How to Grow Good Grass Roots


The most important part of turfgrass is the part you can't see. Healthy crowns and roots improve not only the appearance of the grass plant but its chances for survival through the heat and drought of mid-summer. Roots support the crown from which leaves grow and specialized roots called "stolons" or "rhizomes" creep along the surface, starting new crowns. Growing good grass roots depends on the tasks associated with planting and maintenance.

Step 1

Cultivate topsoil at least 10 inches deep; sandy loam or well-drained loam allows roots to stretch and grow more freely. Work in at least 2 inches of compost mixed with manure or peat moss to improve soil texture and provide a ready source of organic nitrogen for new lawns. Add lime or sulfur to correct pH to between 6.0 and 7.0 before planting lawns.

Step 2

Keep soil--not top growth--moist. Grass needs at least an inch of water weekly. Water lawns infrequently but deeply to encourage deep root growth; watering less deeply attracts roots to the surface, exposing them to heat and dry conditions. Keep roots moist and growing by watering grass until the first frost.

Step 3

Mow frequently and keep grass at the right height for the variety. Grass with large crowns or clumps, like Kentucky bluegrass or tall fescue, should be mowed taller. Warm season grasses like centipede or zoysia grass prefer shorter mowing. Whatever the variety, mow no more than one-third of the blade lengths at a time to stimulate growth and keep roots sheltered.

Step 4

Fertilize at the end of the growing season for strong root growth; fall for cool-season grasses, spring for warm-season grasses. Nutrients from fertilizer go into top growth at the beginning of the season, but roots set the stage for next season's growth as top growth enters dormancy. Use a fertilizer that is balanced for your area's soils and apply it at the rate dictated on the package instructions.

Step 5

Give roots plenty of room by keeping weeds pulled and aerating periodically. Weeds have aggressive root systems that can choke turfgrass roots, particularly during periods of stress or dormancy. Aerate soil to get air and water to roots.

Tips and Warnings

  • Exceeding the producer's recommendations for fertilization will burn roots as well as foliage. Their tips will overdose on nitrogen. The result will be stunted roots as well as brown-out in foliage. Grubs and larvae of billbugs and pearl scales are bugs that feed on grass roots; infestations result in wilted, discolored or stunted leaf blades. Check for pests by turning back a piece of turf. Specific pesticides are available to treat turf for these pests; always read labels for usage instructions.

Things You'll Need

  • Water, hose and sprinklers
  • Lawn mower
  • Fertilizer and spreader
  • Garden spade and fork
  • Dandelion digger
  • Aerator (available from rental outlets)


  • University of Illinois Extension Outreach: Turfgrass
  • Arizona Master Gardener Program: Pests of Turfgrass

Who Can Help

  • Penn State University Libraries: Home Lawn Care and State Extension Links
  • The Lawn Institute: Lawn Guides
Keywords: grass roots, turf grass, healthy grass roots, grow good roots, turfgrass

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.