Managing Pesticide-free Home Lawns: Cultivation practices

By Kathleen Dodson, MSc.

The problems seen in home lawn environments are frequently due to a lack of annual tillage. In agricultural systems, this process incorporates organic matter into the soil, reduces compaction, and is used for weed control in the spring. Turfgrass systems cannot be tilled annually because they are a perennial system, so other cultivation practices are used to avoid compaction and thatch development on home lawns.

Two main methods of turfgrass cultivation include core aeration and vertical mowing (or power-raking). The former is used to physically remove plugs of soil, thatch, and plants from the sward. Core removal helps loosen the soil in its vicinity, and opens up the thatch so microbial activity can increase the decomposition rates of thatch. Core cultivation practices reduce soil compaction, improving its profile by promoting greater water infiltration, higher soil oxygen levels, and an increase in thatch decomposition rates—important for maintaining healthy turfgrass growth.

Vertical mowing or power-raking involves a machine with a series of spinning solid blades that can be set at varying heights depending on how deep you want the blades to enter into the turfgrass canopy/soil profile. The blades tear into the canopy and are used to prevent thatch development. Professors Søren Ugilt Larsen and Jørgen Fischer found that on fertilized fairway turf, vertical mowing reduced weed pressure while positively affecting turfgrass coverage.

Read the full article: Managing Pesticide-free Home Lawns

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