Turf care is a lot more than just your grass. There are a number of components that go into a healthy lawn–many different pieces that work together to give your yard a well-manicured look. It takes a lot more than simply running a mower over it every week and watering. Healthy turf is its own ecosystem that requires a delicate balance of sunlight, water, proper feed, maintenance, and weed control in order to thrive. It is also extremely important to grow the right type of grass for your particular climate if you want it to do well!
Start with Healthy Soil
The best soil is a balance of sand, silt, and clay. This type of soil is called loam, and is ideal for growing turf because it helps retain moisture, yet drains well and is drought resistant. It is able to hold onto vital nutrients while still allowing for proper air flow. Healthy soils will also have a slightly acidic pH. A pH between 6 and 7 helps to promote better absorption of nutrients through the roots.
Healthy Roots Make Healthy Grass
The roots of grass are actually an extremely complex system. Roots that reach deep into the ground are the biggest indicator of a healthy lawn. Longer roots mean longer life, lower fertilizer usage, lower water usage, and increased nutrient uptake. Some key steps to achieve healthy roots in grass include deep watering less frequently, proper mowing height, proper fertilization, soil acidity, and soil conditions. Keep reading for more details on each of these and how it impacts healthy roots.
Feeding your grass the right nutrients will help the condition of your lawn throughout the growing season. There are a number of different fertilizers that come in either liquid or granular forms. The most critical nutrient for healthy turf is nitrogen, and most fertilizers will have some component of nitrogen in them. Liquid fertilizers are water soluble and able to be absorbed immediately by the roots of your grass. Liquid fertilizers often need to be applied more frequently than granular fertilizers, however, and they can cause burning if over-applied. Granular fertilizers are typically slow-release. A single application can last for much of the growing season as the granules break down into the soil. Granular applications need to be done less frequently than liquid applications and have less potential to burn your turf. However, they are often more expensive and take longer to achieve optimal results for your lawn.
Generally speaking, when it comes to grass there is a direct correlation between the height of the grass and the depth of the roots. The longer the grass, the deeper the roots and vice versa. For most types of grasses, favoring on the side of longer cuts will help promote healthier blades, healthier roots, and an overall healthier turf. Setting your mower blade on the higher end, particularly in the extremely hot months, will help to provide a bit more shade for the roots as well as promote a bit more water retention. This helps to create a more resilient and drought-resilient grass. Many lawns in the south are Bermuda grasses, which are designed to be extremely drought-resistant as it is. These types of grasses typically do best at a shorter mowing height. The extremely fine blades do not fare as well at longer lengths. Knowing the type of grass you have in your yard will help determine the proper height to mow.
The 1/3 Rule
When mowing your lawn, always keep in mind that you never want to cut off more than 1/3 of the plant’s height in a single mow. Cutting any more than that at one time stresses the grass and causes the plant to use its energy to regrow blades instead of develop healthy roots. Scalping your lawn can also make it more prone to weeds.
Sunlight and Water
Your lawn is made up of millions of little plants. These individual plants all require the proper amount of sunlight and water to grow and thrive. Certain types of grass require more direct sunlight than other types of grass. For example, Bermuda grass is excellent in direct sunlight and requires less watering than other types of turf. However, it does not do well in shady areas. Knowing the type of grass you have can help determine the sun and water requirements for healthy turf. The best time to water your lawn is early morning before it gets too hot and you lose a lot of water to evaporation. Be wary of watering in the evening, as this can create conditions for mold or fungus in your lawn.
Weeds are the nemesis of a healthy lawn. The best possible way to prevent weeds is to promote the best possible conditions for your desired plant–in this case, grass. Creating ideal growing conditions for your grass give weeds little opportunity to take root and crowd out the healthy plant. Should weeds manage to rear their ugly little heads, it is important to take proper measures to eliminate them before they gain traction in your landscape. They can be removed manually or through applications of contact or systemic herbicides. Treating your lawn for weeds early in the season and all year round can help prevent seeds from emerging, and can keep unwanted weeds at bay to keep your turf looking healthy and vibrant.
A healthy lawn has its own ecosystem that works by staying in just the right balance. From time to time, invading pests can throw off that delicate ecosystem and wreak havoc on your turf. Whether it is rodents like moles or voles digging through your turf or insects like grubs, Japanese beetles, or chinch bugs, it can be tempting to use a blanket pesticide to eliminate the problem. However, blanket applications can do more harm than good when they disrupt the delicate ecosystem of your yard. The best way to eliminate pests is to identify the type of pest you are dealing with. For example, chinch bugs thrive in heavy thatch. By dethatching your lawn, you can eliminate much of the problem without disrupting the balance of your turf’s ecosystem.
Most disease issues in lawns are the result of fungus. It can leave your lawn looking brown and burnt in places. Most fungal problems with lawns are the result of over-watering. In the Southeast, Brown Patch, Take All Patch, and Grey Leaf Spot are some of the most common fungal issues dealt with. The best way to eliminate the disease is to treat the affected areas with anti-fungal applications and change the conditions which led to the disease in the first place.
Cultivating a beautiful lawn requires striking a number of balances. Watering, fertilizing, mowing, soil conditions, temperatures, sunlight, weed control and microbes within the soil all have a vital role on growing healthy turf. If any one of these factors gets thrown off balance, it can cause problems with your lawn. Knowing the proper balance is half the battle. A good lawn care company can help maintain the balance among all of these factors and help you achieve that picture-perfect lush lawn.