Honda HRX Lawnmower Press Kit - Basics of Lawn Care and Mowing - Part 1

BASICS OF LAWN CARE AND MOWING

Dr. Keith J. Karnok

MOWING

1. Is there a right and wrong time to mow the lawn?

In terms of time of day, there really is not a right or wrong time to mow grass. If the mower has lights or the facility has lights, turf can be mowed even at night. If "time" refers to environmental conditions such as heat or drought stress, then it is a good idea to raise the height of the cut and allow the grass to grow a little higher than normal during those times. Also, the cutting height should be raised if the turfgrass is recovering from disease, insect or other types of damage. To ensure good cutting quality, turfgrass should not be mowed when it is wet.

2. What is the rule of thumb for the grass height before it should be mowed?

The general rule is that no more than one third of the leaf blade should be removed at any one mowing. Another way to think about this would be to mow the grass when it reaches 50 percent higher than the desired height. For example, if you are maintaining the turf area at two inches, ideally it should be mowed when it reaches three inches in height. Of course, turfgrass can be mowed more frequently, but the one-third rule establishes the maximum time between mowings.

3. Is there a right or wrong way to mow the lawn? What are the tips?

The one-third rule is the most important. In addition, if possible, it is advisable to change the mowing pattern at each mowing. In other words, try to alternate the direction of travel each time the grass is mowed. This helps to reduce compaction problems (traveling in the same path over and over) and also helps to keep the grass from leaning or growing in one direction.

4. What is the recommended mower cutting height setting for the following grasses:

The information presented below shows a relatively wide range in cutting heights for a given turfgrass. This is because the actual mowing height used depends on the variety, level of management and environmental conditions (i.e. shade, season of year, drought, etc.).

Recommended Mowing Heights for Common turfgrasses (inches)

Warm Season Turfgrasses

St. Augustinegrass

2.5 - 4.0

Hybrid Bermudagrass

0.25 - 2.0

Common Bermudagrass

1.0 - 2.0

Centipedegrass

1.0 - 3.0

Zoysiagrass

0.5 - 2.0

Buffalograss

1.0 - 3.0

Carpetgrass

1.0 - 3.0

Bahiagrass

2.0 - 4.0

Kikuyugrass

1.5 - 3.0

Cool Season Turfgrasses

Kentucky bluegrass

1.5 - 3.0

Tall fescue

1.5 - 3.0

Perennial ryegrass

1.5 - 3.0

Fine fescues

1.5 - 3.0

Annual ryegrass

2.0 - 3.0

Creeping bentgrass

0.125 - 0.5

Other Mowable Ground Covers

White clover

1.5 - 3.0

Dichondra

0.5 - 1.5

5. Should I use this mower setting throughout the season?

As mentioned above, the actual mowing height depends on many factors. However, as a general rule, as the stress conditions increase (high temperature, low temperatures, drought, shade, pest damage), it is advisable to raise the cutting height towards the upper limit of the recommended range.

6. Aside from the aesthetic issues (and risk of incurring neighborhood rancor), can I wait longer between mowings, cutting the lawn when the grass is higher and reducing the overall number of cuttings?

Of course this can be done, but it is not advisable. The one-third rule should be adhered to as much as possible. We know that if more than a third of the leaf tissue is removed at any one mowing, the turfgrass plant can experience physiological shock. Root growth is often suppressed when this occurs and if the practice is repeated regularly, turf density will decline.

7. Maintaining my lawn mower is important to keep the equipment in excellent running order, but does it also affect lawn health in any way?

A poorly maintained mower can affect the health and appearance of the turf area. Dull cutting blades will tend to tear the leaf tissue rather than cutting the tissue cleanly. The frayed ends of the leaf turn brown and give the lawn an overall brown or tan color for several days after mowing. The "jagged" ends are also excellent entry points for disease organisms. Certainly, oil and gas leaks should be avoided.

8. As I mow, when should I bag the grass clippings, mulch them, or allow them to remain on the lawn? ("To Bag or Not to Bag, that is the question.")

a) When should I let the clippings lie?

b) When should I mulch?

c) When should I bag?

a). When should I let the clippings lie? If mulching is possible, and if the use or the appearance of the area will not be affected, mulching is recommended. If mulching is not available, it is strongly recommended that the one-third rule be strictly adhered to. Keeping the clippings short allows them to more quickly fall down off the surface of the turf to the soil surface and begin decomposing. The shorter the clippings, the more rapidly they fall to the soil surface and the less disruption there will be to the appearance of the turf area.

b). When should I mulch? If possible, clippings should be mulched every time the turf is mowed. Exceptions to this would be when the grass is unusually high and/or wet. In such cases it probably will be necessary not to mulch but rather bag or rake the area after mowing.

Honda Note:

This is a strong feature of the Honda HRX: because it produces such finely cut particles of mowed grass, it allows the mulched clippings to fall and decompose quickly while maintaining the manicured look that homeowners -- and their neighbors desire.

a). When should I bag? Bagging should be done only when mulching cannot be done or the presence of even a small amount of clippings left on the lawn is objectionable.

Honda Note:

This, too, is a strong feature of the Honda HRX: because it produces such finely cut particles of mowed grass, it increases the volume of clippings that can be included in one yard waste bag. This saves money in municipalities that charge extra to pick up yard waste. It also allows the grass bag on the mower to hold a greater volume of grass clippings, thereby reducing the number of times the grass bag must be emptied. Finally, it allows the homeowner to mow more turf area before the bag becomes filled. (See the chart on page 9 of tab #4 illustrating the Versamow System and bagging capacity).

9. How can I control weeds with mowing?

The best weed control is a thick healthy lawn. Proper mowing is an important part of maintaining a healthy turf area. Height of cut can influence weed invasion. A thick or dense turf that is mowed at the higher portion of the recommend range discourages most weeds. On the other hand, there are some weed species that cannot easily establish themselves in a closely mowed turf area. Still, the best weed control is to do the things (i.e. proper mowing, fertilization, irrigation, pest control, etc.) necessary to ensure a thick and healthy turf area.

LAWN CARE

10. In the Fall, I do a thorough raking and remove as much thatch as possible. But is there anything I should do in the Spring to reduce thatch build-up?

If there is an excessive accumulation of thatch, the turf area can be dethatched. A dethatching machine can be rented from most equipment rental businesses. In general, proper mowing, irrigation and avoiding over fertilization will help keep thatch accumulation down. Certain turfgrasses accumulate thatch more than others. Creeping or spreading type grasses (e.g. Kentucky bluegrass and Bermudagrass) accumulate thatch faster than bunch type grasses like tall fescue and perennial ryegrass.

11. In the Spring, how much do I mow? Do I mow differently?

Always follow the one-third rule. However, depending on the situation, it might be advisable to raise the cutting height as stress conditions begin to appear as summer approaches.

12. How does lawn fertilizer affect clipping production?

Clippings will increase with increasing nitrogen fertilization. Other nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, etc., have little effect on increasing clipping production. The inverse is true also. Turfgrass deficient in nitrogen will produce fewer clippings and even deficiencies of the other nutrients will reduce growth.

13. Are there times when I should collect clippings from the lawn rather than mulching them?

Mulching should be done whenever possible. It may be necessary to bag when the grass is too high and/or too wet to mulch effectively. Bagging also might be necessary when it's objectionable to have even the smallest amount of clippings left on the surface.

Honda Note:

If a homeowner must collect clippings and bag them for landfill disposal, the Honda HRX is designed to make this task easier and less expensive than a conventional mulching mower. Because the Honda HRX produces such finely cut particles of mowed grass, it increases the volume of clippings that can be included in one yard waste bag. This saves money in municipalities that charge extra to pick up yard waste. It also allows the grass bag on the mower to hold a greater volume of grass clippings, thereby reducing the number of times the grass bag must be emptied. Finally, it allows the homeowner to mow more turf area than a conventional mower before the bag is filled.

14. I love my dogs, but would like to minimize their tracks and spotting on the lawn.

a. What options do I have?

b. Is there a grass that withstands the wear and tear of dogs?

c. What is the best way to repair damaged lawn areas?

a). The only foolproof solution is getting rid of the dog! But since we know that's not likely to happen, there are other options. One option is to put the dog in a run. Another option is to restrict the dog to a certain area of the lawn and move that area around regularly so that the damaged turf has the opportunity to recover.

b). There are some turfgrasses that are more wear tolerant and therefore will tolerate more abuse than others. For warm season grasses, Bermudagrass and zoysia can withstand a lot of abuse. For cool season grasses, Kentucky bluegrass will sustain damage from wear and recover, while tall fescue is more tolerant of the initial wear but will be slower to recover.

c). Maintaining the thickest, healthiest lawn is always the best answer. It sounds trite, but it's true. Proper mowing, fertilization, irrigation, thatch and pest control will minimize the damage brought on by dogs or other kinds of stress.

15. How can mowing patterns enhance the look of my lawn?

As evidenced by professional baseball fields, mowing patterns can add an extra dimension to a turf area. The pattern is the result of the light hitting the surface of the turf at different angles. This is often accomplished with rollers that lay the grass in contrasting directions. Homeowners can achieve this effect to some extent by using certain types of mowing equipment. Traditional rotary mowers will establish patterns also, but the effect is less dramatic. In any case, mowing the lawn in perfectly straight lines or some established symmetrical pattern is much more pleasing to the eye versus a haphazard approach. Of course, as mentioned above, it is important to change the direction of mowing as often as feasible.

16. How do I handle shaded areas in my lawn? How do I grow grass and fill out the thin areas of the lawn that are in shade?

Maintaining lush, healthy turfgrass under shaded conditions can be a significant challenge. The most important management consideration is selecting the most shade tolerant turfgrass. For warm season turfgrasses, in order of most to least shade tolerance, St. Augustine grass, centipede grass, and zoysia grass are good choices. For cool season grasses, fine fescue and shade tolerant varieties of Kentucky bluegrass work well. Roughstalk bluegrass, often referred to as Poa trivialis also does well in the shade.

From a management point of view, the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied should be about half of that used for the same species growing in full sun. Mowing height should be raised to the upper portion of the recommended range. Watering should be infrequent, but deep, making certain to thoroughly irrigate the entire root zone of the turfgrass. Of course, all essential nutrients (phosphorus, potassium, etc.) should be maintained at recommended levels. A soil test should be conducted to ensure that sufficient levels of these nutrients are present. It's also helpful to minimize traffic over the area. Finally, pruning low hanging branches and even some selective pruning of limbs in the tree canopy will allow more light to filter through to the turf surface. In some cases, there simply is too much shade for any turfgrass to survive, and a ground cover such as ground ivy or pachysandra should be used.

17. How do I recognize a problem with disease or pests in my lawn?

Pests can refer either to disease or insects. In most cases, the dead or dying appearance of the grass itself will indicate the presence of turfgrass pests. It is often difficult, even for the trained professional, to accurately determine the kind of disease or insect pest present. This is particularly true if the damage has been done and the pest has moved on. Almost every state has a state operated plant disease clinic where samples can be sent for diagnosis. This is usually done through the county extension agent's office. Local county extension offices can provide more information. In addition to state operated clinics, there are also private labs that offer this service.

18. How should I water my lawn?

a). Should watering be done early in the morning or late in the evening?

b). How frequently should I water my lawn? A few deep soakings or several lighter ones in a week?

c). In winter, how much do I cut back on the frequency of watering?

d). Can you over water a lawn?

e). Do sunny areas need more water than shaded areas?

a). As a general rule, watering should be done in the early morning whenever possible.

b). Enough water should be applied to wet the soil at least one inch beyond the root system.

c). This depends on whether it is a cool season or warm season turfgrass and whether the site is in the northern cool zone or southern warm zone. Turfgrasses in the north are not usually irrigated in the winter, since there is plentiful snowfall or rainfall. In the south, cool season turfgrasses may have to be irrigated periodically according to the rule mentioned in (b) above. Dormant warm season grasses rarely need irrigation. However, under prolonged periods of drought even in the winter, it may be necessary to water the turf area.

d). Yes, over watering not only wastes a very valuable resource, but it can weaken the turfgrass plant and encourage disease.

e). Turfgrasses, as well as all plants, lose water through a process called transpiration. This occurs when the plants take up water from the soil and release it to the atmosphere through their leaves and stems. In addition, water is lost through evaporation from the soil. Both processes occur at the same time and are referred to as "evapotranspiration." The rate of evapotranspiration is greatest on sunny, warm, windy days when the humidity is low. Under these conditions, it usually is necessary to apply more water and to water more frequently than during overcast, cool, and still days. Certainly, shady areas best fit the second scenario, so less watering would be necessary.

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