When I look around South Portland, I’m puzzled by the number of very closely cut lawns. They’re easy to spot, because they are turning brown, in contrast to lawns with longer grass that are still nice and green. That’s because longer grass retains more moisture, whereas grass that gets a crew cut is traumatized and has to struggle to recover. Close-cropped grass often exposes earth, which heats up and kills soil life.
During a dry summer like this one, it’s important to cut grass with lawn mowers at their highest setting. Grass that is cut at 3 to 4 inches does much better; it retains moisture, because it has developed deeper roots, which interact with microbial soil life. Through photosynthesis, healthy grass has a greater capacity to capture carbon, which in turn feeds the plants and is stored in the soil, keeping it healthy.
There’s a reason the United Nations calls 2015 the Year of the Soil: Treated properly, soil has a tremendous capacity to feed and heal our planet. What we do with our lawns ties directly into the UN declaration. When you consider that lawns are our biggest crop, what we do with the soil that supports it does indeed matter.
Nice, tidy, short-cropped lawns don’t benefit your neighborhood nearly as much as longer, healthy, green grass in your yard. Next time you mow, please set your mower on high. Your piece of the earth will thank you.
Rachel Mason Burger