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To play lawn games, you need a well-coiffed lawn

Consumer Reports News: July 13, 2011 03:35 PM

A good, competitive game of bocce ball or croquet isn’t child’s play so why rely on sets made for children. “Sadly, much of the basic equipment needed to play the simplest games of yore have devolved into toys. Investing in quality gear is the easiest way to elevate a pointless pastime into something approaching an actual sport,” said the Wall Street Journal in Savoring Summer. What the Journal fails to mention is that you also need a quality lawn.

You don’t have to don your summer whites to play croquet, bocce ball or badminton but it is a nice way to dress up an outing. You should also learn the rules of the game

  • In croquet, players advance through the course by hitting balls with a mallet, scoring a point for each wicket and stake made in the correct order and direction. The winner is the first to score 14 wicket points and two stake points, according to the U.S. Croquet Association. For the finer points, read the Rules of Backyard Croquet.
  • Bocce ball is played with eight large balls and one smaller ball (the pallino) and can be played with two, four or eight players. A player is chosen at random to throw the pallino and then that same player throws the first bocce ball. The purpose of the game is to get your bocce balls as close as possible to the pallino. The Bocce Standards Association explains the rules in more detail.
  • Badminton is a racquet sport that can be played by two or four people who take positions on opposite sides of a net. Players score points by hitting a shuttlecock over the net that the opponent is unable to return, according to Badminton Basics on the U.S.A. Badminton website.

Badminton.jpgAll lawn games, of course, require a nice lawn and lawns succeed or fail primarily on how well they are managed. The right watering, fertilizing, and mowing mean the difference between a lush green carpet and a spotty landscape that'll trip up you or your ball.

Watering. Most lawn grasses need roughly one-inch of water per week through the growing season. Water only when it needs it and then water thoroughly. Roots will grow only as deep as the soil is moist, and deep roots make grass hardier and more resilient. Deep but infrequent watering also discourages pests and disease by letting the lawn dry thoroughly between waterings.

Fertilizing. When to fertilize depends on where you live and what type of grass you have. Returning mulched clippings to your lawn rather than bagging and disposing of them reduces the need for lawn fertilizer by 30 to 50 percent. That equals roughly 2 to 2.5 pounds of fertilizer per year to put down four pounds of actual nitrogen.

Mowing. Mowing often enough at the right height encourages deeper roots that can better withstand drought, pests and weed invasions. Avoid mowing off more than one-third of a grass blade's height. For example, if you want a 3-inch mowed height, mow when the grass is just over 4 inches tall. Mowing every 8 to 10 days during slower growth reduces stress on your lawn and helps keep it at its peak.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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