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Friday, April 23, 2010

Going Greener with Lawn Maintenance

9 News Colorado

In spite of the bad rap lawns have had in recent years, they are a productive part of the urban environment.

They help to cool the air, they help clean the air and they are not really water guzzlers, if managed properly.

All of these green benefits just got greener as lawnmower manufacturers have started to develop and are now selling battery-operated lawn mowers.

These mowers are quiet with absolutely no engine noise-you can mow before sun-up and not bother the neighbors. They are energy efficient-costing less than 10 percent of what a gas mower costs to operate.

And there is virtually no maintenance other than sharpening the blade or plugging them into a battery charger. No oil to change, no gas can to fill and no emissions.

While these mowers are newcomers in the marketplace, there are a few walk-behind models available and this year a riding, mulching mower saw its debut.

Cost-wise, battery mowers can be pricier than the conventional models-but the energy and maintenance costs over the life of the equipment can narrow the gap.

According to the manufacturer of the ride-on mower, for example, the extra $1,500 on the price tag is more than made up in savings over the 10-year life of the mower.

That is a reasonable trade-off when you are committed to doing your part to lower emissions and noise pollution and to go green in your own lifestyle.

Reminder: there's more to going green with the lawn than the mower you use!

Whether or not you have a cordless electric lawn mower, you can still be very sustainable in your lawn maintenance program. Reduce, reuse, recycle is the sustainability mantra and it pays off for your lawn when you cut the grass with a mulching mower.

Here are some facts about grass clippings:

- 1,000 square feet of bluegrass lawn generates about 200 pounds of clippings each year.

- Yard waste makes up 20 percent of all debris sent to land fills.

- Hauling yard waste to landfills is labor, energy and emissions intensive.

A mulching mower solves these problems by cutting up all the clippings as you mow and depositing them on top of the lawn. Not only does mulching stop waste, it turns clippings into a green by-product that makes the lawn healthier.

- Clippings left on the grass provide additional shade and green matter that helps keep moisture in the soil. Clippings are actually about 75 percent water - leaving them behind should be part of your lawn care program.

- Mulching is a water-saving process. If you change to a mulching mower, be sure to decrease the amount of water from what you've usually applied to the lawn. In some cases, this can be as much as half the amount. Monitor soil moisture and the weather and adjust accordingly.

- Clippings are nitrogen-rich and will provide 25-30 percent of the nitrogen needs for the lawn. Since nitrogen is the primary ingredient in fertilizer, that means you will need less fertilizer to achieve the same results.

- Clippings break down rather quickly and that process encourages beneficial microorganisms and earthworms which also promote lawn health.

Mowing tip: Unfortunately, many people sharpen their mower blade in the spring and forget about it the rest of the mowing season. Be good to your grass and sharpen the blade about once a month as part of a good lawn maintenance program. A dull blade actually tears the blades of grass and can open the way to disease and other health issues. Keep the blade sharp-and keep mulching!