LAWN CARE TIPS
Beautiful, green lawns do not just happen. Good cultural management is the key. Once a proper regimen is established, weed and disease problems will be minimized.
Set your mower to cut high. Clipping the grass too short punishes the lawn and encourages weeds to grow. The mower should be set no shorter than 2″. 2 1/2″ to 3″ is preferable. Lawns clipped too short have weak, poorly developed roots that sunburn and dry out. Higher clipping provides more leaf surface during the growing season which will support a healthy root system. Keep the mower sharp and clip often. The lawn should be cut often enough to remove 1″ of grass at each cutting.
Aeration is the removal of small cores of soil to allow air, moisture and fertilizer down to the root zone. A core aerator will pull one to two inch plugs of soil from the ground. These plugs are deposited on the soil’s surface where they will break down. Soil surrounding the plugged holes and the soil deposited on top will collapse and fill in. It doesn’t work to use aeration equipment that simply punches a hole in the soil. While a hole may be created, the “punched” soil merely compacts the soil surrounding the hole.
How It Works
The controlled removal of the small soil cores has many benefits. It allows fertilizer, water and air to quickly reach the root zone of your grass. Both drought and heavy rain stress your grass. During drought conditions, aeration helps water reach thirsty roots. When rain is heavy, it allows air to penetrate and help dry up excess moisture. Core aeration creates healthy roots and thicker, more beautiful lawns.
Environmental conditions, turf condition and disease organisms called pathogenic fungi combine to bring about diseased turf. These fungi can attack leaves, stems or roots.
Symptoms can be confused with the effects of over-fertilizing, insects, or too much or too little water. Early detection of a specific disease is dependent on a diagnosis that is informed by a thorough knowledge of the symptoms and signs of a disease as well as the environmental conditions which give rise to it.
* Improve drainage of wet areas
* Core aerate to improve drainage and the growth of roots
* Prune trees and shrubs to allow less than 50% shade
It is absolutely necessary to both mow and water but unfortunately, both of these are contributors to disease. Cutting grass blades makes “wounds” through which pathogens can enter. Low mowing height can increase the chance for most diseases. Be sure to mow at the upper height for your type of turf grass.
There are various ways to deal with pests. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is not totally new. Using more than one method to control pests has always been around. However, IPM utilizes the latest scientific discoveries and looks at all the different elements involved in getting rid of pests. IPM is a holistic approach that requires a thorough knowledge of plants and grasses, various kinds of pests, as well as all the different types of tactics that are effective in pest control. No two IPM programs are identical and the IPM for any given lawn will constantly change depending on the season and condition of the lawn. The optimal IPM will take into account how effective, safe and economical any given method is before using it in the program.
Armed with the knowledge of he life cycle and biology of turf grass insect pests, your lawn care professional is able to foresee problems before they reach damaging stages. Close examination of grass blades and thatch as well as the telltale signs of animals or birds feeding on the lawn are signs of a need for pest control.
Not all insects are bad for your lawn. Some will actually feed on harmful pests; some help in recycling organic material. Each pest has an “action threshold” where the number of pests per square foot is such that pesticide use is needed. This threshold differs even between species of a certain type of insect. This is why proper identification of insects is crucial.
Natural Rainfall is Not Enough for Two Reasons:
It doesn’t ensure an adequate amount and is isn’t distributed evenly enough. This is particularly true when the lawn has just been fertilized.
A good rule of thumb is that a lawn requires an inch of water per week. A rain gauge is the easiest way to determine how much water each part of your lawn gets. This doesn’t mean that you merely put one seventh of an inch per day. The watering should soak in to a depth of five or six inches. Short, frequent watering can cause more annual weeds, shallow grass roots and more chance of disease due to constant moisture. Too much watering will replace oxygen in the soil; the grass will die.
Factors to Consider
Shade – More water is required under trees since they take a lot of moisture out of the soil.
Soil Type & Condition – One inch of water will penetrate 12 inches into sandy soil. The same amount will soak in six to 10 inches in loam and only four to five inches in clay. You will need to adjust your water accordingly. Compacted soil will be more likely to allow water to run off and requires core aeration to remedy.
Slopes – A slope allows water to run off rather than soak in. It also means that there is more evaporation due to exposure to the sun if facing south or west. Weather – How often and how much has it been raining? Again, a rain gauge is helpful.
Top Ten Reasons Why to Fertilize
1. Fertilizing supplies nutrients during the high demands of the growing season.
2. A vigorous and healthy lawn resists weeds.
3. Proper nutrition protects your grass from pest infestations and helps it recover should one occur.
4. A thriving lawn is more resilient to traffic.
5. Proper pH is maintained in your soil.
6. Nitrogen is supplied for leaf and shoot growth and a deep green color.
7. Phosphorous is provided for established seedlings and root growth.
8. Potassium is given for greater tolerance to hot and cold weather and against wear.
9. An application of fertilizer in the fall prepares your lawn for winter and speeds its recovery in the spring.
10. Fertilizing establishes new lawns and maintains established lawns.
TO BAG OR NOT TO BAG
A common questions is: Should I mulch or pick up clippings? It has been commonly believed that grass clippings will end up creating thatch. THIS ISN’T TRUE. In actuality clippings will decompose within six weeks. Don’t procrastinate when it comes to mowing. If you are careful to cut no more that 1/3 of the grass blade off at each mowing, it is best to allow the grass clippings to remain on the lawn. The decomposed clippings will actually add fertilizer to the soil.
WINTERIZING YOUR LAWN
The key to a lush, healthy spring lawn is proper preparation for the winter. When the weather turns warmer, turf grass needs to be primed and ready to go. Because grass goes dormant during the winter, any preparation for a healthy spring must be made in the fall. For the most part, lawn winterizing is needed for cool season grasses that grow in the northern United States. It is beneficial to ensure that the grass has a good, healthy root system going into the fall and winter.
The purpose of a fall fertilization (also known as a winterizer) is to build its root system up for the winter. For that reason, a winterizer needs a high potassium ratio because that will stimulate root and rhizome growth, not growth of leaves and flowers. Depending upon where you live, you will most likely not want to fertilize past October. Fertilizing too late in the season will cause the grass to keep growing, and could leave it susceptible to frost damage.
The early fall is also a good time to overseed a lawn that might need renovation. Warm season weeds will be dying off, opening up space for grass and reducing competition. Grass that can establish itself in the fall will come back in the spring, more vigorous.