A good lawn should be an expanse neat, clean and green with texture which links all other plantings in harmony. Grass is undoubtedly the most popular and inexpensive means of ground coverage, but there’s a lot more that goes into growing a good lawn than one may think. By identifying a few key factors about what type of grass you have or should have along with proper maintenance you’ll be off walking barefoot in your lawn in no time!
Get it Right the First Time
Grass may seem somewhat generic, however many people don’t realize there are many different types of grass, each with it’s own particular growing conditions. Knowing which climate zone you’re in is the first step to selecting the proper grass type. Summer nighttime temperatures determine zones and in any given area there are many subzones or microclimates with contributing factors such as lakes, shoreline proximity and altitude. Soil type, slope, water content and available light are also important factors to consider. If you’re located in the Western New York area, as are we, you’re dealing with climate zones 5 & 6. Three types of grasses most common to this area are Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue & Ryegrass. When planting grass in this area typically you’ll be planting one or a mixture of these 3 seeds. Make sure to do your homework and check the labels on seed packages to make sure you’re planting what is best for your area.
For new lawns, till the soil with adding compost and humus for the right degree of texture or crumbliness, important for proper water absorption and retention. Soil should be moist but not too wet for ideal root growth. Water can be absorbed four to eight inches deep so it is important the soil is loose and not compact. Dehydration in lawns can result in dried brown grass. When seeding, spread the seed in more than one direction evenly, rake it in lightly, fertilize, tamp lightly and water. Steep slopes, wet areas, shaded areas, dry spots and those with high traffic should be corrected prior to planting or simply avoided and addressed with a different ground cover appropriate to the area. Sod or sprigs are another alternative for installation but are more costly, however will result in quicker and green lawns.
Maintenance and Care
Grasses grow in intense competition with other vegetation for nutrients, moisture and sunlight. Because of this fertilizing is always needed to maintain the proper levels of Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium (NPK). Nitrogen is the most important nutrient due to its quickness of washing from the soil and promotes green, lush growth. On average, three to four pounds over 1,000 square feet per year is required. Feeding is best in the spring, shortly after thawing begins but before the ground gets muddy. This builds thickness and natural weed resistance in the lawn. Preemergents may also be used to keep weeds under control. Use caution when using a “weed and feed” combination as it is more potent especially when used above tree and shrub roots.
Lawns require at least an inch of rain weekly or it needs to be applied. Generally, using above ground sprinklers, four to eight hours is needed to apply one inch of water thereby making this a very timely project if done by hand. In situations of drier soils, slopes, or just very busy people, underground sprinkler systems should be a consideration.
For most varieties of grass mowing is required weekly. To maintain a height of 2.5-3 inches in height lawn should be cut when one quarter to one third of the grass height is to be removed since the last cut. It is best to keep the grass a longer length in the hottest times of summer’s heat. The longer length of the lawn provides shade for the grass roots allowing for water retention and prevents stress and browning. Regular removal of leaves and debris particularly in the fall allows for drainage and good air flow thus preventing diseases. Proper lawn cleanup is also crucial to propagation of spring grass. Pest and disease control applications should not be needed if the lawn is mowed, watered and properly fed. In cases of over-nourishment or under-nourishment, the lawn is more susceptible to pests and diseases.
To rejuvenate a lawn, dethatching the removal of decayed clippings and leaf debris, aerifying the soil to relieve compression and make more receptacle for water retention, and liming may all be needed. These are seldom required on lawns where the proper grass was sown, clippings removed, not heavily treaded upon, properly fed and watered. If all else fails and problems are still imminent there may be a problem with the pH of the soil. The proper pH can vary between types of grass, so it is best to identify which grasses you are working with before treatment. The pH can be treated by the application of limestone or gypsum so soil isn’t too acidic or alkaline – 5.5-6.5 is the average target.
With a little effort and by following these guidelines, getting your lawn to look its best is fairly simple to accomplish. We see your future, and it’s green!