Grass growth and maintenance is an important part of being a home owner, and in these environmentally conscience times, low-impact maintenance is important. Understanding the way grass grows, and how to properly take care of your lawn to promote lush growth, will prevent the development of disease and cultivate a grass that needs less chemical control to reduce insect infestation and reduce fertilizer requirements.
According to Ohio State University, the fertilization of your lawn is one of the most important aspects of lawn maintenance. Nitrogen is essential to the growth of a healthy, green, lush lawn. On the down side, excessive nitrogen causes top growth in grass, weakening the lower part of the lawn and trapping moisture, causing disease. Ohio State University suggests fertilizing in August or September, or in the late fall in October, November or December. Nitrogen application at a rate of 1 lb. per 1,000 square feet, every eight to 10 weeks, is adequate.
Mowing grass is more than simply cutting the plant whenever you feel like it. According to the University of Missouri, grass requires cutting according to the rule of thirds--that only 1/3 of the grass requires cutting at a time. This keeps fungi from developing and other diseases from attacking weakened grass. Sharp mower blades prevent wounds on the grass that heal slowly. The University of Missouri suggests keeping grass at a length of 3 to 4 inches to prevent disease and increase grass density.
One side effect of grass mowing is a fine layer of grass clippings collecting on the soil of the lawn, intermingling with the green grass. This decaying layer is called thatch. A thin layer of thatch composed of grass clippings decomposes quickly, as it is composed mainly of water, but grass roots and crowns decompose slowly, which makes fertilization less effective. A thick layer of thatch requires removal using a thatching rake or de-thaching mower accessory. Aerating the lawn will decrease thatch as well.
Aeration is the practice of removing plugs of dirt from the lawn to increase airflow and drainage in compacted soil. Water and nutrients move better through the soil after aeration. Soil plugs from the aeration process return to the soil from which they came, broken up and loose, or fall into the thatch and decompose it. The University of Minnesota suggests that clay soil may need two aeration passes a year, in March and September, while other soils will need one in September. Aeration is done using a mower attachment, a special aeration machine, or using a hand aeration tool.
Over-seeding is a method of increasing grass thickness and providing weed control to the lawn. Cold-season grass seed is applied to the lawn in September to encourage turf grass growth throughout the winter. This increases the thickness of the grass, which may have thinned during the heat of the summer months. The University of Minnesota suggests over-seeding at a rate of 3.5 to 4.5 lbs. of seed per 1,000 square feet. The soil requires steady moisture during the first several weeks until the seeds germinate in the lawn.