A green, healthy lawn can be an obsession for some homeowners, causing everything from neighborly yard envy, to outright frustration with a brown or patchy lawn. Proper lawn maintenance requires good cultivation practices and a fair bit of manual labor.
Lawn watering requirements depend on the grass being grown and the environment. According to the University of Colorado, high quality turf grasses such as ryegrass and bluegrass require around 2.25 inches of water in hot, dry summer conditions, adjusted accordingly to rainfall and temperature fluctuations. Water applied so that the root zone is penetrated, down to a depth of 6 inches with some varieties, is required. The flat end of a shovel, pushed into the soil, will determine the rooting depth of your grass.
Mowing is a major influence on whether your grass is sick or healthy. According to the University of Colorado, minimum height for a lawn is 2 inches, while Ohio State University recommends 2.5 inches for the major turf grasses. Mowing according to the rule of thirds, where only a third of the grass blade is removed at a time, will prevent the mower blade from tearing at the plant, which causes infection. Mowing according to the rule of thirds increases the thickness of the grass and aides the grass in healing.
Grass clippings from mowing left in the lawn to decompose add nutrients to the lawn. Clippings collected in a bag are also useful for mulching in gardens and other places in the lawn. The University of Colorado Extension recommends not using grass clippings in a garden if an herbicide is used on the lawn, as this may kill plants. Leaving grass in the lawn does not contribute to thatch, the thin layer of decaying material that appears at the soil level of a lawn. This is caused by grass roots, crowns, weeds and other plants. Thatch removal is necessary if the thatch is more than a half inch thick, which is accomplished through aeration or by the use of a rake.
Aeration is a process of removing small plugs of earth from the lawn to increase air flow, water drainage and decrease compaction of the soil. Aeration breaks up thatch also. Soil 2 to 3 inches deep is removed from the lawn using an aeration machine, which does the process automatically, or a hand aerator tool. Plugs of earth from the aeration process decompose over thatch, eating away at the dead material, or fall back into their original holes, now loose and porous. Aeration is best when the soil is soft, during the spring or fall, but is possible during the summer also as long as the soil is moist.
Nitrogen is essential to a healthy, green lawn, so fertilization may be required to establish and maintain a healthy lawn. Under fertilizing a lawn will cause it to grow sick, while over fertilization will cause the lawn to become top heavy. One to 2 lb. of nitrogen-heavy fertilizer 1,000 square feet is the usual annual requirement for most lawns. Application of fertilizer is made using a hand sprayer or through the use of a granule fertilizer spreading device, which is rolled by hand or attached to the back of a mower. Reading the label of the fertilizer is essential for proper application procedure.