October 1, 2008 Horticultural scientists bred a new, slower-growing variation of St. Augustine grass. It grows about half as fast as normal grass, resists cinch bugs, and its fine blades have a deep green color.
Every weekend, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns -- using 800 million gallons of fuel each year. Research shows a standard gas-powered lawn mower produces as much air pollution as 43 new cars each being driven 12 thousand miles. That's a lot of gas, never mind the sweat and hard work! To address this problem, experts have developed a new type of grass that's cutting mowing needs in half -- and promising to make your neighbors green with envy.
It's one of life's necessary evils: you mow, you sweat -- and one week later, you do it all again.
"Just to keep up with the lawn every seven days with the rain -- if you don't cut it, it's going to overtake [you]," says homeowner Stan Gill. "It's going to get ahead of you with the rain."
Gill has the most common grass in the Southeast in his yard -- St. Augustine. Now, horticulturist Russell Nagata, Ph.D. -- using his plant breeding specialty -- has developed a new grass that should make life easier for him and other homeowners across the country.
Nagata has bred a much slower-growing type of St. Augustine grass called Captiva. In one week, typical grass grows three to five inches. Captiva grows between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half inches.
"If you can eliminate a mowing, you will save fuel and wear and tear on your lawn mower," says Dr. Nagata, a horticulturist at the University of Florida in Belle Glade, Fla.
For example, in Florida, if you cut lawn mowing occurrences in half, Nagata estimates savings of up to 30 million gallons of fuel a year.
Captiva is also softer and a darker green than other types. "The darker green the turf grass, the less likely people are going to be thinking 'I need to fertilize today,'" Dr. Nagata says.
That means less toxic runoff from over-fertilizing. As if that weren't enough, Captiva is resistant to chinch bugs. "It's the most common insect problem that people have in St. Augustine lawns," Dr. Nagata says.
Captiva will be available starting this fall and found across the country within a year.
Lawn Watering Tips
It's best to avoid frequent, shallow watering because this will encourage grass to develop a shallow root system. Watering too deeply is wasteful because it allows water to pass beyond the roots, meaning your grass can't use it. Many experts suggest a volume of water that will moisten soil to a depth of 3-6 inches, depending on the type of grass growing in your lawn.
- Watch for indications that your grass needs water: if the grass turns blue or dull green that can be an indicator. Also, when footprints remain on the grass after someone walks over it, it's probably time to water.
- The early morning is, generally, the best time to water. Less water will evaporate because of cooler temperatures and calm winds, allowing you to presume that the grass will be able to gather in more of the water sprayed on the lawn.
- Most turf grass fares best if it receives about 1 inch of water per week or a bit more. Don't forget to include rainfall when calculating how much water your grass needs.
Lawn Mowing Statistics
Mowing a single lawn may require using only a small amount of gas, but the amount used by people in the United States is very large. In fact, Dr. Nagata estimates that in Florida, if lawn mowings were reduced by half, it would save up to 30 million gallons of fuel a year.
- Multiple sources report that five percent of the United States' air pollution comes from lawn mowers.
- The EPA reported that as many as 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled each year in the course of filling lawn mowers. This is more than what the Exxon Valdez spilled in 1989.
- The EPA passed regulations in September 2008 calling for a 35% cut in emissions from new lawn and garden equipment by 2011.