Choose the right grass and maintain it year-round.
image by Net Efekt/flickr.com
Choose a grass that is well-adapted to your area. Lawn grasses vary in their tolerance of heat and drought. Cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue and perennial ryegrass are suited for cool areas. They wilt in hot, dry weather.
Warm-season grasses like Bahia grass, Bermuda grass, buffalo grass, St. Augustine grass and zoysia grass thrive in hot weather but turn brown in the cold.
In some areas, a combination of warm- and cool-season grasses may be used to keep the grass green year-round. Ryegrass and other cool-season grasses are often overseeded in the fall when the warm-season grass begins to turn brown.
Water deeply once or twice a week to encourage the grass to develop deep roots. In hot, dry weather, you may need to water more frequently. When your footprints remain in the grass, it is time to water.
Conserve water by eliminating runoff. If water is not soaking in rapidly enough, try watering your lawn in cycles. Turn on the sprinklers for 10 to 15 minutes, then wait an hour and water for another 10 to 15 minutes. Water in the morning to discourage fungal diseases.
Test your soil pH. The pH affects the availability of nutrients to your grass. In areas with alkaline soil, or pH greater than 7.0, apply an iron supplement.
Apply high-nitrogen fertilizer regularly during the growing season. Always apply fertilizer to dry grass and water thoroughly after application. During times of drought or water restriction, withhold fertilizer. Excess fertilizer can encourage disease and pests, so follow the application instructions.
Mow your grass every week or two during the growing season. Remove the top 1/3 of the blades in each mowing. Use a mulching mower and leave the grass clippings on the lawn to decompose and put nutrients back in the lawn.
Check the thatch buildup in your lawn in the fall. A layer of thatch is healthy for the lawn, but if it builds up too deeply it can damage the lawn and encourage pests. Aim for a thatch layer of less than 1/2 inch. If your thatch is too thick, rake the lawn or use a mechanical dethatcher to break up the thatch.
Aerate the lawn in the late summer or early fall. Use a mechanical core or plug aerator every two to three years.
Watch for small brown patches during warm, wet weather. Brown patches can be caused by a number of fungal diseases and can be spread by walking or mowing across them. If not treated, these patches will expand into larger areas. Treat with a fungicide and avoid overfertilizing.
Check for cinch bugs, which can cause brown or yellow patches in dry locations. Remove both ends of a can and push it down into the brown or yellow patch. Fill the can with water. If cinch bugs are present, they will come to the surface. Cinch bugs can be controlled with diazinon.
Watch for pale moths flying close to the lawn at dusk. These moths lay larvae in the grass that attack the plants. The larvae, called sod webworms, can be controlled with beneficial nematodes or with a lawn insecticide.
Use pre-emergent herbicides in the spring to control weeds. Be sure the herbicide is suitable for the type of grass that you have and will not damage ornamental plants.