One of the major principles behind organic lawn care is the height of your grass. Higher is better. Many home owners mistakenly believe that they must keep their lawns mowed as low to the ground as possible to keep the grass healthy, to keep away weeds and to lengthen the time between mowings. It’s the crew-cut approach to lawn care.

The actual opposite is true. Tall blades of grass have more surface area exposed to the sun, which enables them to photosynthesize more sugars and starches for root growth. The healthier your grass roots are, the more water and nutrients they can absorb, which, in turn, makes for healthier grass blades. Keeping your grass higher works as well or better than herbicides at suppressing crabgrass, according to research done at the University of Maryland. (It may also curb low-growing weeds like dandelions or common purslane since the taller grass will starve them of sunshine.)

To achieving towering blades of grass, set your mower to its maximum, which means it will cut at 2.5 to 3 inches. Also keep your mower’s blade sharp, which will make for a clean cut and will avoid tearing or otherwise damaging the blades of grass as they are mowed. Finally, avoid mowing wet grass since that can also damage your lawn.

Another way to keep your lawn healthy and low-maintenance is to keep grass clippings on the lawn after you mow. Decomposing clippings add nitrogen, a major nutrient for grass, to the soil. Many homeowners worry that keeping grass clippings will lead to thatch, dying grass parts that form a matted layer, which keeps moisture and oxygen from reaching grass roots. Thatch won’t form from cut grass. Instead, the clippings will attract earthworms, which break down thatch.

What does cause thatch? Too much fertilizer. To remove it, use a hard-tined rake to scrape the thatch out. Then, spread a layer of compost on top of the soil. The compost will encourage earthworms to come and break down the thatch as quickly as it can be formed. Learn more about controlling lawn thatch here.

Another way to keep your lawn healthy and to discourage weeds is to cast grass seeds on your lawn in the spring and fall. Be sure to reseed bald spots and tamp down the seeds. Using your feet to push the seeds into the soil is fine. You don’t need a special tool. After you’ve scattered grass seed on the lawn, be sure to water it to encourage the seeds to sprout.

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