Should you scalp your lawn in the spring? There may be some gardening technique that’s dumber than scalping your lawn in the spring, but I doubt it. I take it back. Discarding all organic litter and leaving bare beds is dumber - but scalping is a close second. The ingenious procedure of scalping the lawn in the early spring, bagging the clippings and leaves and placing them on the curb to be hauled off and buried in a landfill is a waste of time, a waste of money and poor horticulture on any commercial landscape or home yard.
Everything that results from scalping is negative. Scalping and removing leaves exposes bare soil to direct sunlight which burns out the humus and microbes on the soil surface. Because the sunlight can hit the soil, it also triggers the germination of weed seed. Scalping also removes valuable organic matter, the best natural fertilizer of all, and the operation is hard on you and the lawn equipment. Other than that it’s a great idea.
Why do people do it? Beats me - if you find out, let me know.
QUESTION: Fire department officials and foresters are telling us to cut our lawns as short as possible to prevent the spread of wildfires. You have said that scalping a lawn is a bad idea. We have St. Augustine grass, and I leave it as long as my mower will allow to protect the roots. If I scalp the lawn, what effect will it have on the grass this spring? D.M., Plano
ANSWER: Scalping exposes the soil and leads to the growth of weeds on the bare areas. There would also be more risk of freeze damage if cold weather occurs. Rather than scalping, mow the lawn at one setting lower than usual and water it once a week to minimize the fire risk. Cities should recommend putting 61/2 inch of compost in planting beds and on turf areas. This would help reduce the fire hazard and feed the soil and plants.