Will winter mowing awaken your lawn?

A red lawnmower struggles to cut through grass in an early season mowingFact or folktale: Mowing your lawn early in the season will trigger a premature start to its growing season. True? A master gardener answered this yesterday.

Contrary to what I've believed and experienced, mowing does not awaken grass from dormancy and encourage it to grow faster, said the coordinator of WSU's Extension Master Gardener Program in King County.

Additionally, she recommends mowing at a height of not less than three inches this time of year.

My Redmond lawn started growing much earlier than usual this winter. Typically it doesn't need mowing until mid-March, with March 1 being the earliest I can recall ever mowing. But my lawn has become shaggy already, so I fired up my old Toro on Sunday, Feb. 11, and cut grass tall enough to clump up and clog my blade.

That's despite my seasonal mowing ending later than usual last fall. I typically mow for the last time on Apple Cup weekend, in late November. This year my final mow came two weeks later, in December.

Master gardeners recommend you sharpen your lawnmower blade each mowing seasonIf your lawn needs mowing, most landscape experts recommend that you sharpen your mower blade before you start the cutting season. A dull blade harms grass that's not yet in a robust, recuperative state.

I'll be honest here. I did not sharpen my blade. Partly it was because it was cold outside and I didn't want to grapple with icy metal using numb fingers. But mainly, I figured if a dull blade might stun my lawn a little, fine. Now maybe it won't need mowing again until March.

Yesterday's sunshine also made for a perfect pruning day. Taking a cue from my go-to reference, the Sunset Western Garden Book, I always prune my fruit trees, roses, and raspberry canes no later than Presidents' Day. I found lots of awakening growth, including swollen buds on my lilac bushes.

February is the perfect time to prune dormant fruit treesAnother tip from Sunset: Now also is the time for bare-root transplanting. Move plants and bushes while they're dormant to increase their chances of survival. At my house, that means it's time to dig up raspberry canes I want relocated. Doing it now should ensure they'll recover and bear plenty of fruit by late June.

That's providing the birds don't gobble all the berries beforehand.

by  Jon Osterberg

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