Lawn Care Basics
Whether you want a golf course quality lawn or just green healthy grass to keep your feet from getting muddy, proper care is the answer. Mowing, fertilizing and watering are the three keys to a healthy lawn.
Some gardeners view mowing as a necessary evil while others look at it as a great escape. No matter your opinion it has great impact on the lawn. Mow the grass high so it can shade out nearby weeds and produce plenty of energy to keep the grass healthy. Minimize the stress by removing no more than a third of the total grass height each time you mow.
Grow cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass 2 1/2 to 4 inches tall. Warm season grasses like Bermuda grass, carpetgrass, centipedegrass and zoysia should be grown at 1 to 2 inches tall while St Augustine should a bit higher, 2 to 3 inches, for best results.
Always use a sharp blade. The cut will be less noticeable and the wound will close quickly. This means healthy better looking grass. And be sure to leave the clippings on the lawn. They add nutrients, moisture and organic matter to the soil. Think of it as free fertilizer.
Water is essential to the health and vigor of all plants including grass. A well watered lawn is able to fight off weeds and stay green most of the season. But lawns are able to go dormant and usually recover from the heat and drought of a normal summer. A highly managed lawn will need an inch of water per week. Those depending solely on rainfall will need to eliminate summer fertilization and minimize foot traffic on the lawn when it is brown and dormant.
The amount of fertilizer needed is based on the time you want to spend managing your lawn and the results you want to see. High maintenance golf course quality lawns use the maximum amount of fertilizer while low maintenance lawns need the least. Fertilize low maintenance southern grasses in April. High maintenance southern lawns are fertilized April, June and August. In the north you can follow the holiday schedule -Memorial Day, Labor Day and Halloween. Eliminate the first two if you are following a low maintenance plan and add a light summer feeding if you are watering and going for golf course quality.
No matter what level of care you provide I recommend a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer like Milorganite. The organic nitrogen won't burn the lawn and the iron is an added bonus. Plus when the dog days of summer arrive, or the water bans are implemented your lawn won't suffer fertilizer burn.