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Here's how to get a healthier lawn with less effort

Like the chirping of birds and the spinning of fan blades, the humming of lawnmower engines is part of the soundtrack of summer.

We're a little obsessed with our lawns, yet sometimes to the detriment of their health and our leisure time.

Here's a thought: How about getting a healthier lawn for less money and effort? These tips can help you achieve those goals.

Some lawns seem inspired by their owners' golf games. But your yard is not a golf course, so don't trim the grass as though it's a putting green.

The University of Illinois Extension suggests keeping grass 3 inches or slightly higher, which will encourage deeper roots. This also will keep the grass from drying out as quickly as compared with shorter grass.

Consumer Reports notes that by allowing grass to grow 4½ inches before cutting it to 3 inches, you can reduce mowing frequency by about 25 percent – or about 10 hours in a year.

In shaded areas under trees, grass competes with tree roots for water and nutrients. To offset this, Lowe's recommends mowing this grass higher. There is a direct link between grass height and root depth.

Consumer Reports suggests mulching your grass clippings instead of bagging them to add nutrients back to the soil.

Compost is another natural option: Consumer Reports recommends applying a quarter-inch of compost one or two times each year. (For Derry Township residents, free compost is available at the Derry Township Recycling Center, 650 Clearwater Road.)

A healthy lawn, according to Consumer Reports, needs approximately one inch of water per week, including rainfall. A weekly soaking is better than a daily watering.

"And during hot, dry spells, don’t be afraid to let the lawn turn brown," Consumer Reports recommends. "The color change simply indicates that it’s entering a dormant state to conserve nutrients; it will turn green again. But don’t wait until it starts to look like straw to give it some water. Get that sprinkler going— a hard, straw-like consistency means the grass is dying."

You've probably tried to cut paper with dull scissors to poor effect, the paper more likely tearing. Similarly, dull lawn mower blades tear grass. Make sure your mower blades are sharp, which will make your lawn look better and the blades of grass less susceptible to pests, disease and drought and heat stress.

When others zig, you zag. Come of think of it, zig zag is one pattern you should consider among many when it comes to cutting your lawn. Lowe's suggests changing your mowing pattern each time you mow:

"Grass develops a grain based on your cutting direction, tending to lean towards the direction you mow. Alternating the pattern causes more upright growth and helps avoid producing ruts in the lawn."

Of course, amid all this talk about your lawn's health, don't forget to consider the safety of the person cutting the grass. Lawn mower blades whirl at 3,000 revolutions per minute, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, and they produce three times the kinetic energy of a .357 handgun.

We offer 12 lawn mowing safety tips in this post.

Finally, with your lawn safely and beautifully mowed, get out there and do something fun on it.

What's your preference, bocce, croquet or cornhole?