In the back of my book "The Greatest Moment In Human History," I offer the reader ideas about how each one of us can positively contribute to improving the state of the planet. One of these ideas is raising the blades on your lawn mower.
Now, how can raising the blades on your lawn mower help the planet?
The first way is by reducing water usage. When you have a higher turf, more water is retained in the soil. It does not evaporate as it would if the water were sitting on top of the mud or dirt. The water is absorbed deep into the root system and into the turf where it can be absorbed into the ground more gradually. This means less need for irrigation and human intervention. By simply allowing the rain to soak into your soil and maximizing what nature is already providing, you will reduce the time and money you are spending on watering your lawn, particularly in the hot summer months.
To do this, my general rule of thumb is this:
Beyond reducing your need to water, you will find that raising the blades also reduces and may even eliminate the need for any chemical application. When the turf is thicker and taller, you will find less need for chemical intervention to keep your lawn looking green and healthy. This is because trimming the lawn very short creates more stress on the grass, thus creating an unhealthy appearance. Many people then want to improve the quality of the lawn, so they reach out to a variety of chemical processes to make the grass appear greener. If you are doing this, please reconsider. The problem may not be the grass. It may be the way you are maintaining - or rather over maintaining - it. When the turf is allowed to grow, it is thicker. The extra height will improve the grass quality, making it hardier, and, therefore, reducing the need for anything extra to help it grow.
A taller, hardier turf also means more life and protein in your lawn. If left a bit taller, you will find that insects favor grass that is a bit taller. Crickets, ants, grasshoppers, helpful beetles, worms, and other vital insects will grow and thrive in a thicker turf. These insects add vital proteins to the soil which will feed the grass organically, without the use of chemical fertilizers and other man-made products. We may not like these insects, but they’re actually very helpful for the soil. Not only do they "feed the grass," they also create tunnels through the roots and turf which aid the growth of the grass and improve soil quality through natural aeration.
Insects also act as vital food for birds. If you’re a bird watcher, having a taller turf and more insects will organically and naturally attract more birds into your lawn without the use of feeders or seeds which require more work and energy on your part, and can also disrupt the natural migration of certain species. Why not take a break and let Mother Nature feed the birds without any help from you? You may find that a taller turf can save time, money, and energy with the added benefit of allowing for the natural cycle and migration of birds as they feed off the beneficial proteins in your lawn.
Think that a shorter lawn means that you need to cut it less often? Think again. Consider that by raising the blades on the lawn mower, you may be able to cut the grass less frequently. This is because a turf that is only an inch or inch and a half tall will look like it’s growing faster than grass that may be a couple of inches taller. Therefore, the shorter the turf the more frequently you will be tempted to cut the lawn to maintain that even appearance, versus a taller turf where you won't notice the slight imperfections as much.
As if all of this isn't reason enough, cutting the lawn when it's taller and less often results in less gasoline usage. Since lawnmowers create a great deal of emissions, cutting the lawn less frequently lowers the amount of pollution emitted. When you cut your lawn, you are creating more pollution per gallon than driving your car. Cutting less often equals less environmental pollution. It seems hard to imagine, but this one simple trick of raising the blades reduces water usage, reduces gasoline usage, lowers emissions, and makes your lawn look better and healthier with less work on your part!
A taller turf also results in more water absorption into the soil, reducing run off into sewers, ridding your lawn of puddles and mud, and lowering the amount of erosion. This improves the overall aesthetics of your yard and your home.
To really help your lawn, you may also want to try planting a tree or two. Trees draw more water into the root system which pulls the water down into the soil and can, in turn, aid the surrounding grasses. I found this out one year as I planted a tree in an area of my lawn that was experiencing extremely poor soil quality. After planting the tree, I noticed an immediate improvement in the quality of the soil, the health of the grass, and the overall quality of that area which previously looked terrible with a great deal of water runoff and erosion. The tree provided vital shade, reduced water run off, and increased water absorption. That part of my yard is now healthy and thriving, just by planting one tree, and the tree itself adds beauty and variety to what was previously an area that was sparse and underutilized.
One final thought for those of you who are dog lovers like me. When we chemically treat our lawns, animals ingest those chemicals. Scientists are finding that golden retrievers are dying earlier, and over 80% of these deaths are related to cancer. One of the possible culprits are chemicals that are being applied to residential lawns. Golden retrievers in particular like to eat and walk on grass. When they ingest these chemically treated grasses or walk on them with their paws, these chemicals are absorbed into the golden retrievers' bloodstream and overall physiology. Some scientists are finding that these chemicals are linked to cancer and early deaths and that certain breeds such as golden retrievers are particularly sensitive to these chemicals. If you love dogs and are concerned about the health and well-being of animals and even children who may be more susceptible to chemicals, consider halting the application of chemical treatments and at the same time advocating for the adoption of some natural methods - like raising the blades - which improve the condition of your lawn organically.
Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are also adversely impacted by the application of these chemical treatments. They feed off of those chemicals, and this may in part contribute to what is termed "colony collapse disorder" in bees, a term which seems to imply that the bees have something wrong with them when it's really the application of man-made chemicals that is at least in part responsible for their declining numbers. Want to help vital pollinators? Well, it's easy. Raise the blades!
To summarize, if you want to see more birds, help critical pollinators like bees and butterflies, have a more attractive and healthier lawn, save money, have more time for things you actually enjoy, lower emissions, decrease water usage, and reduce the amount of pesticides and harmful chemicals, consider this one simple trick. Raise the blades, and you'll be amazed at how working fewer hours and spending less money on your turf actually improves it!
Imagine if everyone today who is over-cutting their lawn used this one simple idea. It would have a huge impact on the planet. One person can make a difference. It just takes doing things differently. And just think when your neighbors see you do this how much more inclined they will be to do this as well.
Still think one person can't change the world? Think again.