May 24, 2016
Love Your Lawn-Tips for Growing Killer Grass!
Some people just have the knack for growing grass – their lawns are always picture perfect. They’re gorgeous, green, thick and even. And then…there’s most of us. We’ll struggle to get adequate coverage, be challenged by judging the amount of water to use and find ourselves fighting insect invasions. In this series of lawn care posts, we’ll talk about several different kinds of lawn issues and how you can overcome them. First up – fertilizers! We’ve collected some great hints and tips for you that will make the difference between a so-so yard and a gardening gem. Get ready to take notes! Start with a soil test To get excellent results, you need to know what you’re starting with. A soil test will let you know what type of fertilizer will work best for your lawn. Too much fertilizer or too little can restrict the growth of your lawn and open the door for insects and a number of plant diseases. If you put too much fertilizer on your lawn, it is more susceptible to insects such as chinch bugs that feed with piercing-sucking mouthparts. By testing the soil first, you’ll know what type of fertilization program you need to give your lawn the nutrition it needs to be healthy. Nitrogen is your friend Be sure that any fertilizer you use has at least 30% water insoluble nitrogen. This will provide a slow release of nutrients that will treat your lawn for a period of eight to twelve weeks. Less expensive fertilizers using ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate deliver product over a shorter period of time, producing an inferior lawn. However, we don’t recommend quick release forms of nitrogen, because they bring out the acid in the soil and fail to stimulate microbial activity. Timing is everything Late spring is one of the ideal times to fertilize. If you fertilize too early in the growth season, the lawn will grow too thick too fast, and will be more susceptible to disease when the weather turns hot and humid. You can also fertilize in late summer and late fall. If you plan to use lime, reserve that action for late fall. Because lime travels through soil very slowly and takes quite a bit of time to change the pH of your lawn, it is best done at the end of the growing season, when the maximum amount of time is available for the treatment to work. If your soil test shows that your yard requires more than 100 pounds of limestone per thousand square feet, divide it into two treatments, half in the fall and half the following spring. Thatch…is it your problem? Thatch is a layer of organic debris between the surface of the soil and the crowns of the grass that forms as the plants slough off dead vegetation. Remove a bit of turf so you can look at the soil profile. The thatch is easy to see. A little bit of thatch - one-half inch or less - is actually a good thing. It serves as a mulch, helps to control the soil temperature and keeps the soil moist. A thick layer of thatch, however, prevents water from reaching the soil, causing a drought situation for your lawn. As roots die, they dry out completely and create more thatch. Thatch is a breeding ground for insects and diseases. Dethatching your lawn is a tough job…it’s very physical work that leaves a big mess behind. Most of the time, homeowners call in the professionals to do the job, but professional grade dethatching machines are also available for rent at many home and garden stores if you want to do it yourself. If you have more than an inch of thatch on your lawn, it’s best to simply pull it all up and start over. The blades of most commercial dethatchers won’t dig deep enough to remove all of the accumulated plant matter. Take a deep breath, strip the lawn and reseed. Aerate for light, breathable soil Core aerators remove three to four inch chunks of soil from the lawn, leaving small holes behind. This allows the soil to breathe and reduces soil compaction. Fall is the best time for core aeration, but spring is an option as well. If your lawn is mostly for show, core aeration every three years will be fine. If your yard gets a lot of foot traffic, yearly treatment is best. Now that you know the basics of effective fertilization, you’re ready to go! Its late spring…go get your slow release nitrogen! Then when you’re done, make a plan for the fall so that you’re prepared when the weather turns cool. Love your lawn, and it will love you back!