Sunday Grass Cutting

Garden Clippings for May 11, 2019

It was May of 1997, a month or two after the four of us moved into our rural home.  It had rained all week and the week before.  The sun had finally come out on Saturday so on Sunday afternoon I seized the opportunity, jumped on the riding mower and three hours later the job was done.  It rained again the next day.

Two days later came a knock on the door.  It was the neighbour from three doors down.

“Now John, you know, you cut the grass on Sunday.”

“Uh, huh” I responded.  I knew where this was going.

“Well, you know,” he continued, “We don’t cut our lawns on Sundays.  It’s not against the law or anything, but it’s just a neighbourhood thing.  Nobody around here cuts the grass on Sundays.”

I wondered for a quick minute if I should respond with something that explained that I was only sitting on the mower, not pushing it, and therefore not really working.  I opted instead to do the neighbourly, honorable thing.

“Oh, for sure, I’m awfully sorry.  From here on I will cut the grass on weekdays.”

And that was it.  We have never cut the grass on a Sunday again.  But last week Sunday I spotted my neighbour John up the road, also a Dutchman, pushing his mower.  Times have changed I figured.  Most stores are open Sundays, including mine.  Our values have changed.  Guys can marry guys.  We can smoke weed.  And presidents can live immoral lives.

For fear that I would soon need to call Neighbour Doug to cut the grass with a combine, we cut the grass on Sunday.  So far there has been no knock on the door.

Cutting the grass when the ground is wet does the lawn no favours.  A good hard winter frost causes soil to be spongy, adding air to the soil, thus correcting the compaction of the previous year.  Trampling the lawn with a mower gets rid of air, causing grass growth to struggle.

The solution to compact soil is aerating, which involves using a machine to extract plugs of soil out of the ground.  Plugs are about the size of half a hot dog.  The best time to aerate is anytime grass is in active growth.  I would suggest late spring or early fall.  You can rent a machine to do the job or call a lawn service company to do the job for you.  Follow up with an application of lawn fertilizer and your grass will love you.

The other odd thing I noticed when cutting the grass for the first time this year is that a sizable section of the grass appeared as if it had been uprooted, almost as if someone had gone with a shovel and randomly dug up chunks of grass.

Grubs have finally discovered our backyard.  They are only doing damage in one far corner where the grass has always been a bit weaker, probably due to neglect on my part.  Where the grass is healthy, well cared for and fertilized, there is no grub damage.

Symptoms of grub activity are two-fold.  Grass is dead or dying in irregularly shaped patches because grubs have eaten the roots.  Where turf has been uprooted, animals have dug up the soil in search of tasty grubs.  I am not sure if the visitors are skunks or racoons and I am not eager to go outside in the wee hours in order to find out.

The solution to grubs is nematodes which are tiny organisms that are applied on the grass wherever grubs are present.  When applying nematodes, make sure the soil is damp, thus enabling the nematodes to travel in search of grubs.  Timing is critical.  Apply in spring after the grubs emerge from deep in the ground or apply in fall after the adults have laid eggs and new young grubs have appeared.

Wherever the lawn has been damaged due to grub activity sow new grass seed to fill in the weak areas.   Put down a thin layer of topsoil, sow seed, rake level and pray for rain.  Choose your lawn seed with care.  If weather becomes hot or dry, frequent misting will encourage seed to sprout quickly.