Bob Mugaas, University of Minnesota Extension Educator
The Cutting Edge is an educational display that is part of the 2009 Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Waterosity Educational Exhibit. The display focuses on how more water conservative lawn grasses combined with some small changes in lawn care practices can reduce water needs and other inputs going into the lawn.
The exhibit features small plots of several lower maintenance lawn grasses that are starting to see greater use in more water conservative lawns. For more information on low maintenance grasses, please visit Cool Season Grass Selection. Additionally, a plot of tall fescue, an up and coming turfgrass species with good drought tolerance and some adaptability to shady conditions, is featured. Prairie junegrass, a native of Minnesota prairies, is also be on display as it would appear in a lawn situation. As it already has very good drought tolerance, this shorter growing native species is currently involved in a rigorous U of M plant breeding program to increase other desirable lawn grass characteristics. In addition to viewing separate species and varieties of lawn grasses, both a no-mow mix and an ecology lawn mix are on display to provide yet another alternative to a traditionally managed lawn. For more information on turfgrass research at the University of Minnesota please visit Turfgrass Science and click on the research tab.
Photo 1: The Cutting Edge display is located in front of the visitors’ center. Educational displays are within the log house and turf plots and other water wise displays surround it. David Zlesak
Photo 2: Plots of traditional and lower maintenance turf species labeled with their relative water needs, foot traffic tolerance, and mowing frequency are featured in the Cutting Edge display. David Zlesak
Cultural practices play a very important role in determining water needs of lawn grasses. For example, the practice of raising mowing heights will encourage deeper rooting, thereby providing greater access to soil moisture reserves. Shorter mowing heights restrict rooting depth and make lawn grasses more dependent on us to meet all of their water needs. For additional information on mowing please visit Mowing Practices.
There will be special displays in the Cutting Edge regarding a variety of different watering practices and products. Information and displays on the use of mulches in landscape beds and gardens to help conserve soil moisture, reduce weeds and lower soil temperatures will be featured. Smart watering accessories like timers and automated control systems will be on display. Something as simple as a timer positioned between the garden hose and the outdoor faucet provides better control over how long watering will occur. In automated systems, soil moisture sensors can tell the system when the soil is wet enough and doesn’t need any more water and will also shut the system off when it’s raining.
Photo 3: Creative educational displays help to make learning about water wise lawn care engaging and fun. David Zlesak
The Cutting Edge display provides many ideas that homeowners can adopt to conserve water in the managing of their lawns and other landscape areas. Folks are invited to come observe and interact with the various elements of the Cutting Edge.
In-depth information on watering lawns can be found at Sustainable Lawncare Information Series' Watering Practices.