Homeowners can reduce weeds, insect and disease damage by 50 to 80 percent -- while cutting chemical use -- by choosing the appropriate variety of grass seed and mowing at the correct height, according to anew publication produced by the Cooperative Extension Service, Maryland Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Fact Sheet 637, "Effective Lawn Care With Reduced Pesticide and Fertilizer Use," provides specific, concrete information that people can use to grow a thick and uniform lawn using few or no pesticides and moderate amounts of fertilizer.
"You can have a nice lawn with less effort, and fewer chemicals,"says Dr. Nancy Ragsdale, coordinator of environmental programs for the Cooperative Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Station.
But as the fact sheet explains, it will involve changing some badhabits.
Selecting the wrong kind of grass seed, for example. Manygardeners insist on growing bluegrass, even though it is a high-maintenance grass with numerous pest problems. Fact Sheet 637 recommends tall fescue varieties and zoysia grass as better choices.
"If mowed and fertilized properly, the need for pesticide applications on theturf-type tall fescues is 50 to 75 percent less than for most other grasses in Maryland," says Dr. J. Lee Hellman, extension pest management specialist and coquthor of the fact sheet.
Another bad habit addressed in the fact sheet is the tendency of most people to mow their grass too short, which exposes the soil and encourages weed growth.Herbicides are then needed to control the weeds.
Conversely, grass that is mowed too high or infrequently can retain too much moisture, leading to disease problems.
To help people determine how high or low to mow their lawns, Fact Sheet 637 comes with a wooden ruler marked with the proper mowing levels for tall fescue, zoysia, fine fescue, and bluegrass varieties.
Effective Lawn Care doesn't promote azero-chemical approach, adds Ragsdale. "But with current consumer concern about the effect lawn and garden chemicals may have on human health and the environment, we feel it's important to inform people that they can minimize the amount of fertilizer and pesticides they use without sacrificing the appearance of their lawn."
Fact Sheet 637 is available free on a singly-copy basis to Maryland residents through the Home & Garden Information Center at 1-800-342-2507.
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE ALSO APPEARED IN HARFORD AND HOWARD COUNTY SUN EDITIONS