Spring is here, which means it’s time to get your lawn shipshape and Bristol fashion. But what’s the key to that ultra-soft, kelly green grass? Fortunately, dedicated turf grass scientists have the answers to this problem. Here are science’s best kept secrets for an immaculate lawn.
Notice your neighbor’s weekly habit of mowing his lawn, while yours languishes overgrown for two or more weeks? The habit of frequently mowing your lawn does make the grass greener. The frequent cutting keeps weeds to a minimum and forces the grass to grow thickly, creating a lush blanket.
When You Cut, Don’t Go Too Short
You may be tempted to go for a tightly trimmed lawn – a la golf course management. However, grass that is cut too short actually grows faster and causes you to use more herbicides, water, and other resources to keep the lawn in check. Says Peter Landschoot, professor of turf grass management at Penn State, “The lower you mow, the more herbicides and water you need, and then it becomes an intensive management system.” When you mow, don’t cut any deeper than one-third of the grass’s height.
From Mow to Mulch
After you’ve mowed the lawn, leave the clippings where they fall on the grass. You may be tempted to rake and remove the clippings, but let them become mulch to nourish new growth.
Overwatering your lawn causes roots to grow shallowly and build up into a thatch. Rather than watering every day, water your lawn deeply and less often. Property maintenance experts recommend watering the grass deeply twice a week. Infrequent watering trains the roots to grow deep, making them less vulnerable to disease. The best time to water your lawn is in the early morning hours – between 5 and 8 a.m. If you water during the day when the sun is out, water gets lost through evaporation. Watering at night is another big no-no, since an overnight wet lawn puts your grass at risk of fungal diseases.
Before you start dumping fertilizers onto your lawn, take a sample of your soil to a local testing lab. Lab testing may only cost around $20 or less, but it will help determine the chemical makeup of your soil. Once you know what you have, you’ll be able to determine what fertilizers you need to create a healthy environment for grass seed. Natural fertilizers include dried manure, chicken waste, kelp, bone, and blood meal. You can also start your own compost to use as an organic fertilizer.