Posted by B & B Maintenance on April 17, 2009 at 11:20 PM
If you want to have a terrific lawn:
- Fix the soil and maintain it every year without fail
To grow great grass you need good dirt – healthy humus rich soil filled
with earthworms and beneficial microbes. To create good soil, I
recommend an annual application of organic material such as autumn
leaves or Canadian sphagnum peat moss to your lawn. Use your mulching
mower to mulch an inch or so of finely chopped leaves into the grass
each fall or spread a 1/8th inch of Canadian sphagnum peat moss on the
lawn in the spring and/or the fall. You get a 1/8th inch layer by
spreading the peat moss with a grass rake and raking it in so
thoroughly it’s no longer visible among the blades of grass.
- Overseed the lawn every 3 to 4-years even if it looks great
lawn that is as dense as brand new sod, year after year, will have few
weeds. To get the lawn thick, overseed the lawn in the fall or spring
once or twice the first year. Once the second year, and then make it a
routine to reseed every 3 or 4 years even if the lawn is looking really
- Use a mulching lawnmower
A good mulching lawn mower chops up the grass so fine there are never
any clumps left on top of the turf. Recycling clippings back into the
lawn for an entire season provides the grass plants as much nitrogen as
there is in a application of fertilizer. However, the most important
reason, by far for using a mulching mower is to be able to chop leaves
finely enough in the fall to leave an inch of chopped leaves on the
lawn over the winter to feed those earthworms and beneficial soil
microbes that reduce compaction, provide nutrients, and improve
- Mow the lawn properly
For the best appearance and good health of lawn grass, mow high using a
sharp blade. A dull blade will tear rather than cut the lawn leaving a
ragged end on the grass blades that cast a dull haze over the lawn.
That ragged edge also leaves the grass more vulnerable to disease.
Depending on the size of the lawn, a mower blade becomes dull after one
or two seasons and should be sharpened or replaced every year or two.
Grass that is dense and cut over 2-inches tall has few weeds and serves
as habitat for ants, spiders, and ground beetles which keep the pest
insects of a lawn in check. Tall grass shades the soil reducing
evaporation of moisture and will not burn out in the heat of summer.
Set the mower for 2 to 2-1/2 inches in the spring and fall and raise it
to 3 inches in summer.
- Use only slow release granular fertilizer
Quick release nitrogen fertilizers need to be applied three or four
times a year in order to be effective. High in salts, the increased
salinity burns turf roots and repels the valuable earthworms and kill
many of the beneficial soil microbes. Slow release nitrogen fertilizer
needs to be applied only once or twice a year and will not hurt the
soil critters. Use slow release nitrogen fertilizer in the spring and
again in the fall for a few years, but if you are taking care of your
soil, you can drop back to a single application in the fall, or split
the application putting down half the recommended amount in spring and
half in fall.
- Avoid watering too much or too little
The key questions in watering the lawn are: “When does the grass need
to be watered?” and “How much do I need to water?”. When you walk over
a lawn that is mowed tall, you will leave temporary footprints. If the
footprints disappear with the grass popping back upright within a
minute or two the grass has enough water. If the foot prints last more
than 3 or 4 minutes, the lawn needs to be watered. In spring and fall
between your hose and Mother Nature, give the lawn an inch of water
each week. Lawns need two inches a week in the heat of the summer. An
empty tuna fish can is one inch deep so put a few empty tuna cans out
in the pattern of your sprinkler and track the time to see how long it
takes to fill the cans and you can quickly figure how to deliver an
accurate amount of water to the lawn. A rain gauge will help you keep
track of Mother Nature’s contribution.
- Avoid using any broad spectrum insecticides
A lawn that is dense and mowed tall is likely to be inhabited by a
healthy population of beneficial insects, including ants, spiders, and
ground beetles, seldom has any problems from fleas, grubs, sod
webworms, chinch bugs or any other lawn grass insect pest. If you
routinely use a broad spectrum insecticide each year, you will kill all
the good guys along with the bad guys. If the grass is mowed tall and
kept dense from overseeding, those beneficial insects will eliminate
the need for the annual use of the insecticide.
- Spread lime only if needed in late fall, not in the spring
Use lime on the lawn only if you are sure that your soil is acidic
enough to justify it. A soil test is the only accurate way to tell.
Contact your County Extension Service to get a soil test kit and
related information. If you do apply lime, use a granular lime product
in October or even in November. It takes six months for granular lime
to break down sufficiently to be helpful to the grass plants.
- Buy only the highest quality grass seed
Only the top quality grass seed includes varieties that have been bred
with good disease resistance, look good, and are drought resistant.
When you buy the high-end brands, you can trust the grass seed
companies to give you the right mixture for the northeast. Buy full sun
mix if your lawn gets over 6 hours of sun a day. Use a shade mixture if
your lawn gets 3 to 6 hours of sun a day. Any lawn getting less than 3
hours of sun a day must be overseeded every spring to look even average
for the season.
- Get rid of grubs and moles by growing good soil
Grubs and moles are only a problem in lawns that are compacted and have
turf with roots only two inches deep. If you add organic matter to the
soil under your turf on a yearly basis, the earthworms and soil
microbes lower the level of compaction over time, so after 3 to 5
years, the grubs and moles are working down at the 4 to 6 inch depth
and are not evident in your lawn.