Professional's guide to a good looking mulched lawn. Part 1
In my last post, we discussed the benefits of mulching your grass clippings. In this 2 part post, I am going to go into what is needed and the procedures that I use to give lawns that “clean” look. In doing so, these procedures will also give the most nutritional benefit to your yard.
We all have seen those yards in our neighborhood where the homeowner side discharges his grass and leaves the brown grass all over his/her yard. Some people actually think that is “mulching” the grass clippings, and leaving their grass lay like that is optimal for the yard. Both assumptions in this case are wrong. While there is some nutrient benefit from doing this, it is not an efficient way to get the nutrients into the soil where they are needed, and of course it looks terrible!
After years of explaining to my potential customers the proper theory of mulching, I have come up with an analogy that most customers can grasp.
Think food processor!
A good quality mulching depends on a good quality mulching mower, which has the ability to keep the grass clippings inside the mower cutting deck as long as possible. The mower also has to have a powerful motor to be able to keep up with the horse power demand that is needed to do the extra “work” that is involved in the process. Not only does the mower have to make the initial cut of the grass, it also has to “chop” the grass into very small pieces, that then fall down to the soil. Once there, the process of decaying breaks down the chopped clippings into the much needed nutrients and moisture.
There are several factors that get us to the point of finely chopped clipping that we need to have, to produce a good looking and healthy lawn:
1) Grass height at time of mowing: Ideally you don’t want to take off no more than 2-2 1/2 inches of grass at any one time. For most yards here in Duncan Oklahoma, that is no more than one weeks growth in the growing season.
2) Blades: The proper type and sharpness of the blade is critical. With the predominate strains of Bermuda grass we have here in Duncan Oklahoma, I prefer a “gator” blade type ( see picture below). This blade has 3 to 5 “teeth” that are at a vertical stance to the primary cutting blade. This enhances the amount of “chops” a particular clipping of grass receives before it falls to the soil. A very sharp cutting edge on the blade is also crucial, not only for the initial cut of the grass blade but the subsequent “chops” of the clipping after that. A sharp cutting edge reduces the “tearing” of the grass blade that gives that excessive “brownish” look to the top of the blade of grass.
3) Mower Deck: Whether you are using a 21″ walk behind mower or a 61+” commercial zero turn rider. The mowing deck needs to be enclosed. Most newer walk behinds will come with a “mulching Plug” that will close off the exit area of the deck. For riding mowers. zero turn or conventional, most manufacturers make a “mulching Kit” that will have baffles and a plug that can be installed. In either case the point of these kits and plugs is to keep the grass inside the deck for a longer amount of time for the chopping process to take place. If the grass is discharged out without the chopping process, you are left with very large pieces of grass that do not breakdown easily into the nutrients your lawn needs, and stay on top of the grass drying out, giving that ugly dead grass look.
4) Grass Moisture: Ideally, you need to do your mowing when the grass blades are dry, this will eliminate “clumping” that can occur in the mulching process. As the mulching process occurs, the small pieces of grass can stick together. If a lot of moisture is present, clumps form. When this happens these “clumps” fall down to the top of the grass blade but usually can not drop all the way down to the soil. While some small clumping is alright, as the moisture is evaporated out of the clumps, in a short amount of time and the small chopped pieces will drop down to the soil. Large areas of clumping can develop mold or can even pack down to the point where the sunlight can’t get through to the blades and yellowing or even death of the grass blade can occur. Waiting for the right time to cut your grass can be the difference between a good looking lawn and a great one!
That concludes part 1 of this post. Stay tuned in the up coming days for part 2, where I discuss some of the techniques I use to make that mulched lawn look great!
If you live in the Duncan Oklahoma area, and would like a quote for lawn care. Please visit us at Craig’s Lawn Care Duncan Oklahoma