nitrogen, 0.5 percent phosphorus and 2 percent potassium. Several researchers have suggested that continually recycling turfgrass clippings to the lawn could reduce nitrogen requirements by up to 25 percent. That’s free fertilizer, so don’t waste it. Clippings are about 80 percent water and don’t contribute to the thatch layer unless you’re leaving clippings in piles on the lawn. Returning clippings is free fertilizer, and free is the best way to save some cash.
  5. Select slow release fertilizers. Select a fertilizer with slow release nitrogen to extend the length of feeding to the turf. Slow release fertilizers will provide steady turf growth as opposed to fast release sources, such as urea, that result in growth surges that cause you to increase mowing frequency. Buying slow release fertilizers will not result in instant cash savings at the register – you’ll have to think longer term on this tip. Slow release fertilizers feed the turf over a longer period of time than fast release fertilizers, so one application will feed the turf longer than the cheaper fast release bag.

Dr. Frank’s work is funded in part by MSU’s AgBioResearch.

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