Good lawn management requires consistent year-round care. Attention to mowing, fertilizing and watering goes a long way toward maintaining a healthy lawn. In many areas of the south, the lawn will remain green year-round with proper care, enhancing the landscape and increasing property values.
Plant the Right Grass
Southern lawns need warm-season grasses like St. Augustine, Bahia, Bermuda, buffalo grass and zoysia. These grasses thrive in hot weather. In cold areas, these grasses may turn brown in the fall. Over-seeding in the fall with a cool-season grass such as rye grass will greatly extend the green season.
Deep watering once or twice a week will encourage the grass to develop deep roots. Take a plug to determine the depth of the roots, and then water to that depth once or twice a week. A good rule is to water when your footprints remain in the grass. Waiting until the grass begins to wilt will encourage deeper root development. Water in the morning so the leaves will dry quickly and discourage fungal diseases.
Test the Soil
A soil test will reveal the pH and fertilizer needs of the lawn. A pH greater than 7.0 will affect the grass' ability to take iron from the soil, requiring an iron supplement foliar spray.
Apply 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn monthly during the spring and summer. Broadcast fertilizer to dry grass and water thoroughly after fertilizing. Avoid fertilizing during times of drought or water restriction; rapid growth will stress the grass at these times.
A regular mowing program that consistently removes the top third of the blade is best for the grass. Cut overgrown grass to two-thirds its height, and then cut again a few days later. Removing too much of the blade in one mowing stresses the plant.
Leave the grass clippings on the lawn to nourish the lawn.
Aerate and Dethatch
Check the thatch buildup every fall. A little thatch is healthy, but a buildup of more than a half inch encourages insects and overexposes the roots. If the thatch exceeds a half inch, use a thatch rake or mechanical dethatcher. Aerate the lawn every two to three years.