It’s that time again. Things are starting to grow and that includes your lawn.
Here are some basic tips to help make your turf the envy of the neighborhood.
The key to a healthy, attractive lawn is a balanced approach to maintenance. A lawn that is properly watered and fertilized will have fewer problems with weeds and diseases.
Many people do not recognize the importance of proper mowing. A lawn that is mowed when necessary, to the height of 3 inches, resists invasions of weeds, insects and diseases. It also has a more lush and healthy look. Mowing infrequently, which results in removing too much grass at one time, will eventually produce a lawn with a thin, spotty or burned out appearance.
The penalty for cutting away one half or more at once results in leaf burn and root damage. Leaving the lawn too high results in deterioration of leaves at the lower levels and, more importantly, impairs the root system. Rather than a healthy deep root system, a shallow unhealthy one is produced.
Two reasons to remove clippings include the potential for unsightliness, and the possibility of too much grass being cut off at once. Instead of sifting down and decomposing, the clippings can mat on top and suffocate the grass underneath. If your mower is designed to mulch the lawn as it cuts, removing the clippings is not necessary.
How long your lawn can go between watering depends on several things. Roots grow only where there is water. If you constantly wet the top few inches of soil, roots won’t grown any deeper. Eventually, the limited size of the root system will force you to water more often. Frequent watering keeps the surface wet, which is ideal for weeds and diseases. If roots go deep into the soil, they can draw on a larger water supply and the lawn can go much longer between waterings.
Soil conditions can also affect how often you need to water. Lawns in sandy soil will need water more often than those in rich loam. Clay soil needs water less often and it should be applied at slower rates to avoid run-off.
Do not water the lawn until the grass shows signs of wilting, such as loss of color, graying or the retention of footprints. When you do water, apply 1 to 1 ½ inches each time. During the summer, every 5-7 days is a normal schedule.
Three elements are critical to good turf growth, color and winter hardiness. In addition, iron and sulfur can also be very beneficial.
Nitrogen is the most important element in the fertilizer mix. A lack of nitrogen causes a lawn to look pale and yellow.
Phosphorus is responsible for the development of strong roots; it also helps new seedlings become established.
Potassium helps in winter hardiness and overall vigor of turf plants.
“Winterized” fertilizers, which are applied in late fall, usually contain at least twice as much potassium as formulas for spring application. Proper timing of fertilization should take advantage of “cool-season” grasses, such as those found in Montana. The heat and light of mid-summer naturally slows down growth. Application of fertilizer during the heat may be wasted, as the plants will not be able to use it. It is best to fertilize in the spring and fall to achieve the best results.
The best way to control lawn weeds is to maintain a dense, vigorous growing turf. A lawn which is under stress due to improper watering, irregular fertilization, being mowed too short or has compacted soil is usually too thin. This allows weed seeds more opportunities to germinate and grow.
Need some help? Give Walter Knoll’s Landscape division a call.