The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 22, 2001 · Page 52
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 52

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, April 22, 2001
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Page 52
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4 SUNDAY, APRIL 22. 2001 THE SAUNA JOURNAL Mulch Madness Lawn mowers that chop up grass can benefit your lawn By TIM UNRUH The Salina Journal Mulching mowers can keep clippings out of landfills, save on fertilizer, reduce weed pressures and cut water use. They have been common in Salina for more than a decade, and yet in 2000, city crews hauled more than 1,800 tons of grass from yards collected in yard waste containers. "The best fertilizer in the world is cut grass," said Ray Early, manager of the Orscheln Farm & Home Supply, 360 N. Ohio, "and people bag it and throw it away." Gary Arpin, co-owner of Total Turf- care, 827 York, guessed that 20 percent to 30 percent of people who mow their own lawns practice mulching instead of bagging and discarding the refuse. Total Turfcare mulch-mows more than 85 percent of the time. His company regularly services about 120 acres of residential and commercial turf. "You're basically recycling nutrients," he said, "returning organic matter to the soil. It takes less time." He will use grass catchers on his mowers for the first or second mow­ ings iri the spring and the last two in the fall, mainly because there are tree leaves on the grass. The bulk of his mowings are mulched through the summer, unless conditions are wet, which would cause the clippings to ball up. "Once we're done," he said, "you shouldn't be able to tell whether it was bagged or mulched." Mulching saves Arpin's customers about 20 percent a year on fertilizer, and "it gives them a better-looking lawn." But there's more to mulchmg than pulling off your mower bag. It takes a special blade and the right deck design to do it right. Also, you have to mow more often, cutting off less of the grass each time. The key is not to cut off more than one-third of the blade with each mowing, Arpin said. "You're talking about weekly mowing, if not more often," he said. "If it's got any dampness, that makes it tougher to mulch. It'U tend to clump up on you. If the clumps are thick enough, you could choke out turf underneath it." Grass blades are mostly water, Arpin said. Once the blade dries, it disappears quickly. Mulching means grass blades are left on the lawn. Mulching lawn mowor blades — wafered blades — have more than one cutting surface. The grass blade is cut into smaller pieces before Saving time & money • Grass clippings account for 75 percent of all yard waste. • Up to 25 percent of your lawh's total fertilizer needs are supplied by clippings left on the lawn. • Clippings contain 80 percent to 85 percent water and decompose quickly. • Research shows clippings do not contribute to thatch. • Homeowners cut their average mowing time by 30 percent by not bagging clippings. • Besides saving time, you also save money by not having to buy bags or pay for extra hauling. • Not bagging your grass clippings saves valuable landfill space. • If you do bag your grass, clippings can be an effective part of a compost bin. Source: Kansas State University Extension Service it falls to the groxmd. Discharge holes in the mower deck are covered, forcing the clippings to stay where the blades are spinning. "Mulching is returning the debris to the turf," Arpin said. "You need to keep the blades sharp. We sharpen daily. Homeowners should sharpen their blades every three to four mowings." One-fourth to one-half of Orscheln's mower customers ask about mulching mowers, Early said, but "the majority of people don't realize how to mulch. You have to mow about twice a week." He said grass that's more than 1.5 inches tall can't be mulched because you only cut the leaf, not the stem. Deck designs are important, Early said. The imderside must be roimd. Otherwise, the cut grass will ball up in the corners "and faU out in globs." Conversion kits cost from $20 to $80, Early said, depending on the size and model. One good rule, he said, is "the smaller the deck and the bigger the horsepower, the better the mulch." The City of Salina offers a rebate program, intended as an incentive to reduce the amoimt of yard waste entering the landfill. Saline County residents who buy a new mulching mower can receive a $25 reJDate, and the rebate for mulch conversidh kits is $10, within 60 days of the pxu-chase. There is a restriction of one rebate per household every five years. It's meant to encourage yard waste recycling, said Mike Eraser, director of general services. "Mulching mowers help mulch that material so people don't have to pick it up and dispense of it," he said. "Besides, it's good for your lawn." Mulching has been a practice since the lawn mower was invented, said Larry Cunningham, manager of Rental Service Corp., formerly Barragree Rental, 1500 S. Broadway, an equipment rental and sales company. People bagged clippings, he said, to improve lawn appearance. "Before the bagging mower was invented in the early 1960s, everybody was side discharging," Cunningham said. "It just wasn't caUed mulching." See MULCHING, Page 5 All Trees 20%" Reg. Price Now Through Sunday, April 29. We all know that the environment is in trouble. We can, each of.us, do something to help the environment - right in our own yards. We can plant oxygen-generating trees and shrubs that will improve the atmosphere for generations to come. Don't Forget! Arbor Day Friday, April 27 Planting Services Available. Ask about Salina City Cost Share Program. 460 S. Ohio Open 8-8:30 Men. - Fri. • 8-6 Satuiday • 10-6 Sunday Eorthc Servic GARDEN STORE

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