Earthworms and the art of grass cutting


“It’s time to mow the grass.” This was one of the most dreaded statements of my young life. Our acre-and-a-half lawn loomed, a seemingly unending expanse of a green enemy that required regular haircuts. Even with a self-powered lawn mower, the process required several hours of sweaty, unfulfilling work.

We never bagged the grass clippings. Instead they lay where they fell. In a day or two, the clippings disappeared. Wondering where those clipping went never occurred to me. I was just glad that we didn’t have to empty heavy grass catchers.

The ground beneath the lawn was full of earthworms. Just throw a pan of soapy water on the lawn, wait a few minutes, and collect enough worms to catch a mess of perch from our pond.  I didn’t make the connection between the earthworms, the lush green grass, and the disappearing grass clippings. Nor did we understand the part they played in the enormous ecosystem that lived under our very feet.

Charles Darwin, almost a century and a half ago, did understand. His book, “Earthworms”, published in 1881, was the result of years of study into these seemingly insignificant creatures.  In his manuscript he noted “It may be doubted whether there are as many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”

It wasn’t until I read this study that I realized that earthworms were the major reason that the grass clippings were disappearing. At night, they emerge from the earth and pull the clippings down into the soil, where they eat and digest them. The bacteria in the worms’ digestive tract breaks down and inoculates the material with beneficial bacteria. This then passes into the soil.

The bacteria then join untold millions of other bacteria, protozoans, microscopic insects and fungi to convert the soil into a rich mélange, which in turn, provides nutrients to the grass (and other plants).

Had I understood this process when I was mowing the lawn, the odious chore would have turned miraculously into an interesting and fulfilling science experiment. University research now confirms that children who understand this relationship develop important skills and healthy qualities.

Involving youngsters in the relationship between healthy soils and plants, including lawns, vegetable gardens and flower gardening, instills healthy qualities.

  • Knowledge of this unseen world instills a real sense of accomplishment and responsible attitudes.
  • Delving into the way plants and soil interact increases skills such as problem solving and nurturing
  • Understanding this allows them to understand and accept delayed gratification, failure and success.
  • The attitudes it instills helps them increase their abilities in science, art, reading and social studies.
  • Involvement in these disciplines helps develop interaction between parents and children
  • It encourages the development of positive relationships.
  • It expands their understanding of a work ethic.

And, who knows. It might even encourage them to gripe less when they have to cut the grass or eat their vegetables.

 

5 Lawn watering myths debunked!


There’s nothing like sitting in the backyard, cool drink in hand, smelling the sweet aroma of freshly-mowed grass. Through the years, gardeners learn about lawns – how to care for them, how to make them lush and green, and how to keep them healthy. But along with the good information passed on, there might be some incorrect and misleading data.

Here are some myths about good lawn care, and some practices that can improve the health of lawns while lowering overall lawn care costs:

Myth 1: If watering a little is good for lawns, then watering a lot must be better.

Too much water on lawns actually encourages grass to produce shorter and weaker root systems. In turn, weak roots are more susceptible to diseases and insect damage. Too much water will also kill beneficial organisms in the soil. And, since heavy watering can also promote fungal infections, over-irrigation creates a bundle of problems.

Lawns should receive about an inch of water every 7 to 10 days. That includes rainwater. Rain sensors can tell the gardener how much water has fallen in a given period of time. If, for instance it has rained a half an inch in the last week, then grass should receive only a half-inch of water that week through irrigation.

Myth 2: Automatic sprinkler systems save money and time.

Often, automatic sprinkler systems without rain sensors attached actually waste water (and thus money). It’s common in Montgomery County to see water running into the storm sewer from an overactive sprinkler system. And it’s not uncommon to see sprinklers running while rain is falling.

Myth 3: Manually operated sprinkler systems are the only way to go.

If the sprinkler heads are misdirected or damaged, the water may be going to the wrong place anyway. Whether a system is automated or manually operated, it still should be inspected by a licensed irrigator to make sure it is still operating properly. Many MUD districts offer free inspections by licensed irrigators.

Myth 4: Grass will dry out and die if it is not watered every day or every other day.

Grass doesn’t need to be watered every day or every other day. If it starts to curl, or keeps the impression of a footprint, it is time to water. (See Myth 1.)

Myth 5: Watering too much only wastes a tiny bit of water.

Fifty to 75 percent of all drinking water used in municipalities goes to watering lawns and gardens. In dry summer months that can increase to 80 percent or more. The amount wasted can be enormous. As population grows, more and more water is being drawn out of underground aquifers more quickly than the aquifers can recharge. Above ground reservoirs also become stressed.

Irrigating wisely helps create healthy lawns, conserves water, and saves money. Here are some helpful tips for watering.

Here’s what you should do instead

Minimize watering

This forces the grass to grow long, healthy roots, helping the plant with disease resistance. It also helps the grass during periods of drought, because deep root systems can store plant nourishment and water. Stronger roots can also seek water from the soil more easily. Adding too much water may help increase nitrous oxide emissions from lawns. Nitrous oxide is a dangerous greenhouse gas.

Too many people watering too much have a cumulative effect. The more water put onto a lawn requires pumps to work longer, thus increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn

Grass clippings increase carbon storage in the soil by almost 60 percent. It also adds the nitrogen from the tips of the grass back into the soil. It saves time and money. Additionally, it promotes continuous root growth and decreases need for fertilizers.

Mow high

Don’t “crew cut” a lawn. When grass shoots are taller, they help create a healthy root system. Healthy root systems mean less watering. Grass should be cut at three inches or higher. Keep mower blades sharp so it cuts the grass keenly. This reduces a plant’s water loss and stress.

Water the lawn in the coolest part of the day

This minimizes evaporation and reduces stress.

Following some or all of these tips can lead to a healthier, more disease-resistant lawn, possibly saving money, time and water in the long run.

via New Tab.