Lawn care

(Question)

Dear Sir/Madam, in my condo complex, the landscaping contractor is using very strong blowers to clean the gardens. Is it bad for the grass not to mention environment? Our grass seem to be thinner every year and after each cleanup is is completely flatten like concrete walkway. In my opinion soft rakes should be used on grassy area.
Please comment.

(Answer)

Oh, the controversy regarding leaf blowers! On one hand, they make cleaning up dead leaves and garbage a snap to clean up, on the other hand, the noise and possible air pollution is very irritating – not to mention those less-than-neighbourly folks who just blow it down the street.

Although the grass at this time of year is left from last year, blowing doesn’t really harm it any way, as it is dead, and our gardens and lawns are just coming out of their frozen state. What I’d be more concerned with at this time of year is tromping around the soft soil, whether using a rake (agree – much better) or a blower. As the soil thaws, the freeze/thaw action creates spaces between the soil particles, which allows much needed oxygen to the rooting system. By tromping around on the soft surface, the spaces get closed, and the soil becomes harder and compacted, thereby thwarting rain to getting where it is needed most – in the rooting zone.

Contractors not-withstanding, the normal process for lawn care would be to allow the soil to dry out, so pressure doesn’t compact the soil when walked on. It is then that a light raking is needed to remove thatch, or the dead grass from the previous year, to help open up those spaces for air and new growth. If there are bare spots,  appropriate grass seed for the light conditions can be applied at this time or later, when the soil warms up.

A good start on lawn fertilizer has a high middle number (phosphorus or P). Its purpose is to grow healthy roots. Later, when the grass is growing, a fertilizer with a higher first number (high nitrogen or N) provide what is needed to green up the blades. The final number (potassium or K) helps with the overall health of the plant.

Unfortunately, lawn contractors are often hired to “tidy” – hence the leaf blower scenario. This contractor may also fertilize, but as he is on a schedule client by client,  fertilization, aeration, even cutting, may not be undertaken at the optimal time for the lawn.

I hope this answers your questions, and perhaps you can approach your condo board with this information so that they can perhaps make a better choice for garden care.