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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Proper lawn care pays off through mowing season

Frank Fey Special to the Voice

I’m resting here on the sofa glaring through the shutters at the driving rain we need so badly.

I see the precious sustenance for all that is growing out there, from the tiniest garden seedlings to the tallest trees in our vast forests. Vast! That’s my lawn! Especially when it’s time to do the mowing!

And that seems to be every other day with so much water falling. The daily temperatures gradually reach toward long days of tank tops and sandals and yes, superrapid plant growth. I think I can actually see my grass growing right now.

I’m growing weary of this grass “harvest” I seem to be having every week. My mower doesn’t like it either.

Though seemingly dry on the surface, the extra tall lawn is still wet underneath. The chute that the cuttings fly through on the way to the catcher clogs up.

Now I have to shut the engine off, if it hasn’t already lugged to a choking halt. Now I am faced with reaching under the mowing deck to grab gooey globs of grass.

As I grip a handful, the liquid chlorophyl oozes through my dank fingers. Anyone for “lawn tea”?

Enough of this. I am going to do some research and analyze the situation and figure out how to keep my lawn under control from now on.

I’ll begin by carefully checking into my local resources, such as the WSU-Spokane County Master Gardener Plant Clinic, The Inland Empire Garden Club, and my favorite neighborhood nursery.

I’m going to quit dumping high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer on my lawn and switch to a granular product that will dissolve slowly over a longer period through the root system. When I apply the granular type, I’m going to disseminate it from my broadcast spreader so lightly that I will barely be able to see the particles fly through the air.

I’m going to apply a maximum of only three applications throughout the mowing period: first week of May, middle of June and the middle of September. Pretty simple.

I will apply what we will call a “winter feeding” after the mowing season has subsided, about the first week of November, when the grass begins to become dormant. That will be the magical treatment that will slowly penetrate the ground and enter the root system at its leisure.

My neighbors will wonder why in the heck I’m all bundled up out there running a spreader on my faded turf but, boy, will they be impressed when they view the glory of the green in the spring.

From now on when I water, I am going to be aware of the weather so I can switch the automatic sprinkler system to “off” or to “rain” mode. This will prevent oversaturation, thus conserving water – a true bonus.

I will make sure the sprinklers will apply a maximum of 1 inch of water per week and no more. I can measure this by setting out shallow pans to catch the water accumulation.

If I’m watering three times a week, then I want to see about one third of an inch of water in the pan per watering – no more!

Here’s something I am really going to enjoy. I’m going to begin grasscycling (WSU-Spokane County Extension Bulletin C059).

No, not riding my bicycle over people’s lawns.

This is a relatively new idea also called mulching mowing. I will mow the lawn without a catcher. That’s right!

I’m going to be using a mower with special cutting blades and a special baffle system under the deck that pulverizes the cut grass. Then the grass is deposited back into the lawn, leaving barely a trace.

Those tiny particles will decay as they are acted upon by millions of microbes in the soil. Then this grass material will serve as nutrient for the lawn, thus reducing the need for commercial fertilizing by at least 20 percent.

Such a deal. I love it.

Bye bye, grass catcher. Can’t wait to go outside and do some mowin’.

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