Low-maintenance lawn care catches on
Extension horticulturist Bob Mugaas has cut a wide swath through Minnesota since the early 1980s. He has worked to educate Minnesotans about how to achieve thick, lush lawns without first reaching for chemicals.
When interest in lawn care grew in the 1970s and '80s, Extension horticulturist Bob Mugaas set aside his rose pruning shears and swung his full attention to the shorter, finer plants that make up turf. As he balances aesthetic needs with environmental quality, Mugaas teaches Minnesotans how to address pesky lawn problems with fewer pesticides, less water and thankfully, less work.
Retired agronomist Don White's 46 years of turf grass research at the University provided the backbone for Extension lawn care education, including concepts taught by Mugaas today. White's work aimed to promote ecological principles, like developing low-maintenance, high-quality grasses and using fewer chemicals.
"What the research told us was very different from what people had believed," White said. Findings revealed the value of late-season fertilizer applications, and using less fertilizer at the right times to get higher quality, cold-hardy grasses, he says.
Mugaas has cut a wide swath through Minnesota with his teaching since those early days. "People have opened up to learning how to create healthy grass plants rather than picking up a chemical to zap a problem," he says. "They want to make more informed choices, especially when it comes to protecting other natural resources."
Ever heard "Don't bag it" about lawn clippings? That was Mugaas' research-based advice beginning in the early '80s. He emphasized that leaving clippings on the lawn nourishes a thicker, healthier turf while keeping plastic bags full of grass out of landfills.
Extension presents horticultural research to lawn service businesses and the government as well. "Engagement, finding common ground in an objective manner so that something better can be accomplished," says Mugaas, "has been a hallmark of Extension education."
For more resources on home lawn care, visit Extension's Turfgrass Management website.