Proper Lawn Care
Having a green lawn is a mark of pride for many homeowners. A beautiful, lush, and natural-looking lawn becomes a big part of how they come to define “home.” Of course, many people have to keep up with their neighbors too who always have the greener, better looking lawns!
Generally, when it comes to lawn care people think of mowing, weed whacking, and edging. These cultural practices are important, but can be devastating, unless done properly. Most people don't realize it, but it all starts with the type of grass seed one uses. Selecting the species is important, and I will talk about that in more detail below. It is also important to select the right type for your climate.
Types of Grass Seed
The most commonly found grass seed types in my area (Illinois) are Kentucky bluegrass seed and perennial rye grass. Kentucky bluegrass is shade tolerant, but is also susceptible to disease and drought stress. The texture is hairlike and fine and the appearance is a dark green color. Perennial rye grass is more drought tolerant and has a coarse texture. The color is not as blue/green as Kentucky bluegrass, but still a nice shade of green.
Zoysia grass seed is expensive, but very nice. Zoysia grass loves the heat and will stay green all summer. It is an invasive type of grass that will cross under sidewalks and spread like fire. It is drought and disease tolerant and rarely needs fertilization like the two types mentioned above. It grows so dense that weed control is not typically needed. It will turn brown in early September when temperatures start to drop.
The last type worth mentioning is turf type fescue which is what many lawn care companies will put down on your lawn. The root system is deep and complex which makes it drought and disease tolerant. It is a blend of grass seeds that is good for filling in dead spots and shady areas. Its texture is thick and coarse with a deep green color. This type will stay green longer in the summer than Kentucky bluegrass or perennial rye.
Grass that grows anywhere!
I bought this grass seed for my backyard, which is full of trees. There is no sun back there, so I was worried it wouldn't grow. Our front yard, on the other hand, has no shade. I used a spreader to distribute the grass seed on both my front and back yard. Our yard started as dirt because we just finished new construction on our house. Two weeks before planting it, I sprayed the whole yard with roundup to kill any existing weeds. I water this Scotts EZ seed in and within two weeks it started growing. Now, the yard looks great!
The grass is long so you mow, right? What most people don't realize is that there is more to it than that.
Mowing practices should be done once a week and no more than a third of the grass blade should be removed, this is to not cause undo stress on the grass plant. Grass clippings should be left on the lawn, as these contain micro organisms which are beneficial for the turf and contain approximately 90% water. These clippings will become part of thatch which is comprised of grass clippings from the past and other dead organic matter.
The thatch level should not be more that a half inch thick. This is because the thatch level acts like a permeable moisture barrier which helps keep moisture in the soil. Thatch over half an inch can create a habitat for insects, turf diseases, and funguses. Seasonal dethatching or core aeration will break up the thatch and allow the root systems of the grass plants to spread out and become more complex. You can rent a aerator and do it yourself or there are companies out there such as Weedman Lawn Care that will take care of it for you.
Rule of thumb is the deeper the root system, the more drought resistant the turf grass will be. Obtaining the deep root system can be done by cutting grass at 3.5-4 inches. Be sure to offset your mow passes every time you mow to be sure not to make ruts in your yard. It is also important to keep up on mower maintenance to ensure the blades are sharp, as dull blades can tear grass blades causing undue stress and a yellowish haze appearance.
New grass seed shouldn't be mowed until it is at least four inches tall. This gives it time to establish a deeper root system. I tell people not to apply herbicides until the new grass has been mowed twice.
Watering your turf grass is vital and should only be done in the morning as excess moisture can create a habitat for turf fungus, disease, and a breeding ground for insects. If done at night, the excess water does not evaporate and pools in spots on your yard.
The amount of watering does depend on climate and watering restrictions. The amount of water should be 1.5 inches per week. Be sure to spread out this watering throughout the week. Watering 30 min, 3 times a week will provide sufficient amounts of water.
Newly planted grass seed needs to be watered more frequently. If the grass seed dries out it will crack and fail to germinate. As this can be costly, make sure to WATER! New grass seed needs watered daily for at least two weeks. As I said, the amount needed depends on climate, but just make sure it stays moist, especially on those hot summer days. The most cost effective time to plant new grass seed is not in the spring as many think, but in the fall instead. This is because new weeds are growing in the spring, stealing nutrients from the new grass plant. By fall, those stubborn weeds should be taken care of and it leaves more needed nutrients for the grass. Also, since the fall has cooler temperatures, watering does not have to be done as often.
I bought a few of these sprinklers and a timer so I wouldn't have to stand outside every morning and water. I set the timer to water Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 am. I placed a few of them around the yard and it saves me time!
How do you feel about yard work?
Sharpen blades and mow once a week with mower set to three inches
30 mins, 3 times a week and try the sprinkler above!
Granular with extended release (check out my hub on this topic)
Hire someone (nah! Check out my hub on this, too)