Carver County Water Management, by Madeline Seveland
Lawns provide an area for many enjoyable family outdoor recreational needs including yard games, barbeques, and any "fun in the sun" activity. As Minnesotans we spend lots of time in the summer outside and probably a good deal in our own yards.
Maintenance of a yard is often necessary to increase the usefulness or enjoyment of the yard but some maintenance techniques can be harmful to public health and the surrounding environments. Here is one rule of thumb that will leave your yard lush and green and reduce the need for more harmful maintenance; MOW HIGH.
This may be music to your ears with the lack of rain this summer. A dense, lush lawn maintained at a minimum height of 3-inches is more drought tolerant because there are increased moisture reserves in the leaf tissue and root system. During this drought filled summer, you may have resorted to watering to keep your grass green, costing you $$. Reduce your water costs and need to mow often by allowing your grass to grow at least three inches.
A longer lawn will also have more surface area for photosynthesis to occur (more green!).
Increased photosynthesis results in more plant growth, an extensive root system and a healthier plant. The roots of your lawn grow as deep as the grass grows tall, so taller grass has deeper, healthier roots that are better able to supply the grass with nutrients and water.
Weeds can be drastically reduced when a lawn is maintained at a higher cut. Once turf adapts to growing at increased heights, it fills in and becomes dense and lush, crowding out weeds that normally invade when turf is weak, stressed and buzzed short.
The most noticeable benefit of the longer turf is aesthetics. The increased amount of leaf blade provides a dramatic improvement in turf color.
You will notice your lawn becoming consistent, uniform and lush looking. Shade zones, patchy areas and weak spots will fill in and help achieve a dense "carpet" effect when given the right opportunity.
Mowing high also helps prevent compaction of soil. Lawns can be harmful to nearby lakes and rivers if they become compacted and rainwater/stormwater runs-off them. Any herbicides, pesticides, grass clippings and more wash into storm drains with runoff. The excess phosphorus in grass clippings leads to algae growth in nearby waters.
You can help by reducing or eliminating any herbicides and pesticides you use and by keeping the grass longer. Longer grass will soak in rainwater preventing runoff and hold on to grass clippings, breaking them down and adding nutrients to your lawn.
If you do not use all of your lawn or you are looking for options to reduce the labor involved in maintaining a healthy lawn, consider restoring part of your lawn to a "no-mow" native planting or replacing ornamental plants with ornamental edible plants.
Native plants offer all of the benefits mentioned above to an even greater extent because of their extensive roots. Some native plants have roots extending down 15′ and native plantings have the added benefit of providing food and cover for birds and butterflies.