Halloween is just around the corner and for those who love the holiday, October has been artfully renamed as “Spooky Season.” In the spirit of the season, we gathered our spookiest facts about our favorite subject--lawns. From grass’s ancient origins to the creepy crawlies living in soil, these facts are sure to put you in the Halloween spirit the next time you spend time on your lawn!
1. Grass is older than mummies
Grass is one of the oldest living species in the world. In fact—scientists have found one species of seagrass in the Mediterranean Sea that dates back to 200,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest living organisms that humans have ever discovered. Compare that to the world’s oldest mummies found in Chile, which are an estimated 7,000 years old. Next time you spend some time outside, take a look at the ancient species growing in your own backyard.
2. Grass regenerates like a worm
When you cut a worm in half, it regenerates and grows the rest of its body back. Grass works the same way--kind of. When you cut the top of a blade of grass (like when you mow your lawn), grass grows back from the bottom up.
Grasses have evolved to grow at their base--known as the crown-- instead of their tips in order to protect themselves unlike most other plants. This allows grass to be grazed or burned without any damage to its growing points so it can regrow quickly. This is why it’s important to mow your grass at a certain length, preventing damage to the area that your grass actually grows from, which is at or slightly below the soil surface.
3. There are how many bugs on my lawn?!
Ever look at a patch of grass and think to yourself: I wonder how many bugs are there that I can’t see? Well, we have your answer: tons. According to one study in South Carolina, they found about 2,800 individual insects in 1 square foot of soil. Compare this to a similar study in Pennsylvania that found close to 9,800 individual insects in a square foot of soil. Now try your hardest not to think about that next time you have a picnic.
4. Grass rises from the dead
But not literally. Grasses go dormant as a form of survival against weather extremes. Warm-season grasses will go dormant in winters or extreme colds, while cool-season grasses will go dormant during extreme heat or drought. Typically, dormant lawns will look like the grass has died. Lawns will stop growing and lose its color altogether.
Nervous your grass is actually dead? Look for patterns in brownness. If the entire lawn is a similar shade of brown, it’s likely dormant. If the brown areas are not uniform or appear to be a different color brown, it could be a pest or disease problem. Take a closer look to be sure and check the areas by pulling on the lawn in what’s called a “tug test”. Dormant grass still has strong roots, so it will not easily pull up. Dead grass will pull up easily without living roots to hold it down.
5. Soil eats dead things
Well, at least the organisms present in soil do. Many of the millions of organisms that live in soil, including bacteria, fungi, insects, and earthworms, are known as decomposers. They consume the remains of dead plant tissue and microbes, breaking down these organic remains into simple components that are released into the soil. Some of these organic and mineral compounds provide nutrients for new plants to grow, so decomposers recycle plant material.
Fun Fact: This is how composting works! Collect any uneaten food or food-waste, such as apple cores or corn cobs, and return them to the earth through a composting pile kept outdoors. As compost breaks down, it can be used as a fertilizer. Don’t have time or space to create your own compost? Most communities have a composting pick up program that use your compost materials for local garden and growing spaces.