Lawn & Landscape

Lawn care requires work and knowing when to act to maintain a healthy turf.  Here you’ll find  tips on aeration, watering, fertilizing, mowing, and much more.

Aeration:

Stand up rider aerator

Stand up rider aerator

Core aeration or “plugging” is usually done in the fall. It’s recommended once a year, every year. Aeration loosens compact soil and encourage root growth. Aeration allows for fertilizer, oxygen and nutrients to get to the roots where there needed. It’s also a good time to over-seed. You can aerate twice a year. Especially if you have poor soil conditions. But usually once a year is sufficient.

Some notes: If you aerate early in the year do it before you but down your pre-emergent. Aeration after will void the pre-emergent barrier. Best to aerate during cooler weather after a good soaking rain to allow for deeper plugging. Be sure to locate irrigation heads and any other utilities or potential hazards.

Some advice:  Don’t use your ZTR to pull an aerator.  Their hydro pumps are not designed to tow.  You will greatly reduce the life of the hydrostatic system.

Watering:

  • Under normal circumstances a lawn requires about one inch of water a week.
  • Avoid short off and on watering.
  • Best to allow for a good soaking.
  • Ideal time to water is early morning.

 Allow for one or two, depending on the weather, soaking watering cycle per week for a green lawn. A deep through watering encourages deeper root growth. Shallow light irrigation brings roots to the surface. Therefore, when it does get hot and dry out your lawn will dry out that much faster. Also, multiple light irrigation cycles creates an environment conducive to fungus and mildew. Furthermore, letting your lawn brown a little and go into a dormant stage can be healthy. In a sense it teaches the plant not to be so dependent on water and grow deeper roots.  Visit the irrigation page for a better understanding of how such a system works.

If your lawn is established and properly maintained you don’t need to worry too much about watering. I see more yards mismanaged by over watering then I due by under watering. Keep in mind this is under normal weather patterns.

1” water over 1 acre = 27,225 gallons
or
625 gallons per 1,000 sq. ft.

Mowing:

Mow when the grass is dry.
Avoid mowing when it is excessively hot and dry.
Avoid cutting more then a third of the total grass height at a time.
Alternate your mowing patterns.
Maintain sharp mowing blade(s).   Also see dressing your grinding wheel.

sharp_mower_blades

Basically a poor mowing practice adds stress to the turf. Mowing when its too hot and dry will dehydrate the turf that much faster. Dull mower blade(s) tears the grass verses cutting it cleanly. Tearing the grass leaves can lead to turf Diseases. Time your mowing between irrigation cycles and fertilization schedules. Mowing wet grass can create clumps of wet grass which, if heavy enough, can smother the the grass. Alternate mowing patterns to avoid rutting and help maintain a straighter growing grass leaf.

Mowing height depends on your type of grass and location. In the transition zone I normally mow much higher, Around 3″ – 4″.

Some examples of mowing heights.

Grass Type Mowing Height
Bahia grass 2½” – 4”
Bentgrass ¼” – ¾”
Bermuda ½” – 2½”
Buffalograss 2” – 4”
Centipede 1½” – 2½”
Fine fescue 2½” – 3”
Kentucky Bluegrass 1½” – 3½”
Ryegrass 1½” – 2½”
St. Augustine 2½” – 3½”
Tall fescue 2” – 4”
Zoysia ½” – 2”

 

Fertilizing:

Lesco Conversion chart. Letters to Numbers

Lesco Conversion chart. Letters to Numbers

Sample Fertilizer Program

Through out the year your lawn requires different applications to maintain a healthy turf. Each application is designed to provide what your turf needs at that in the season.

Once again proper practice, timing, weather conditions, and type of fertilizer needs to be considered. Read the label! Or ask someone that is actually familiar with the product. If your spreader is not calibrated correctly according to the product you can either potentially damage your turf or your throwing your money away.

What do the numbers mean on a bag of fertilizer.

There are usually three main ingredients in a bag of fertilizer.

  • N – nitrogen: promotes the growth of leaves and vegetation
  • P – phosphorus: promotes root and shoot growth
  • K – potassium: promotes flowering, fruiting and general hardiness

The number indicates the percentage of that given ingredient. I.e. a bag of 14-14-14 would have 14% nitrogen, 14% phosphorus, and 14% potassium.

There’s more , 14% + 14% + 14% equals 42%. The rest is either other additives and/or a filler. The filler is added to allow the fertilizer  to broadcast the ingredients uniformly.

pH:

pH

This is a crucial component which is often times overlooked. If you lawn is doing well then chances are your PH is ok. However, if you feel your lawn could look better I would recommend a soil test. Most grass grows well with a PH level around 6.5 to 7. You can adjust these levels using either sulfur or lime.
Soil pH Meter, 3-in-1 Soil Test Kit For Moisture, Light and pH, A Must Have For Gardening Tools, Lawn, Farm, Plants and Herbs, Indoor and Outdoors Soil Tester with 100% Accuracy (No Battery Needed)
Sulfur lowers your PH number where as lime increases your PH number.

If your soil’s PH is not within the 6.5 to 7.0 range it will effect how the soil absorbs nutrients/fertilizer. Therefore if your PH is too high your basically losing the fertilizer your applying. Some weeds prefer a higher PH, so by lowering that number you will in effect help your lawn choke out the weeds.

Fungus & Mildew:

Brown Patch

Brown Patch, a common lawn fungus usually due to excessively humid conditions over extended periods of time. Can be treated with products such as DisArm and Eagle which are granular. Manicure Ultra being a topical spray.

Damp conditions due to weather can lead to issues of fungus and mildew.

Usually, but not all the time, a fungus or mildew issue will subside over time. This is assuming the lawn in properly maintained. If the issue is more persistent you can chemically treat the yard one of two ways or both. A contact or systematic herbicide. Contact as in a topical sprayed onto the foliage.  Systemic as in a granular form which is spread and enters into the soil.

Avoid over watering or watering late in the day. Mow on a regular basis and collect clippings

Will have a section with more detail. – Products page has two products which I endorse for treating such things as dollar spot and brown patch.

Temperature vs. Disease
Cool Temperatures Moderate Temperatures Warm Temperatures
(40° to 75°F) (60° to 80°F) (70° to 100°F)
Leaf spot Dollar spot Brown patch
Melting out Necrotic ring spot Fusarium blight
Fusarium patch Red thread Summer patch
Pink snow mold Leaf smut Pythium blight
Grey snow mold Rust

If your experiencing turf fungus or mildew there are two ways to treat it. Contact form as is spray or systematic as in granular

 

Lawn Renovation:

It may require just a simple aeration followed by over seeding and a starter fertilizer.

Or

If your lawn is more weeds then desirable grass you may want to consider two applications of round-up. Which is a non selective herbicide, meaning it will kill any foliage you spray.  Then proceed with aeration, over-seeding, and starter fertilizer.   The applications of Round-Up can be applied about two weeks about.  One application may be sufficient but two will ensure the weeds definitely under control.  Note:  You will still be contending with weeds while your lawn in being re-established.  However, with it being late in the year it wont be nearly as bad to manage as it would be in the Spring.   Once Spring arrives and your lawn is getting established you can treat the weeds accordingly.

Also: Do Not use any type of pre-emergent while the grass seed is germinating.

Note:  New grass is usually robust enough to handle a good freeze after a couple mowings.   Otherwise, as long as the temperature doesn’t fluctuate more the 50° within a twenty-four period your new grass should be fine.

Basic lawn re establishment:

Core aeration with broadcast spreading grass seed

  • Wait till Fall (September-October depending on your location)
  • Mow the grass at a shorter setting
  • Core aerate (double pass would be better)
  • Spread Grass seed (around 5 pounds per 1000 sq. ft.)
  • Use starter fertilizer (instead of your summer/fall blend)
  • Water
  • Grass should be robust enough to handle a frost after two mowings.
  • avoid using straw (unless its sterile) regular straw will exacerbate your weeds

OR, Slice seeding. Similar as mentioned above minus the aeration (aeration would be beneficial) and minus spreading the seed as for the machine will drop the seed.

The hot weather may have compromised your lawn this year. Best time to work on getting your lawn back in shape is in the fall. Trying to establish seed or sod during the summer months is not advised. Mid September first of October when the weather starts to cool down would be the correct time. Providing you lawn is not a complete lose, a good aeration followed by broadcast spreading grass seed should re-establish your lawn. Figure about 5 pounds per 1000 sq. ft.. Instead of using your late summer early fall blend fertilizer apply a starter fertilizer. Keep it watered if no rain. Within a few weeks you should have a decent crop of grass growing up from where the lawn was aerated/plugged. Make sure you have sharp mower blade(s) before cutting. Usually the new grass is robust enough to handle a frost after being mowed twice.

Usually during this time you will be contending with some weeds. You can spray the weeds prior to any renovation to get them under control. Your going to deal with weeds regardless, but you can still try to get a handle on them. DO NOT use any pre emergent granular systemic products, as it will kill new grass seed. Use a contact herbicde, as in spray only. Once your grass is established, usually come next spring you can tackle the weed issue.

The only weed I would be concerned with is Dallisgrass. A tenacious weed with no current herbicide to control it. It’s an EPA thing. A new product should be out hopefully in a year or two. The only way to control Dallisgrass would be to physically remove it after a good soaking rain. Dallisgrass look a lot like crab grass. However, crab grass can be controlled with a product like “drive 75″

 

Weeds:

Most weeds can be controlled with products you can purchase at most resell markets. Or you can visit a residential/commercial facility like Lesco. However, some weeds are just more tenacious then others. For instance, Dallas Grass is a weed which basically needs to be managed. Currently there are no real herbicides on the market to alleviate this tenacious weed other then removing by hand.  Visit turf products page for some ideas to manage weeds and pest.

Am not an advocate for pulling weeds unless they need to be. When you pull a weed out you usually break off some of the roots which in turn can grow back. When you utilize the correct herbicide you kill the weed systemically, meaning foliage and roots. My interest in this tool was for pulling specifically Dallisgrass for which there is currently no available herbicide thanks to the EPA. There are new products in the pipeline that should be ready for use hopefully in a year or two. Until then, this tool works very well.

 

Moles

Moles can be a real pain to deal with. Moles eat grub lava, earth worms(which you want) and other insects which borrow in the ground. Utilizing a grub control product will help mitigate this problem.

If you have moles you probably want to eradicate them. There are mole traps which can be used to ratify the rodents. However, depending on your situation, mole traps my create a liability problem with children and pets. The best product I found is talpirid mole bait.

A “jelly pesticide worm” which you poke into the moles tunnel. Important: be sure to wear gloves, not only for your safety but most importantly to keep your scent of of the worm. When you open the tunnel be sure to close it.

Best way to control moles is to eradicate the insect for which the moles are eating.  This can be accomplished with a product such as Merit.

talpirid_mole_bait

Grubs:

Grubs can destroy your lawn in a couple ways. First the grubs eat your grass roots, which in turn kills the grass. Raccoons, moles and birds like to eat the grubs which will also exacerbate the matter.  As mentioned a product such as Merit is a simple solution

Products such as Merit or Mach II are granular drop spreader applications which prevents and kills grubs in you turf. Usually applied once a year in the spring. Here is a good video which explains some of the available products.