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It's the Mow-town blues

PUBLISHED: 04:27 26 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:45 03 March 2010

THE end of October should be a quiet time for Suffolk's green-fingered lawn tenders as they pack their mowers away for the year and turn their attention to winter pansies.

THE end of October should be a quiet time for Suffolk's green-fingered lawn tenders as they pack their mowers away for the year and turn their attention to winter pansies. AMANDA CRESSWELL asks why the county's gardening calendar has gone topsy-turvy and our lawns are as demandingly fertile as ever.

NIPPING out to cut the lawn at weekends has become a bit of a familiar habit in Suffolk.

You would expect it in summer, accompanied by a wafting scent of freshly-cut grass – but in OCTOBER?

This is the time of year when gardeners would normally start thinking about putting the lawnmowers away, rather than taking them out.

But the grass just won't stop growing!

This un-seasonal rush of fertility has prompted calls to the Evening Star, from readers mystified by the rapid grass growth.

One, who asked not to be named, said: "The grass keeps on growing, at an alarming rate. Lots of people have commented, because it is unusual at this time of year.

"My daughter has had some new turf put in and was told not to cut it for six weeks, but it is so long now."

Star gardening expert Rick Staines, said the current warm weather and wet conditions make it ideal for the grass to grow.

"From a horticultural point of view it is unusual to find we have not had frost and instead we have had temperatures in the late teens and into the 20s. For mid-October it has been ridiculously warm," he said.

"Because of the optimum conditions the grass has everything it needs to keep on growing."

However, the later the warm weather continues, the more dramatic the change, he warned.

"It could turn really cold overnight causing plant damage. Gardeners are advised to keep the grass cut, but not too short.

"The problem is that it is so wet it is difficult to cut the grass and collect the clippings," said Mr Staines.

"But soon as it is dry, cut it, but keep it taller and the cut longer than in the summer because it protects the plants."

He added grass growth would normally start to slow down now.

"It could need the odd cut every two to three weeks, but once it starts getting three to four days of frost it stops growing.

"Until the cold weather comes it will carry on growing – it could be until next week, it could be until December."

Star weatherman Ken Blowers said grass growing at this rate was unusual for this time of year.

But the grass has kept growing because of the continuous warmth with temperatures well above average at almost every day this month. On a couple of days this month, temperatures have been up to the 73F or 23C.

This is unusual for October where the temperature would normally average 57 F or 14 C. "We have had two or three days which are more typical of August," said Mr Blowers.

Last year was the wettest year for about 70 years and this year seems to be running along similar lines.

From January 1 and October 22 we have had ten inches of rain more than the average rainfall for this period.

The average rainfall for the year is 23.80 inches. Last year we had 32.26 inches of rain, the wettest year since 1916.

This year has had 8.28 inches of rainfall more than the same time last year – and we still have the rest of the year to go.

And the reason for the difference in climate?

"It could well be down to global warming," said Ken.

"If it goes on like this the grass could well go on growing into November, which is rare. Normally you would put the lawnmowers away at the end of October. This year it looks like we are not going to put them away."

nGrass Facts:

n Front lawns of just eight average houses have the cooling effect of about 70 tonnes of air conditioning.

n Keeping your lawn a little bit long will produce stronger, healthier grass with fewer pest problems. A lawn's ideal length will vary but many turf grass species are healthiest when kept between 2.5 and 3.5 inches.

nMowing your turf is the single most important activity you can do to maintain a beautiful lawn. It is best to mow often because grass adjusts better to frequent than infrequent mowing.

nA turf area just 50 feet x 50 feet absorbs carbon dioxide, ozone, hydrogen fluoride and perosyacetyle nitrate and releases enough oxygen to meet the needs of a family of four.

nIt is not necessary to collect your clippings unless they cover the grass and block the sunlight from reaching the lawn. Grass clippings are rich in nutrients and by returning them to the turf in small amounts you actually create a healthier turf.

nThe best type of mower is one you maintain well, keep sharp and use regularly.

Weblinks:

nTurf facts:

www.rolawn.co.uk/tf_five.htm

nOrganic gardening facts and statistics:

supak.com/organic_gardening/farming.htm

nFun facts about sod, seed and grass:

www.rivendellsod.com/faq.htm

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