There are a few very simple rules for
mowing grass. The first is to use equipment that is ready for the
job. Make sure the mower has sharp blades. Dull blades will show up
as injury on the grass blades, like brown tips and jagged edges.
Blades can be sharpened in several ways. Using a file or grinder are
the more common methods.
is the rule of one-third. Never remove more than one-third of the
leaf blade at any one time. This rule must be followed if you don't
want to catch or rake the grass. A good general mowing height for
combination bluegrass and fine fescue is about 2 inches. This would
mean that you would need to mow every time the grass reached 3
inches in height.
Bagging grass clippings may actually
add to the buildup of thatch -- that dead, matted layer on the soil
surface. Thatch is broken down by microbes at the soil surface.
Without a food source, the microbe numbers crash, and any clippings
remain without breaking down.
Mulching is OK. It isn't a cure-all,
and it does take quite a bit of extra power to accomplish. The final
word is that grass mowed on the one-third rule doesn't need to be
caught or mulched. Bagging takes time, and the clippings must then
be disposed of. Mulching takes extra power and fuel.
Mowing intervals depend upon grass
growth rather than a calendar schedule. The spring and fall periods
will require more frequent mowing than during the summer. That is in
a "normal" year. Mowing frequently really reduces the labor needed
for overall operations.
Holes, tunnels and runs
Holes, tunnels and runs are common
themes of questions I am getting this time of year. The No. 1 theme
is holes in the yard, but tunnels and runs are running close in the
vote tally. Holes in the yard can be caused by several things. Most
of the time, the holes are caused by skunks looking for supper. It
just so happens that the remaining grubs are a favored food for
skunks. Grubs are usually a reason for mole problems in the spring.
top of second column in this article]
Spring is not a good time to control
grubs. They are large and hard to kill. Grubs are going into a pupal
stage in less than a month, and pupae can't be controlled by
insecticides. These pupae will then produce the adult beetles we
call May beetles, June bugs or Japanese beetles. Early August is a
great time to apply grub control products.
There are also new holes being put
in trees, particularly in high-sap-flow trees, such as evergreens
and maples. Whenever these holes are in a pattern, sapsuckers are
the answer. Sapsuckers are migratory birds that are here for about
two months in the spring and two months in the fall. They literally
suck sap from the trees. The injury is mostly cosmetic, but severe
feeding -- where all the holes are connected and go around the tree
-- may girdle trees. There is no great control method for
sapsuckers, but try something flashy to scare birds away from
severely affected trees. Examples would be strips of aluminum foil,
aluminum pie plates, windsocks and pinwheels.
Runs are usually caused by voles.
No, that isn't a typo. Voles are the short-tailed meadow mice. Many
were displaced by high water this winter. Their runs are right at
the soil surface. It looks like a snake covered with Roundup crawled
through your grass. Standard mouse control programs, such as traps
and poison baits, should be used for voles.
Fulton, unit leader,
University of Illinois Extension,
Logan County Unit]