Hinesburg, Shelburne Endorse Raise the Blade Campaign

By Linda Patterson, Land Use Planning & Water Quality Educator (Email the author)
July 02, 2021

In May 2021, both the Hinesburg and Shelburne Selectboards voted unanimously to endorse the Raise the Blade lawn care campaign on town lawns. With this endorsement, they officially recognized the value of raising the blade on town lawnmowers to three inches and leaving the grass clippings on the lawn. These practices help reduce stormwater runoff into lakes and streams.

Lee Krohn, Shelburne Town Manager, believes these practices “make good sense on many levels.” According to Darwin Norris, Shelburne Maintenance Superintendent, the town has been cutting at three inches for many years.

“We began this practice to reduce burning during the hot, dry parts of summer,” said Norris. “Grass clippings are nitrogen rich and reduce the need for fertilizer. Longer grass also helps choke out some weeds.” Norris believes that the practices benefit the lake by reducing runoff.

Grass cut at three inches grows longer roots, reaching deeper moisture and creating air pockets that allow more rain absorption. Clippings left on the lawn decompose into organic matter that builds healthy soils. Healthy soils act like a sponge, soaking up, filtering, and storing rainwater and snowmelt. Cutting only about one-third of the length of the grass at each mowing is also a plus: grass conserves its energy for growing strong roots, and the clippings decompose more quickly.

Bob Wahl, of Wahl Landscaping, mows several areas around Hinesburg. Wahl cuts the grass at three inches wherever possible because he believes it is better for the health of the grass. 

“Lawns don’t suffer ‘burn’ as quickly in dry weather, longer grass shades out weeds, and thicker grass helps prevent erosion,” said Wahl, who believes that as people learn of the benefits for their lawns and for the environment, more will adopt the practices. This will take time, as many of his customers “still prefer the 90 percent short look,” but he thinks the benefits will soon result in a new approach to lawn care. 

Hinesburg and Shelburne have joined a growing list of municipalities and businesses committed to following the practices. Other participants include Hyde Park, South Burlington, Bibens Ace Hardware, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Shelburne Farms, Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty, and many more. Campaign organizers hope that homeowners will be encouraged by the commitment of these participants to “raise the blade” for their own lawns.

Raise the Blade signs will be placed around town on lawns mowed at three inches to help provide maximum publicity for this important campaign. Informational brochures will be available in several locations, including town offices and local businesses.

The Raise the Blade campaign is part of Lawn to Lake, a collaboration of regional and state organizations* devoted to water quality protection and healthy soils. The campaign’s goal is to educate the public about an approach to lawn care that helps reduce stormwater runoff and improve soil health. 

For more information about “Raising the Blade,” and other tips on how to manage your lawn in an environmentally-friendly manner, visit lawntolake.org, look us up on Facebook,  or contact Linda Patterson, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, at linda.patterson [at] uvm.edu.

*Composting Association of Vermont, Cornell University Extension, Lake Champlain Basin Program, Lake Champlain Committee, Lake Champlain Sea Grant, State University of New York Plattsburgh, University of Vermont Extension, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation