Lawn care for the home owner will always be a never-ending task if your goal is to consistently have the nicest green grass in town. Maintaining the lawn correctly once it is established is important.
All lawns look great once the newly planted grass seed germinates and produces a plush green carpet. Like all things in nature, a home lawn time takes it toll on the turf and certain lawn care practices are required.
This page concentrates on the most important lawn care maintenance disciplines.
How to Lawn Care:
Like most living things on earth, a grass plant needs nutrients to thrive. Chemically home lawns are dependent on repeat applications and suffer when a “step” is missed. Organic lawns are generally self-sufficient where the plant relies on the soil as its food source.
Green grass is dependent on several nutrients, some more important than others. Your soil test will reveal deficiencies of the majority of important lawn nutrients, except nitrogen.
Nitrogen is what gives your home lawn its spectacular color. When you purchase organic fertilizer or synthetic, nitrogen represents the first of three numbers. Nitrogen is essential in building proteins such as chlorophyll. Lawns lacking in nitrogen will turn yellow because the chloroplasts are not functioning properly.
Grass can only use nitrogen in its inorganic form, nitrate. Nitrate is supplied in chemical step programs (Scott’s) and bacteria “fixes” organic nitrogen into its inorganic form.
Correct lawn care require 3 pounds of nitrogen per season to maintain a healthy green grass color. One pound of that should be supplied by leaving grass clippings on the lawn while you mow.
Organic forms of nitrogen that will supply greener grass:
- Alfalfa meal
- Blood meal
- Fish hydrolysate
- Chicken manure
- Corn Gluten
- Cotton seed meal
- Soybean meal
Once your lawn is established, nutrient cycling within the soil food web should provide sustainability of nutrients within your grass.
Synthetic fertilizers for your home lawn are available at your local home improvement store under various names as Scott’s, Anderson, Lesco and many others. Lawn care fertilizing services such as True Green, Scott’s and Lawn Doctor are ready to serve you if needed. Don’t forget, always be careful when handling synthetic lawn fertilizers.
The desire for greener grass impacts earth’s most important resource. Water usage on lawns has a twofold negative effect. The abundant waste of something we all take for granted. Excess synthetic fertilizers not taken up by the grass plant is leached into and polluting our water systems.
Whether you choose organic lawn care for the home owner or decide to use synthetic fertilizers, most established turf grass requires only 1 – 1 1/2 inches of water a week. That amount of water is the sum of irrigation and what the weather brings us. Leaving the hose on or not adjusting your lawn sprinkler timer or rain gauge is irresponsible.
Watering the lawn a little bit every day is called syringe watering. What likes syringe watering? Not grass, weeds do. Watering grass 1 1/2 inches in one day is beneficial to achieving green grass. The best way this is accomplished is to water 1/2 inch then let it soak in. A couple of hours later apply the remaining. Moist soil has a much greater absorption capacity than dry soil. Learn how to measure your water usage on this lawn care page.
Water the lawn once a week and your roots will be trained to grow deep into the soil. Longer root systems and healthy soil are what achieves greener grass. The roots don’t have to go anywhere if you syringe water it’s always available at the lawn plant crown. That is not healthy lawn care nor is it effective.
Water the grass in the morning. Too much evaporation from the sun at mid-day and higher chances for fungal problems if continually watered at night. Wet, soggy green grass on a regular basis is no good.
Soil has a major impact on a lawns water dependency. The higher the organic matter the more absorption. Sandy soils retain less.
The Lawn needs more water
- When its scorching hot with no rain in sight
- When establishing a lawn from seed or sod the soil or new sod needs to be kept moist
- If your soil is very sandy then more frequent lighter applications is necessary
Remember children die every day because of the lack of clean drinking water. Set your timers appropriately and make sure your rain gauge is working if you have one. We can save you money on lawn sprinklers and timers.
In order to have green grass and be successful at lawn care, a minimum of 4 – 5 hours of sunlight is required. Sure some grass seed manufactures guarantee success with their products but long-term results are usually disappointing.
The Best Lawn Care Needs Sunlight!
Though difficult some grass types fare better than others
- Cool season grass types are that fair well are tall and red fescues
- Warm season grasses St. Augustine grass, Zoysia grass do okay
Trying to grow grass in shade is one of the most challenging aspects of lawn care for the home owner. It seems no one wants to accept the reality the grass needs sunlight. If your one of those people, choose the right seed and follow these lawn care cultural practices.Here you can find a good variety of
How to Lawn Care if You Have Shade
- Mow the grass areas a little higher than the rest of the lawn
- Water deeply and infrequently
- Keep the soil aerated
- Reduce foot traffic
- Prune branches to thin trees
Compacted soil is the #1 problem lawn care. If there is any argument opposing the use of synthetic fertilizers soil compaction is it. Pure and simple chemical fertilizers hurt soil structure! You will not have green grass if your lawn soil is compacted. In fact, your soil should be 25% air. Water, nutrients, roots and biology need to travel about in soil for successful turf.
Chemical fertilizers hurt soil structure thus reducing air within the soil. Fertilizers have a major impact on the biology in the soil. The soil food web is a major contributor to air tunnels in the soil.
An abundance of earthworms is a clear indicator of healthy soil. Earthworms create these air tunnels allowing water and nutrients to move through the soil. Water also pushes out any stale air out of the soil enabling a healthy aerobic environment.
Organic lawns generally do not need to be aerated. Once again the earthworms and rest of the soil biology does the work for us. Aerating a lawn is good when applying compost as a top dress or if you need to get certain compost teas (mycorrhizal) to the root system.
If you do need to use an aerating machine, aerate the lawn twice. The second time perpendicular to your first direction. Just like mowing the lawn, back and forth, overlapping your wheels a bit. Use caution, handling an aerator can be strenuous lawn care work.
Avoid any gimmicks that claim to aerate grass like shoes or any other apparatus.
If it isn’t coring a soil plug, it isn’t aerating
Good Soil Structure is Important to Lawn Care
- 25% Air
- 25% Water
- 45% Mineral
- 5% Organic matter
Continued use of the grass area is a common reason of compacted soil. Whether the lawn is treated naturally or chemically constant use will cause soil compaction. When you mow the lawn try to change your direction occasionally so the tire do not wear down the same path every time.
Sometimes soil compaction cannot be avoided. If the lawn is used by pets, machinery or just the children out playing in the same area will compact soil. At those times, an aerating machine is necessary. Other than that let the earthworms do the work for you.
I guess the philosophy must be, if I cut the lawn really short I won’t have to mow again for a while. In a way they are correct. But if you want to achieve proper lawn care techniques, mowing the lawn too short will only cause an array of issues.
Cutting the grass too short does nothing but creates lawn problems. Giving weeds a habitat is just one of those problems. Cutting grass at 3 1/2 inches is the #1 organic defense against weeds. Even if you use synthetic fertilizers or a step program, scalping the lawn is not recommended.
Having a dense turf growing at 3 – 3 1/2 inches shades out sunlight getting to the soil where weed seeds lie waiting to germinate. It also chokes out any young unwanted plants depriving them sunshine to thrive.
Cutting grass to short ( scalping the lawn )also limits the amount of leaf surface for photosynthesis. No photosynthesis = no green grass. I look at it this way, the higher you cut the lawn the greener and denser it’s going to look especially from a distance.
Home lawns that are cut short also seem to suffer more during hot sun and drought periods. Like any plant a leaf is very important.
While we’re on the subject, having dull mower blades will also deprive the grass from being green. The best lawn care is to have proper,sharp tools. Not sharpening the mower blades will shred the grass not slice leaving a whitish appearance.
Again, cutting grass at 3 – 3 1/2 inches is the #1 natural defense against weeds. And it’s effective.
Grass plants spreads by stolons and rhizomes. As the rhizomes and tillers continue to grow they create additional plants. Those spreading grass plants also produce their own roots and grass shoots thus providing thick green lawn. This spreading creates a mat out of the living and dead plant material.
Leaving grass clipping on the lawn while you mow does not contribute to thatch.
Excessive amounts of synthetic nitrogen, is a major contributor to thatch build up. Thatch measuring over 1/2 inch thick will cause problems with your lawn.
Thatch Problems in Lawn Care for the home owner
- Water and nutrients can’t reach soil
- Stolons can’t create new plants without soil contact
- Harbors insects
- Thins turf
An organic lawn with a healthy soil food web doesn’t have thatch issues. A diverse population of fungi naturally breaks down thatch. Additions of compost tea will aid in keeping problem thatch under control.
Another homeowner lawn care technique to keep thatch limited is to aerate your lawn. Using a mechanical aerator will leave cored soil plugs on top of your grass. These soil plugs will decompose thatch.
If the thatch is over 1/2 thick, a thatching machine or dethatcher will be necessary. Go over the lawn as you would a mower and repeat perpendicular to your first direction. Using a thatching machine does an effective job in removing thatch but it also tears the lawn and roots. So plan on using the thatcher once and then change your lawn care habits to prevent thatch.
If you do use a thatcher machine, do the job in late summer to early autumn. If you use preemergent weed preventives a dethatcher will disrupt the weed barrier on the soil.
Don’t feel guilty because you have thick thatch. Feel guilty if you have to rent the machine every year.
Grass plants have a natural defense against extreme temperatures.
A dormant lawn often looks like a dead lawn. Grass while in dormancy will look as if it’s lacking water or fertilizer.
Cool season grass goes dormant in winter and mid summer. Warm season grasses will enter dormancy in winter. Your home lawn is not deceased and will come back after moderate temperatures prevail. I know the grass isn’t green and doesn’t look good but it’s only protecting itself from harm.
In mid summer under consistent heat and sun, cool season grasses enter dormancy if not watered properly. Refer back to the watering the lawn section of this page. Train the roots to grow deeply where the soil is always moist even during drought situations. If a water ban is imposed in your town, you’ll be glad you did.
Once the cool season turf is dormant in summer don’t try to water the lawn excessively to try to bring it back to green grass and then let it go dormant again. This does more damage than good. Let nature run its course.
Warm season grasses can be over seeded to maintain a green color. Using a winter rye is commonly used warmer lawn care areas.
Like everything in life, grass has natural cycles and self-protecting devices.
We don’t have to manipulate everything in life
Well, I could write another 5,000 words on lawn care for the homeowner. By following the subjects we cover on this page and throughout this website, I’m sure you’ll soon have a consistent, sustaining green family friendly lawn you can present to the world.