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Make sure blades are sharp before mowing

Q: We hired a mowing service recently to mow our fescue mix lawns. Now they look burnt and not lovely green like they were. What happened? – L.T., West Side

A: Two things could easily explain, or perhaps both, the conditions your lawn is showing now.

First, I want you to examine the grass blades up close. Do the tips have a ragged, tattered look to them? If so, the blade on the mower probably wasn’t as sharp as it should be. Instead of cutting the leaf blades cleanly, the blades were torn off. That ragged edge has a hard time sealing and the tips of the blades crisp instead of seal. A sharp clean cut usually doesn’t leave that browned crisped look. Just like us, a jagged wound takes longer to heal than a sharp, clean incision, right?

OK, so you can’t do anything for that sort of malady except grow it out and with the next mowing be sure the machine has been properly maintained so the grass blades are cleanly cut, not torn. If this is a service you’re paying for, ask your crew to keep the mowers working properly before they do the job. If they look at you like you’re nuts that a sharpened mower blade makes a difference, then perhaps it’s time to find a different service. You need to be proactive and be sure to get what you’re paying for!

The second thing that might have caused your lawn to look so puny could be as simple as the height of the mower’s deck. If your lawn was cut too short, especially during this wicked hot time of year, it’s suffering from sunburn. Think of it like getting sunburnt on your scalp after you’ve just gotten a crewcut. Hurts, doesn’t it? In this area, with our sunlight so bright, never cut your turf short.

So, again, the best thing to do is allow the lawn time to regrow the leaf blade, shade the surface with a good green coat, and maybe if the burn isn’t too drastic, consider a mild fertilization to help the grass rebound. In a few weeks, by the end of September, it’ll be time to apply winterizing-style fertilizer and that’ll really help the lawn regroup so it’s healthy again by next year’s growing season.

You might consider re-seeding your lawn now, too. Since the blades of your existing lawn are way short, getting the seed down to ground level should happen pretty easily. There is still plenty of time for seed to germinate and root in this growing season, giving the lawns a boost. Hope this helps.

Q: I purchased two blooming bougainvillea hanging baskets to use on the deck this spring. I just learned that they won’t survive outdoors during the winter here, so now what do I do? – E.B., West Side

A: It’s time to start thinking about being able and ready to bring in all the tropical plants you have gracing your decks and patios now. Don’t do the move, just begin preparations.

Your bougainvillea really likes it bright and warm, so find a spot inside that will mimic that atmosphere as best you can. Is there a bright warm southern or southwestern facing window they can hang out in all winter long? That’d be great. You can usually remove the hangers from the baskets if you don’t want to hang them indoors, just be sure to create and have ready some sort of saucer system so when indoors the plant doesn’t get marred by the watering you’ll need to do.

If the bougainvillea are still in bloom, great, but as soon as they stop, give them a pruning so they aren’t as huge a plant for you to have to deal with. Don’t re-pot now, since it’s not the proper time of year for that chore, and start to inspect the plants for pests. I think it’s too early to bring the bougainvillea indoors now, but certainly have a plan in mind for the eventual change of scenery for these treasures.

Need tips on growing your garden? Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio West, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.