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Working Against Yourself – 8 Lawn Sins
(and their fixes!)

Nothing is worse than working hard only to find out that things that you’re doing are giving you the exact opposite results to what you were working toward. Today we’ll cover some of the all too common problems that cover this exact subject, as it relates to lawns in Utah and the Intermountain Area. We know you do these things, even when you’ve been told otherwise, but now is a good time to look at the results of what you’ve been doing this summer and discuss the “whys” while it’s still fresh to see. As summer draws to a close, it’s a good time to evaluate the current status of your lawn and how the past season has gone. In many areas of Utah and the West for that matter, we had a very wet beginning to spring followed by a very hot and dry summer with little to no rainfall. That is important for a few reasons. First, the very wet month of May was the prime growing season for turf and with the very frequent rainfall and low temps, our plants set their root systems very shallow (they go where the water is) during their aggressive growth period. That set the stage for struggling in the sun baked afternoons of the next three months, quickly drying the soil where the roots had set, causing lawns to struggle mightily under normal care conditions.

Keeping that in mind, there were practices that exaggerated problems and compounded lawn issues, mostly by our own doing, essentially working against ourselves to achieve our desired end results. Here’s the top list and what we can do to repair the problems and set ourselves up for better results to close the season and carry through into next year.

#1 - Mow Height

This is by far and away one of the most prevalent abuses people do to work against themselves as it relates to their lawns. To understand the problem, we have to understand how vertical growing, cool season turf plants (what 99.9 percent of you have with bluegrass, fescue and rye blended turfs) are structured and what happens to them when we cut them like a horizontal structured plant. As you can see in the illustration, what makes a vertical growth grass stand upright is the stalk, or culm. Often a white or yellowish (depending on the plant type) color as you can see on the mature plant on the left. So what happens when we cut the lawn to a “golf course” height, because we like to keep it short? We take away much of the leaf surface, our green part of the plant, leaving the structural parts of the plant visible. To the untrained eye, this can translate to pale or dry lawns, prompting more watering or more fertilizer to a plant that is now in stress from having the majority of it photosynthesizing parts removed. That creates new problems, as we’ll discuss below in the water and fertilizer areas.


Additionally, by removing so much leaf surface on a vertical growing plant, we create a new problem where we are now not shading the plants roots and the soil around it. In the hot summer months, exposing that soil to additional sunlight dramatically increases its ...more