I get more questions about lawns than most any other subject this time of year. Sometimes a new homeowner, sometimes it’s a person who’s not happy with the current state of his/her yard.

Either way, the same basics will benefit. Let me know if you need more, and thank you for asking!

Equipment: Poorly maintained equipment will frustrate anyone and make lawn care tedious.

Sharpen blades: They’ll cut cleaner and faster and there will be less stress on the mower.

Wash mower and clean under the deck before putting it away: Again, it lessens strain on the engine and gets rid of junk you picked up along your mow.

Gas and maintenance: Check oil level and use 100% gasoline to extend the life of the engine. Stay current on maintenance, such as filters.

HOW HIGH SHOULD YOU CUT THE GRASS?

If it’s fescue-type it should be cut at 3.5 to 4 inches high.

Again, it’s less strain on the motor, and the taller lawn-grasses help shade out weedy plants, which like a shorter cut.

My mower is set as high as it’ll go.

If you have Bermuda, or any other type deep-south grass, the cut is about 2 inches.

A shorter cut won’t keep it from needing to be mowed again next week; it’ll just add to the weedy plants.

Point the exit chute away from landscape beds unless you like pulling weeds: The clippings will be distributed several feet out and often populate a flowerbed with undesirables.

If the area is too close between beds, consider weed trimming or push mowing with a mulching mower to prevent this.

When mowing property lines, point the chute away from neighbors or the street: It’s common courtesy.

Unless you’ve “made hay” when you mowed, leave the clippings where they fall to feed the invisible things on/under the ground: If you have piles of grass, rake and compost it. If left on the lawn it can cause bleaching and dying of the grass underneath. And no, this is not what thatch is.

Thatch is dead grass and weeds that grew and died right there and are inhibiting good airflow and sunlight penetration, leading to disease issues at root level. It creates a great environment for pests to set up housekeeping.

Thatch can be inches thick and forms a mat. Clippings can add to this problem if not addressed regularly.

Dethatch: Then, core aerate.

Fertilizer: this is a touchy topic unless one understands the negative effects man-derived fertilizers have on the soil. I never fertilize the lawn, but if you feel that you must, it’s never needed as often as the fertilizer companies say it is.

If I were synthetically fertilizing, it would be with a top-grade, slow-release starter (no herbicides) at ½ the recommended rate, between Sept 15 and Oct. 15, then the same amount again in late December or early January.

Starter can be broadcast over everything including landscape beds. That’s it. I don’t recommend weed-n-feed products; they’re over-used and misunderstood.

If I were fertilizing the lawn it would be with composted manure, spread evenly, in late fall.

Bottom line: Healthy grass plants, cut properly and not overtaxed with chemicals, will become much stronger, put down deeper roots and hold their ground if they’re allowed to establish a biocycle.

They’ll withstand drought, freezes, excess rain, and heat much better.

Yes, it takes more labor ... but the human body was designed to labor!

If we want lawns and landscaping, we should be all right with doing the work and protecting the little piece of ground we’re responsible for. From what? Toxic applications of anything: Read the fine print!

Weed trimmers: Service the motor, use 100% gasoline, use oil when needed, clean filters often, and use good trimmer-line.

Bottom line: Healthy grass plants, cut properly and not overtaxed with chemicals, will become much stronger, put down deeper roots and hold their ground if they’re allowed to establish a biocycle.

They’ll withstand drought, freezes, excess rain, and heat much better.

Yes, it takes more labor ... but the human body was designed to labor!

If we want lawns and landscaping, we should be all right with doing the work and protecting the little piece of ground we’re responsible for. From what? Toxic applications of anything: Read the fine print!

Weed trimmers: Service the motor, use 100% gasoline, use oil when needed, clean filters often, and use good trimmer-line.

Stay away from tree trunks with your weed trimmer!

Permanent damage can be inflicted to a tree with repeated gashing of the bark. Consider mulching minimally (not against the trunk) around the tree to keep down weeds.

I like to use the things that fall from the tree — seeds, pods, branches, leaves, needles, etc. — to mulch it with. It will decay and offer organic goodies back to the soil.

It also helps regulate soil temperature and maintain soil moisture over the roots.

All other equipment: Maintenance is key to having functional tools when you need them. Sharpen chains and blades, do maintenance on engines, repair and store properly.

Simple works! Give it a try for, say, a whole year. I think you’ll be satisfied and have a better understanding of “why.”

Need more answers? Email me!

Sherrie “The Dirt Girl” Ottinger is a dedicated ecologist, speaker, writer and lifetime Tennessean. All comments and questions should be emailed to velokigate@yahoo.com.