Good-looking grass is as simple as 1-2-3

Easy ways to growing a lush lawn, which has environmental benefits

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How can you get gorgeous green grass without too much fuss?

Having lush and healthy grass isn’t just pretty; it’s good for the environment: Grass filters rainwater to prevent flooding, sponges up dust and soot, and helps to cool the area surrounding your house on a blistering hot day.

The July 2008 issue of ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, has the no-sweat (well, maybe a little sweat) plan to help you spend less time tending your yard and more time kicking back and enjoying it.

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ShopSmart’s easy three-step plan to shape up your lawn:

1. Mow like a pro

Aim high. Mow every five to 10 days and don’t cut the grass shorter than 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches high. This keeps the grass strong and healthy with deeper roots and fewer weeds and pest problems.

To set the mower at the right grass height, place it on a flat surface, like a garage floor, and set the blade at 2-1/2to 3-1/2 inches. Most new mowers require you to adjust each wheel; use a ruler to get the right height.

Mulch as you mow. Leaving clippings returns useful nutrients to your lawn, cuts the amount of fertilizer it needs, and saves raking. Just be sure to set up your mower or tractor in the “mulch” mode so that instead of spewing long clippings out the side that have to be raked up, the machine will chop them up into tiny pieces and release them back into the grass, where they will eventually disappear.

Mow in a row. To avoid uncut strips, mow back and forth, creating slightly overlapping lanes.

2. Keep it tidy

Don’t forget to trim around trees, posts, and other scruffy areas that the mower can’t reach. The best and fastest way to do this is with a string trimmer. For easy handling, choose a light, electric trimmer with a top-mounted motor for better balance.

TIP: To keep from tripping over the cord, loop it through the back of your belt.
Trim right. For the best control, tip the head at a 15-degree angle as you work.

3. Water it right

Start early. The morning is the best time to use sprinklers, before it gets too hot and moisture evaporates. Night watering can cause damaging mold and fungus to grow in your lawn.

Give the lawn a good soaking. Long soaks encourage roots to spread down, which helps maintain grass health. Aim for an inch of water a week, including rainfall.

Gauge how long your sprinklers should run by placing a few empty 1-inch-deep tuna cans around the lawn. Run the sprinklers for 20 minutes, then check the depth of the water in the cans. If they’re filled up, it should take around 20 minutes to give the lawn a 1-inch drink. If they’re not full, add a bit more time.

Don’t ignore trees and shrubs. If you keep them pruned and mulched, they’ll pay you back by providing nice shady spots for loafing.

– From ShopSmart magazine from Consumer Reports

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