Question of the Week: February 21, 2019
“Is scalping a good practice in lawn management? If so, when should it be done?”
What can I do with the clippings?
You have three questions tucked into one. Let me handle them individually.
“Scalping” refers to dropping your mower’s blade by a notch or rarely two. You’ll end up cutting off almost all the grass blades, leaving little more than short stem stubble.
Is it a good practice?
1. Scalping is optional. It’s largely aesthetic, but it does perform several good functions.
Scalping removes winter-killed stubble.
It allows the sun’s warming rays to reach the soil, so permanent turf may green up more quickly.
It eliminates many of the coarser broadleafed (non-grassy) weeds.
When is the best time to scalp?
2. The best time to scalp is probably 2-3 weeks prior to the average date of your last killing freeze. In South and South Central Texas, that could be now. In North Texas it would be a week or two from now. (Map in earlier story will show you the average date for your county.)
What should you do with the clippings?
3. Do not send the clippings to your city’s landfill. However, if your city has a program to recycle yard waste, that’s the perfect place for the clippings you remove during scalping. Of course, you can use them the old-fashioned way, that being by putting them into your own compost pile. They contain organic matter and nutrients accumulated from all those feedings you gave your lawn last year. Any weed seeds that might be in them will be destroyed in the process of composting.
Warning: Scalping is a nasty, dirty job. Wear a high quality respirator and good goggles while you’re scalping so you don’t end up in the ER with allergic reactions. You don’t want the grass to be moist when you’re scalping, but it’s best if it’s also not powder-dry at the same time.