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Lawn Care Tips

Top Ten Ways For a Beautiful Lawn

A top ten check list of the best ways to ensure you'll have a beautiful lawn.

1. Mowing height: The first and best way to ensure a healthy lawn is to cut it high. As I mentioned on the mowing techniques page which is worthy of repetition, "When you mow, you prevent seeds from generating and so your lawn, in turn, produces more sprouts frantically trying to find a way to regenerate. Mowing too short is the number one offense reported by the lawn patrol. Just like with trees, the height of the top relates to the depth of it's roots. Grass with deep roots has a better chance to survive a drought and it also keeps the soil shady, preventing moisture loss and drying of the sun, which in turn, compacts the soil. A taller grass blade absorbs more light, has more nutrient producing cells, and it resistant to invading weeds.

2. Don't bag your clippings: The clippings you produce from mulching provide 50% of your lawns nutrient supplements. As it decomposes it produces nitrogen. Also, a thin layer of thatch holds in moisture and provides safe harbor for those ecologically friendly or beneficial insects (ground beetles, rove beetles, ants, worms).

3. Weed control: Inspect your lawn prior to mowing. It is easier to spot weeds before you cut. Remove weeds upon discovery. Doing this when they are young is much easier than when they've had the chance to establish deep trafficking root systems.

4. Monitor water or precipitation levels: Your lawn needs at least an inch of water a week. Put a container like a tuna can somewhere inconspicuous and watch how much water is collected during a rain or sprinkle. You may need to water if you haven't had rain. Place the can near a sprinkler to measure. And it is best applied while watering between 6:00 to 10:00 am. Later in the day you will be losing moisture in evaporation as the sun gets warmer. Also, water will not saturate deep enough causing roots to stay near the surface instead of flowing deeper and gaining root strength along the way. The amount of water and the time consummed will be lesser in applying.

5. Fertilize: A good, spring fertilizer with organic ingredients has been successful in it's spreading. There has also been great results with manure/humus mixtures. Kelp and seaweed has been known to establish another application. It is available in a liquid concentrate and can be added to your sprayer applicator. Organics are best for your soil and in most cases much cheaper. And, in the long run you'll develop a more nutritious soil. Fall fertilizing is by far the most important of seasonal applications. It prepares the entire lawn for a long, cold winter. Scott's Turf Builder Winterizer has had some outstanding results.

6. Aerate: Aeration gives your soil relief from impacting. Soil gets hard and tough for grass roots to develop, so by plugging holes all over your lawn gives the soil some relief. Oxygen is then readily available directly to the roots, water is more easily absorb. It is best done in either early spring, like March, or in June or September. In Northeast Ohio, these months you are less likely to find weed seed propagating and thus finding good germinating opportunities in those little holes. Call you local County Extension for your areas best aerating times.

7. Good fall clean up: Removing deciduous leave and debris from your lawn prevents safe harbor for insect larvae to develop. And it also prevents an unbalanced Ph level.

8. Overseeding: Filling in your lawns bare or thin spots or high traffic areas can protect it from disease, insects and dry compacting. See the overseeding section on this page.

9. Detoxifying: If you've used chemicals for any number of years, you may have developed volatile soil. Grass becomes lazy and doesn't work as hard at photosynthesis. Beneficial insects cannot establish themselves and help your cause because the soil is too toxic. Start using organic fertilizers and bag your grass clipping for at least two months. Discard in paper recycling bags instead of plastic for easy decomposition.

10. Good Soil Composition: Good soil composition can achieve a low-maintenance lawn in a simple and easy way. Once you have established good soil the remaining activities are less required.

Lawn care basics are often improperly applied

The most basic care that effects the health and condition of your turf is the way in which it is nourished. Watering and fertilizing are the two biggest factors in determining the condition of your lawn. I know it sounds fundamental, and it is, but these two areas are most often than not, improperly applied.

Watering
Plenty of water is obviously required to maintain a healthy lawn because it not only supplies basic nutrients it also prevents problems from pests and diseases.
Northern lawns need very little water, unless of course, you have a dry spell. They usually get enough rain during the season to maintain it’s condition but if there is a drought the grass goes into a dormant mode. So, if it does brown up a bit it will perk up with the next rainfall. If it gets to looking wilted, well, then it’s time to water.
Longer periods of watering a couple of times a week are better than short, frequent watering. Even though the grass may appear green and healthy with frequent sprinkling you are only discouraging root growth. If the roots don’t have to search deep into the soil to find water they get lazy and stay near the surface thus producing weak turf.
Over-watering produces more blade than root requiring more frequent mowing. And if you over water you create an environment friendly atmosphere for insects to lay their eggs.

The best time to water is early in the morning while the dew is still present or just beginning to evaporate. Lawns require different amounts of water depending on the type of soil you have. 1.5 to 2 inches of water a week is sufficient. The water needs to penetrate about 6 inches below the surface. To set a time limit on how long to water would vary because everyone has different water pressure. You can place a small pot or plastic food storage container in the yard to collect the sprinkling water in order to measure it’s amount.

Of course, southern lawns may require a little more, especially during the heat of the summer. And speaking of heat, never, I mean emphatically never, ever water in the middle of a hot day. I see it all the time. Perhaps there has been a time in your life where you've been on a boat or near a body of water, perhaps on a beach, or in a swimming pool where you became completely sunburned. This occurs at a much quicker rate because of the reflective rays of the sun bouncing off the water. So, not only are you receiving direct sunlight, you are getting hit from all angles of reflected rays as well. This happens to your grass as you water during the day. You are subjecting the blades to an exponential amount of sunshine, which will cause it to burn. Another reason is that the water evaporates quickly during this time of day, so you are wasting more water and it doesn't have a great chance of sinking deep into the soil where it would be beneficial. Roots will not search deep into the ground. If you take anything from this page, adhere to these words. Do not water in the middle of the day.

Fertilizing

The same goes for fertilizing as it does for watering. It is better in moderation. A conservative amount of fertilizer will create the healthiest lawns. Like with water, if the roots don’t have far to go to search for food they’ll get lazy. Then if the weather becomes dry they won’t have much of a chance to survival because their roots have grown shallow.
Grass clippings are a natural way to fertilize. There are many people bagging the clippings and this is a wasteful nutritional supplement. As the grass clippings decompose they release nitrogen into the soil. And the clippings make it difficult for weed spores to find a place to rest and sprout. 
Once a year fertilizing is all that’s really necessary. In northern climates the fall is the best time because the rate for top growth has slowed significantly yet photosynthesis is still in full swing. For southern lawns spring or early summer is the best time so any new growth that’s resulted will have a chance to take root opposed to fall months when winter dormant sets is.

When to fertilize

University research has shown that fall (August or September) and late fall (October, November or December) fertilization is ideal for home lawns. Fertilizations during these times will benefit lawns more than any other practice. Most homeowners place too much emphasis on spring and summer fertilization. Some fertilizer is needed during the spring and summer; however, over-application of fertilizer at these times can cause disease, rapid growth requiring much more frequent mowing and other problems that result in "summer lawn nightmares."

Overseeding

When parts of your lawn are bare or thin, a complete lawn renovation isn't necessary. In most cases, thinning can be caused by drought stress, insect damage or lack of fertility. If you still have 50% or more of your lawn, overseeding is a method to bring back it's density or thickness.Overseeding without first working the soil is a waste of time and money. The overseeding will almost always fail. The seed has to be in contact with soil in order to germinate and grow.The first step is to inspect the thatch, or layer of dead grass clippings. If the thatch is more than a half an inch thick it needs to be removed. If it is less, then you have a couple different options for overseeding. You can work up the soil with a good, strong rake working small grooves into the soil, then you can seed. If you are faced with a large area, a slit seeder is another method. You can rent a slit seeding machine to do your overseeding. This machine actually plants seed below the thatch layer not requiring additional soil cultivation.

slit-seeder

Once the seed has been sown, just follow normal care for establishing the newly seeded area.


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