Lawn Mower Safety

With the welcome of spring comes lush green grass in lawns across America. So, ’tis the season to fire up the lawn mower. For some, mowing the lawn is a necessary chore and for others, a welcomed excuse to spend time outside. For all parties it is a task that requires keen awareness and good judgement.

If you have never accidentally struck a stick, rock, or toy left out on the lawn with your mower, count yourself in the minority. Even if you meticulously scout your lawn for hazards before you mow, you can’t be sure that they’ve been eliminated. An item struck by a mower blade can be flung out the shoot before you even knew you hit it, which can cause damage to your home or worse, an unsuspecting bystander. Accidents with mowers can happen in a split second and sadly, they are not a rare occurrence.

Did you know that 20,000 people each year are injured in lawn mower accidents and an average of 75 people are killed? The United States Amputee-Coalition reports that 800 children are run over by lawn mowers annually and 600 of them require limb amputations. These accidents are 100% preventable. Follow safety guidelines and keep your family from being included in these statistics.

Follow these general precautions before fueling and starting your lawn equipment:

  • Become familiar with proper equipment operation including starting, stopping, and engaging blades and drive before starting.
  • Inspect the unit and attachments for signs of wear and damage.
  • Make sure belts, shafts and connections are properly tensioned or tightened.
  • Verify shields and guards are in place and safety features are not overridden.
  • Only refuel the engine when it is cool.
  • Never smoke when working around fuel sources.
  • Place equipment in neutral and disengage blades before starting, if possible.
  • Never operate equipment in a closed building as this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Follow these general precautions when operating any power mower:

  • Remove all litter and debris from the area to be mowed: Rocks, roadside debris and other objects can be deadly when thrown by a mower blade.
  • Only operate the unit on stable ground or footing to avoid potential slips and falls.
  • Only operate self-propelled mowers and riding mowers at safe travel speeds.
  • Do not disable safety features such as auto-clutches and shut off switches, or secure levers and switches in the “on” position to simulate operator presence.
  • Do not leave the unit running unattended.
  • Keep hands and feet away from mowing deck, blades and moving parts.
  • Be aware of bystanders, keep children and pets indoors, and if other bystanders are nearby, allow at least 50 feet of safe distance between them and the mower.
  • Do not operate the equipment when fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Only operate equipment with adequate visibility and light.

For mowing on slopes:

  • Small walk-behind mowers: Mow across slopes to avoid potential for slipping and having feet go under mower deck.
  • Riding mowers: Mow up or down slopes to avoid potential for overturns.

For a regular reminder the Amputee Coalition put together this checklist. Cut it out and post it in a place you see every time you mow, stop by the Extension Office for a copy, or access it online at


Continue caring for your landscape and enjoy your time outside. Remember to keep hydrated and to protect your skin from the sun. Stay smart! Stay safe! Have fun!

Transplanting Into the Home Garden

It is that time of the year when the soil is warming up and people are starting to put in their garden starter plugs that they grew indoors. Starting plants indoors is a great way to get a “head start” on things and be safe from some late frosts that occur in April and May.  When you are transplanting some of these plants, be sure to check the frost tolerance and make sure you put them out during the proper times.

Besides the frost, plants have to acclimate or “harden” from indoor conditions to outdoor conditions. When a plant grows indoors the light conditions can be as much as 40 times less intense than the full sun, and exposure time can be less than half of what it will be outside.  Plants will generally grow thicker leaves and produce more chlorophyll to make better usage of the light energy provided to the plant when they are grown in low light conditions (indoors).  This is actually one reason why lettuce is grown in partial shade.

Low Light vs High

(Plant Physiology 3rd ed.)

Taking this idea a bit deeper (down to the roots); it is important to remember that the water and nutrient uptake is essentially all done through very fine and tender root hairs. When a plant is moved many of these hairs are damaged and water uptake can become insufficient for the plant’s needs.


So let’s combine the problems now: A plant is moved to 12 times the sun, with increased chlorophyll and 2 times the light exposure that it is used to.  On top of that the plant cannot get the water to support the increased photosynthesis demand in that direct sunlight.  That could set the plant back, and all the sudden that “head start” might not be so advantages anymore.


Some tips from OSU Extension:

  1. Slowly transition the plant from indoors to outdoors by bringing it out for a few hours at a time without damaging the root hairs during the move (keep it in the original container).
  2. Don’t put out frost sensitive plants too early.
  3. Wait for the soil temperatures to warm up nicely (60 degrees or greater).
  4. When transplanting the starter plant, don’t let it get too big and don’t shake off too much soil from the root mass (root hair damage).
  5. Be sure to actively water the plant during the first week especially. This will compensate for the decreased water uptake ability of the plant.
  6. If you are utilizing weed control, make sure the pesticide doesn’t have a long residual period (refer to the label).

These tips will work for both gardening and landscaping; so when you buy a plant from a nursery, ask about the growing conditions. Things like: “Has the plant been growing indoors or outside?”  And “How long has it been out and how much sun is it getting here?”

Mole Control

This is the time of year I receive phone calls about moles causing problems. Over the past 27 years, few critters can stir such emotion as these little animals. When I started in Extension 27 years ago, the solution was fairly simple: put down an insecticide, kill the food source, and the moles would move away (maybe to your neighbors) to find a new food source. The problem was that the insecticide would kill all the insects, good and bad. The moles favorite food is grubs, but the most common food is earthworms. The older generation insecticides would kill both. Newer generation lawn insecticides are much safer to the environment and many are insect growth regulators targeted to work on grubs only and leave the earthworms alone.

If you are trying to control moles, these newer insecticides will not encourage moles to move away as well, but they are still very effective in controlling grubs which can damage lawns. So what can we do? When it comes to “home remedies”, the ones I have heard of simply will not work. I have heard of putting chewing gum or laxatives in the holes but we need to keep in mind that moles are carnivores and only feed on insects, so these will not work. I suppose some other remedies that I have heard could work somewhat as they could act as a repellent.

When these remedies are tried and in a period of time, the moles go away; was it the remedy or was it the weather? Right now the weather is warming up and the ground is saturated, so the moles are moving up near the surface. When it gets hot and drier, they will probably move down into the soil and I doubt if we will see much damage. In the fall, it will cool down, the ground will get wet and they will move back up, then when winter sets in, they will go back down deep. My “guess” is that it is probably the weather.

So what can we do? I see two options. First, don’t worry about it and they will go away in a month or so. Or if you do want to do something, there are traps that can be used. If you can find an active runway (the tunnel under the soil) and set the trap in, you should catch moles. Generally, the most active runway is one that goes from the nest to the feeding areas. The nest will usually be around the edge of the lawn, maybe in a grassy meadow or some woods with cover over the soil. In my old lawn, the nest was between the sidewalk and the wood house, where my wife had a flower bed. The runway would go under the sidewalk, then branch off where the moles would feed. If a trap could be set between the nesting area and where the runway branched off for feeding, that would be an excellent location for a trap. Just check it every day, and if you have not caught a mole, consider a new location. In my lawn, it wasn’t the moles that caused the most damage, it was my Golden Retriever trying to catch the mole and was always six inches behind!


Brood V Cicadas 2016

I am located in Hocking County, but this has application for the entire Buckeye Hills region. In fact the entire Easter portion of the State of Ohio, a little Maryland, Pennsylvania, …….

The 17 year Brood V Cicadas should be emerging here shortly.  Once we get 4 days in a row of mid-sixties soil temps 8″ deep all heck is going to break loose in the cicada world as 1.5 million Cicadas per acre will start emergence.  They were last seen in 1999.

(Cool video from Dealer)

The Bugdoc from OSU has a publication on Periodic Cicada Control Tactics.

The Label is the Law

The word “pesticide” inherently has a negative connotation, after all anything that ends with “cide” refers to the death. However, pesticides are generally used to improve the conditions of an environment. They kill pests. The definition of what is considered a pest can change depending on the situation and the opinion of the parties involved. Herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, and fungicides are all examples of commonly used pesticides. Anti-bacterial/viral soaps, sprays, and sanitizers can even fall into this category, because they kill bacteria and viruses. Given that the applicators and users follow the directions specific to the product they are using, there is very little resulting risk to humans. These directions include proper storage, application, and treatment or use of the affected environment following application.

When using ANY type of pesticide, the label is the law and there are no exceptions. Whether the substance can be purchased and used by anyone or requires a special license, the protocol is the same. Read the label and follow the instructions. If you have any doubts about using the product correctly, do not use it. In nearly all cases where an issue arises associated with pesticide use it is a result of not following directions. These substances can be credited to improving the quality of human life in many ways over the centuries, but they are to be respected.

In general, when confronted with a situation that prompts the question, “Should I use a pesticide for this?”, I look for an alternative method that could solve the problem first. For example: Sugar ants found their way into my candy drawer. Should I use ant spray to get rid of them? -Maybe, but first let’s clean it out, wipe down the trail from where the ants were lead inside, and see if that stops them before we decide to spray.

Following the directions for pesticide use allows us to solve problems while still being good stewards. Being good stewards is important to maintaining the health and safety of our environment on all scales. So, if using a pesticide is appropriate for your situation, make sure to take the steps needed for proper safety and use.