Lawn Care: Tips & Myths

Spring has started already in southern climes and if you live up north, for 2008 Puxatony Phil on February 2nd said six more weeks of winter, so you may still have a ways to go unfortunately.

But in the springtime we all want our lawns to be green and healthy for the new season to come, so its time to get out your lawnmower and sprinkler repair kit soon!

Unfortunately, there are a lot of suburban lawn care myths out there, so knowing how to give you lawn the right care can be a mystery.

How often should you fertilize and with what kind of fertilizer? Should you mow it short or leave your grass long enough to out compete the weeds?

Read on to learn the top tips (and myths) about lawn care.

Follow these lawn care tips on how to grow healthy, green grass in your yard!

Fertilizing

Lawn grass needs food to thrive, especially for nitrogen, and you have a lot of possible choices when considering fertilizers for your lawn.

Start by having your lawn soil professionally tested. This will tell you whether your soil has the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and help you determine what fertilizer will best help achieve the optimal levels of each.

A common mistake is to over fertilize, which can cause your lawn to burn and die if you aren’t careful. Follow the directions for your fertilizer product carefully to know how much you should apply for a given amount of lawn area.

If you don’t mind the chemical fertilizer varieties, just visit your local home improvement center or nursery; you’ll find dozens of commercial lawn fertilizer products whether your lawn gets mostly sun, sun and shade, lots of shade, etc.

If you prefer to use organic fertilizers, you can also start your own backyard composting, combining your grass clippings, yard and organic waste using compost bins to create an organic mixture that your lawn is sure to love.

For more information on composting and organic lawn care, try visiting organic lawn care tips.

For healthy grass, you’d typically want to apply fertilizer once in early spring (February-April) once in late spring (April-June), again in summer (June-August) and a final time for the season in fall (September-November).

Mowing

The most common lawn care myth is to mow a lawn short and thereby avoid having to mow as often. This makes no sense at all; remember that your grass is competing with all the weeds and other plants that can grow in your yard for sunlight.

If you leave your lawn longer (most experts suggest keeping it between 1.5 and 2 inches tall) the grass can more successfully compete for the sun it needs to remain healthy! This does not mean to mow less frequently; by mowing weekly but with the mower set to a higher level, you will keep your lawn growing nicely and help keep weeds down without having to use nasty weed killers.

Mow high and frequently to let your grass get plenty of sunshine and outcompete the weeds!

Watering

Another common myth is that you should water your lawn frequently, especially during the hotter summer months. However, in fact, frequent, shallow watering increases the amount of thatch in your lawn by keeping the grass roots short. The thatch sends out runners above the soil, choking out air and water.

To water deep, where lawn grass roots grow, try watering less frequently. You can also water once; wait about 90 minutes and then water again. This will help the water penetrate the soil more deeply. If you wait as long as possible between watering, you let the surface of the soil dry, which gives your grass an advantage over weeds, since most weeds have very shallow roots.

Mulching

There are two theories about grass clippings; one that says you should not leave dead lawn clippings behind when you mow, since it can block sunlight, water and nutrients from the grass plants and another, that says if you keep you have a mulching mower, keep your mower blades sharp and mow high, you should let the lawn clippings behind to provide additional organic nutrients to your lawn.

Experts seem to disagree on this matter, so it may be a matter of personal choice or it may be that results vary, depending on the type of lawn mower, grass and soil you have.

Aerating

Aerating your lawn helps reduce soil compaction. The best way to aerate is to either rent a mechanical core aerator or having it done professionally; this method is far superior to simply poking holes in your lawn using spiked shoes or other methods since it mechanically remove the plugs and loosening thatch from your lawn’s soil.

If you have heavy clay content in your soil, you many want to aerate twice per year. For sandier soils, one time per year is usually adequate and summer or fall is the best time for lawn aeration.

Overseeding

Most lawn experts recommend against overseeding; the practice of applying new grass seed to your entire lawn. This is not likely to help considerably since adult lawn plants will only compete with the new seed for water, sun, nitrogen and minerals and vitamins in the soil anyway.

By keeping your lawn healthy with proper maintenance, it shouldn’t be needed anyway. In some cases, you may need to apply some lawn seed to a bare patch here or there.

Weeding

If you have a lawn, then of course you will also have weeds with which to contend. The best way to keep weeds to a minimum is simply to dig them out regularly, which prevents them from spreading and taking over without the need for chemical weed control products.

If you do choose to use weed control products, be sure to use them throughout the lawn growing season; many people think that simply applying these products in the spring will keep weeds away for the duration of the season, but weeds take root and grow very quickly.

In the spring, about 30 days before you anticipate that weeds will begin to appear (depends on your location), apply a pre-emergent weed control with fertilizer to help prevent weeds. About 60 days later, apply a fertilizer with post-emergent herbicide to kill weeds that have grown and show above the soil. A final application in the fall will help prevent new weeds from emerging the following season.

Additional Resources:

All About Lawns

Lawn Care Tips

Backyard Gardener

American Lawns

Lawn Grasses

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