Many hours are spent every spring and summer in pursuit of the perfect lawn. Choosing the right grass and caring for it properly year-round will help keep the grass lush and green. A well-managed lawn prevents erosion, helps hold moisture in the soil, eliminating runoff and contributing to the health of the local water table. An attractive lawn contributes to the community and increases the property value of the home.
Choose the Right Grass
Grass plants can be divided into warm-season grass and cool-season grass. In warm areas Bahia grass, Bermuda grass, buffalo grass, St. Augustine grass and zoysia grass will do well. These grasses turn brown when the weather turns too cold. Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue and perennial ryegrass are cool-season grasses that will wilt and die in hot dry weather. In some areas, cool-season grasses are over-seeded in the fall and keep the lawn green when the warm-season grasses begin to die.
Water Deeply When Needed
Watering is important and has become a problem in many areas where water restrictions have become routine. The water needs of a lawn can vary greatly depending on the weather, type of grass and growing conditions. Whenever possible, let the needs of the grass determine when to water. Grass that is watered less often will develop deeper roots and be more able to withstand dry weather. When your footprints remain in the grass, it needs water. Water in the morning and provide enough water to soak the ground. In areas with high runoff, water the grass for 10 to 15 minutes, wait an hour and water again.
Test the Soil
Test the soil every two years. A soil test is the best way to determine what nutrients are lacking in your area. Check the pH and adjust your to between 6 and 7, if needed. Soil tests are done for free or at a minimal cost at your local garden supply stores and at the local county extension service.
Nitrogen is required for a green lawn, but over fertilizing leads to thatch buildup, disease and excess growth. Excess fertilizer can stress the grass during dry seasons. Fertilize the lawn with high-nitrogen fertilizer during the summer and fall. Apply fertilizer to dry grass and water it in thoroughly. If the grass needs more fertilizer, it may be deficient in micronutrients. A soil test can determine the problem.
Mow high, taking only a third of the grass height with each mowing. Longer grass is healthier, develops stronger roots, is less susceptible to weeds and needs less maintenance. Sharpen the mower blades each season and use a mulching mower and allow the cuttings to stay on the lawn and decay to provide future nourishment to the lawn.
Dethatch and Aerate
Thatch buildup can damage the lawn and allow a haven for pests. Check the thatch buildup every fall and dethatch whenever the thatch layer is more than a half inch thick. Use a mechanical core or plug aerator every three years to aerate the lawn.
Prevent weeds by being proactive. When weeds emerge, treat them immediately with a pre-emergent herbicide. Allowing the weeds to take hold will allow the problem to spread and weeds may take over the lawn.
Reseed Bare Spots
Reseed bare spots with a high quality grass seed suitable for the site. Work the soil with a rake, removing weeds and loosening the soil.