Taming the monster mower Are you a turf terrorist? You...

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June 11, 2000|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Sun Staff

Taming the monster mower

Are you a turf terrorist? You know who you are. Sure, the grass in your front yard looks lush and green right now, but in your hands, it'll be dead by the Fourth of July.

It's not that you want to wipe out every blade. It's just that you treat the lawn mower like a horticulturally lethal weapon.

How can you be stopped before you kill again? Dr. Trey Rogers, an associate professor of turf grass science at Michigan State University, suggests you stop worrying about fertilizer and sprinklers and think more about how you mow.

"Seventy percent of the problems we have with lawns are directly or indirectly related to the way homeowners mow," says Rogers, a consultant to Briggs & Stratton, a manufacturer of lawn mower engines.

Rogers has three rules when it comes to mowing grass:

* Never cut grass more than one-third its height during any one mowing.

* Alternate mowing patterns.

* Leave grass clippings on the lawn.

By keeping grass blades long, the turf has a chance to feed properly and will grow more densely, leaving weeds with no place to grow, he says. Changing mowing patterns -- east-west one week, perhaps north-south the next -- will spare the lawn from the stress of ruts and soil compacting caused by repeated mowings.

Clippings provide valuable nutrients for the soil and don't contribute to thatch, as many homeowners believe, Rogers says.

"Most homeowners want to bag clippings because they're scalping the grass in the first place," he says. "If you keep your grass taller and follow the one-third rule, you won't even notice the clippings."

More tips are available from Rogers' Web site: www.yarddoctor.com.

One serving of garden

From antique lunch boxes to measuring cups, colanders and saucepans, Diane Iazetta and Cheryl Grenier haven't found a kitchen vessel yet that can't be turned into a delightful container garden.

As owners of Late Bloomers, the pair create kitchen mini-gardens for customers in the Los Angeles area. Their delightful creations are profiled in the current issue of Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion. The cup (above) includes moss and fragrant gray santolina. Some of their other gardens use pineapple mint, spearmint, oregano, rosemary, thyme and lemon verbena, but practically any combination of herbs and flowers can be tried.

The former nursery workers scour flea markets, garage sales and thrift shops for their trademark utensils. The rest is creativity.

"Our ideas don't always work," Grenier tells the magazine, "but that's really what gardening is all about." -- P.J.

A study in contrasts

In "Formal Country"(Friedman/ Fairfax, $40), author Pat Ross is an inspiring advocate of setting casual bouquets on a formal mantel, of pairing a new painted lamp with an old wing chair, of incorporating the rustic and the charming into high-style rooms. Ross, you might say, is the casual Friday of decorating.

Her book is worth its cover price just to look at designer Richard Neas' cottage. In the living room he comb-painted the beige and white floor with tiny checks. Then, in his pistachio green dining room, he combed the moldings with blue and white stripes, finishing them with a row of blue dots. It's country, yes, but it couldn't be more contemporary or chic. -- Wire reports

Decorate the door

First, there were ugly kitchen appliances. Then someone invented cabinet panels to hide them. Now, it's gone full circle: Decorative paintings to call attention to appliances.

Yes, it's true. Charleston, S.C., artist Janie Atkinson has unveiled a line of trompe l'oeil paintings called "Door Decor Decorative Panels" that cover any standard dishwasher panel. Her designs, which cost $69.95, include faux paintings of a wine cooler, an aquarium and a china closet.

For more information, contact Door Decor at 877-884-8058 or www.doordecorllc.com.

-- P.J.

Home Front welcomes interesting home and garden news. Please send suggestions to Mary Corey, Home Front, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or fax to 410-783-2519. Information must be received at least four weeks in advance to be considered.

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