Regular mowing with a sharp blade set at the proper height keeps grass growing vigorously. For most lawns, a grass height of 2 to 3 inches provides a good quality turf. Continually scalping turf seriously weakens grass plants and invites pests and weeds. Grass clippings can be left on your lawn when it is mowed regularly at the recommended height.
During the summer, raise the mower blade 1/2 inch to help your lawn tolerate stress. Taller grass screens light from the soil surface, providing some weed control. It limits the establishment of weed seeds—such as crabgrass—that need light to germinate. It also encourages a slightly deeper root system, so roots can gather moisture and nutrients from a larger soil volume. This gives the grass plants a greater degree of stress tolerance. When grass has grown very tall, it’s better to lower the cutting height gradually, rather than cutting back all at once, to avoid unnecessary stress on the plants.
Leave grass clippings on your lawn whenever possible. They won’t contribute significantly to thatch build-up. As they decompose, they’re a valuable organic source of nutrients, especially nitrogen. Mulching mowers and mulching attachments for standard power mowers can reduce clipping size, increasing the rate at which grass clippings decompose. Removing about an inch of the grass blade usually produces clippings that decompose fairly quickly.
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There are basic techniques that you can do yourself to improve the quality of your yard. Below are a few tips for a greener, thicker, healthier lawn.
What is the seasonal watering period?
June through September. From October through May, minimal lawn watering is usually needed.
What is the best time of day to water?
Morning hours—from 4 to 8 a.m.—are most efficient. Less water is lost to evaporation in the early morning, temperatures are lower, sunlight is less intense, and there is less wind. Midday watering is less efficient because of evaporation, though it may benefit plants in hot weather since it cools them and reduces stress. Try to avoid watering in late evening-plants may remain wet through the night, encouraging lawn diseases.
How can I tell if my lawn is water-deficient?
- Notice its color-if it’s changed from a lively green to a duller, grayer green, your lawn needs water.
- Look behind you when you walk across your lawn—if your footprints remain visible, your lawn needs water.
How much should I water?
That depends on your soil.
- Sandy Soils: Since sandy soils don’t hold water well, apply approximately 1/2 inch of water 2 to 3 times a week.
- Clay Soils: Since clay and clay loam soil hold water well, apply approximately one 1-inch or two 1/2-inch applications a week. If you notice puddles of water on your lawn surface, you’re over-watering.
How can I tell how much water I’ve applied?
- Coffee Can Method: Place a row of equal-sized, straight-sided cans in a line at 1- or 2-foot intervals from your sprinkler to the farthest point of watering. Time how long it takes to fill the cans 1/2 to 1 inch—that’s how long you should water your lawn.
- Spade Method: Sink a shovel into the soil and form a hole. Soil should be moist to the depth of the spade. Then remove the shovel and press the soil into place with your foot.
FALL LAWN TIPS
Mowing Your Lawn
Keep your grass 2 to 2-1/2 inches tall throughout the fall. If your grass gets longer than 3 inches it will mat, leading to winter lawn disease problems such as snow mold. If you cut it shorter than 2 inches, you’ll severely limit its ability to make and store food for growth in the spring.
Lawn raking in the fall removes excess organic debris, and can help maintain water quality. In winter, freezing and thawing can cause leaves, dead grass plants, and other organic debris to release soluble forms of phosphate (and nitrates). If these chemicals run off frozen ground during spring snow melt and early spring rains, they can end up in surface water.
Keep grass clippings, leaf litter, and other organic debris off driveways, sidewalks and streets.
Watering Your Lawn
Even though temperatures might be cooler than in summer, your lawn still needs water. Since lawn grasses continue to grow throughout the fall, watering is still important to sustain growth. Go ahead and water as needed until the ground is cold and beginning to freeze. If you have an automatic irrigation system, avoid damage by having it blown out with compressed air before water freezes in the pipes and sprinkler heads.
Fertilizing Your Lawn
Apply a final dose of fertilizer in mid- to late October. You’ll provide your grass with nutrients that will be absorbed and stored until needed for spring growth. Lawns that have received late-season fertilizing are often the first to begin growing in the spring.
Broadleaf Weed Control
Fall is a good time to control perennial broadleaf weeds such as dandelions, plantain, clover, and creeping charlie.
Fall is the best time of year to establish or repair lawns by seeding or sodding. Seeding should be completed by mid-September. Cool temperatures usually make fall seeding or sodding successful. Be sure to complete your sodding before very cold weather sets in.
Fall is the ideal time to aerate, reducing soil compaction & improving root strengh, resulting in a healthier thicker lawn next spring.
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