10 Misconceptions About Lawns

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iStock

In this video from our YouTube archives, host Elliott Morgan clears up some misconceptions about lawns. Transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria.

Hi, I'm Elliott, and this is Mental Floss on YouTube. Today, I want to talk about some misconceptions about your lawn ... like, specifically your lawn. Isn't that crazy?

1. BROWN GRASS IS DEAD.

Brown can mean one of two things: dead or dormant. Grass typically turns brown as a result of dormancy over the winter. When spring arrives, this can be fixed with water and go back to green. Usually, all it takes is a change in weather.

2. IF YOU CUT GRASS REALLY SHORT, IT'LL TAKE LONGER TO GROW BACK.

Some people try to save themselves from more mowing sessions by cutting their grass super, super short, but this actually has the opposite effect than intended. Many experts claim that grass that's cut too short actually grows back faster. Plus, doing this puts it at risk for becoming unhealthy and then you have to worry about weeds taking over your lawn, and nobody wants that. The best way to avoid this is by mowing more often and only removing, like, one-third of the grasses' length at a time.

3. THE BEST WAY TO GET A GREEN LAWN IS BY USING FERTILIZER.

While fertilizer does help, there are other factors involved when it comes to having a nice, pretty, green lawn that you can brag to your neighbors about. For example, there are different turfgrass species and some are different colors than others. A good way to get the lawn color that you actually want is to do some research. One organization to check out is the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program, which works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture every year to evaluate turfgrass color, quality, et cetera.

4. FERTILIZING SHOULD BE DONE IN SPRING.

When you should fertilize depends on where you live, but lots of people get way too over-eager and they do it way too early. Many experts recommend you wait until April, May, or even early June. It's best to let grass regrow itself naturally before piling on the fertilizer, which is another word for fancy poo.

5. DETHATCHING SHOULD BE DONE IN THE SPRING.

Depending on where you live, experts generally recommend that this activity wait until the summer. Some even claim that you can wait until fall. This is for the same reason you shouldn't fertilize in the spring. The grass is in the middle of its regrowth process. Don't interrupt it, y'all. You also shouldn't dethatch while it's very hot outside or very dry.

6. LAWNS SHOULD BE WATERED DAILY.

Again, keep in mind that lawns can be different, based on your location, but a typical one requires around 1 to 1.5 inches of water weekly. That doesn't mean you have to water it every single day or leave a sprinkler running at all times. Water your lawn, like, a couple days a week, but be aware of the conditions outside. On particularly rainy weeks, it might not require any additional water.

7. CLOVERS ARE USELESS AND SHOULD BE WEEDED OUT IMMEDIATELY.

First of all, that's very mean. For a long time, clover has been considered a weed that should be removed from lawns, but nowadays, more people are embracing them and keeping them around. Come on, guys, join the clover movement. Clovers are both drought tolerant and unpleasant to pests. Plus, they help fertilize along through nitrogen fixation. They get nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots and that's pretty cool.

8. YOU SHOULD REMOVE CLIPPINGS AFTER MOWING THE LAWN.

Grass cycling is actually recommended. The leftover lawn clippings can do about 25 percent of fertilization for your lawn. This makes sense when you consider the properties of grass. It's like 80 percent water, plus a bunch of fertilizing nitrogen and grass cycling is super good for the environment, as that means there's less grass clippings taking up space in landfills.

9. WEARING CLEATS WHILE MOWING WILL HELP AERATE THE LAWN.

In theory, this makes sense, but most cleats in golf shoes have spikes shorter than half an inch. That's barely enough to make an impact in your lawn. Plus, according to experts, 5% of a lawn must be aerified for it to actually count. A typical person in cleats who's pushing a lawn mower around will only impact around .04% of the yard.

10. MOLES, ANTS, AND/OR WORMS ARE RUINING MY LAWN.

Speaking of aeration, moles actually aerate your lawn better than you can do with your cleats. Also, contrary to popular belief, moles aren't eating your grass or its roots. They're just searching for insects to eat. That's just kind of what they do, so maybe they're ruining the appearance of your lawn, but they're keeping it healthy at the same time. As for ants, they help aerate your lawn too, plus they help with water infiltration. Worms do the same thing and they leave behind lots of useful phosphorus. Plus, they're, like, kind of cute. I mean, they're gross, but they're in a cute way.

Thanks for watching Misconceptions on Mental Floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all these wonderful people. If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you would like to see, leave it in the comments below and we'll take a look at it and I'll see you next week. Bye.

[Images and footage provided by Shutterstock.]

It 'Rained' Spiders in Brazil Last Week—and You Can Watch It If You Dare

iStock.com/aury1979
iStock.com/aury1979

If recent events are anything to go by, you should be less concerned about swallowing spiders in your sleep and more concerned about bird-eating spiders raining down on your head. As The Guardian reports, recent footage from the Brazilian countryside shows thousands of spiders seemingly suspended in mid-air. (Arachnophobes might want to give the video below a miss.)

In reality, they aren’t falling at all. The spiders, which likely belong to a South American species called Parawixia bistriata, are merely crawling on an ultra-fine and nearly invisible web that attaches to two objects, like trees or bushes, to form a canopy.

So why do they do it? To catch prey, naturally. They’re likely to snag a variety of insects and maybe even small birds in their communal web, which can stretch up to 13 feet wide. (And yes, they eat the birds, too.)

Brazilian biology professor Adalberto dos Santos tells The Guardian that P. bistriata are some of the rare “social” spiders that do this. They leave their webs up overnight, hide out in the nearby vegetation, and then return at dawn to feast.

While this natural phenomenon is certainly unsettling, it isn’t exactly rare. Residents of the southeast municipality of Espírito Santo do Dourado, where the video was shot, said these “spider rains” are common when the weather is hot and humid.

Here’s another video from Santo Antônio da Platina in southern Brazil in 2013.

Other species of spider have been known to jump into the wind and "surf" on strands of silk as a means of getting around. They do this to escape threats or get to food or mates in other locations, and cases of "spider flight" have been recorded all over the world. Some especially adventurous spiders have even been known to cross oceans by “ballooning” their way from one land mass to the next.

[h/t The Guardian]

Watch a Baby Polar Bear Open Its Eyes for the Very First Time

Zoo und Tierpark Berlin, YouTube
Zoo und Tierpark Berlin, YouTube

Sometimes, after a long week, all you need is something wholesome to lift your spirits. Here to do just that is the Berlin Zoo's newest resident.

In this polar bear video spotted by Geek.com, a 5-week-old cub can be seen opening its eyes for the very first time as its mom, Tonja (pronounced like Tania), cleans and cuddles it. “While it was previously only able to explore its surroundings by groping and cuddling, the little bear can now see and hear things,” according to a translated version of the zoo’s polar bear video caption.

Like kittens and puppies, polar bears are functionally blind and deaf when they’re born. It takes polar bears several weeks longer to develop their senses compared to puppies or kittens, though—about 30 days total. Their claws come later, too.

The diminutive nature of newborn cubs may also come as a surprise. Although full-grown adults can tip the scale at more than 1300 pounds, newborns weigh just 16 to 24 ounces—about the size of a guinea pig. But they pack on the pounds quickly, and can weigh over 100 pounds by the time they’re 8 months old.

A Berlin Zoo spokesperson reportedly said the cub has a big appetite and ate a lot over the holidays (just like the rest of us, apparently). It’s now attempting to walk, but mom and baby aren’t expected to leave the cave in their enclosure before spring arrives.

According to DW Science, zoo staff don’t know the sex of the cub yet. For its protection, they plan to give mom and baby lots of alone time before they approach. Newborn polar bears are quite vulnerable—especially in the wild, where about 85 percent of the bears die before they’re 2 years old.

Meanwhile, zoo staff are keeping a watchful eye on the cub, courtesy of the infrared cameras they have set up in their den.

[h/t Geek.com]

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