Having a great looking lawn is a source of pride for many homeowners, unfortunately we sometimes try too hard and do more harm than good. Like children, grass needs a certain level of care and support but being too strict, pushing too hard or trying to protect them from all of life’s pesky nuisances can lead to rebellion. Here are five common mistakes that can turn lawn service into lawn abuse.
Grass is an extremely sturdy plant and is ubiquitous throughout most of the country but part of why it does so well is because there are so many unique varieties that have evolved to thrive in various regions and climates. While some grass types such as bentgrass and fescue can do well in many areas, most regions have only a handful of grass species that will flourish. Here in the Southeast where we enjoy a warm and humid climate, bermuda, zoysia, centipede and St. Augustine do best. So if you’ve just moved to town from anywhere north of the 35th parallel, trying to bring a taste of home by planting Kentucky bluegrass is ill advised. Learn more about your region and the grasses that perform best here.
When mixed and applied properly, chemicals such as herbicides, fungicides and insecticides can be a great asset, tools designed to keep your grass green and free of pests of all sorts. As will be a recurring theme among the mistakes outlined in this article, many of us often succomb to the belief that if some is good, more is better (SIGMIB). When it comes to chemicals, SIGMIB is not only less effective, it can create safety issues for your family, pollute the environment and kill your grass. As any lawn care professional will tell you, if your goal is killing insects, weeds or fungal diseases, there is only one level of dead. Follow mixing directions meticulously and use only the minimum effective dose for your application. While highly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be safe for home use, when chemicals are used in too high of concentrations or at above recommended quantities, they can hurt your lawn and be carried into our waterways via natural runoff. Unless you’re targeting just a few weedy problem areas, lawn spraying is best left to the pros.
Some of us love to mow – it can be therapeutic, rewarding, good exercise and when we’re done, the groundskeepers at Wrigley Field and Augusta National would be impressed with our precise patterns. Unfortunately, this is another case where SIGMIB can lead to damage. No more than ⅓ of the grass height should be removed during any single cut so if it’s the first mow of the year or your lawn is a little shaggy, resist the urge to drop the deck to one of the lowest settings. Keeping your blades sharp will ensure the grass is cut cleanly rather than being pulled from the roots. Small, fine clippings can be left where they fall as they will decay quickly and replenish nutrients (and save you the hassle of bagging or raking them up).
Surely you can’t hurt your lawn with fresh, clean water right? After all, plants need water to survive and after baking in the sun all day, they deserve a drink. SIGMIB strikes again. Upwards of 80% of yard issues are caused by homeowners and most of those are related to irrigation, typically over-watering. Most grasses do best when they receive one deep watering per week, about an inch of water. This deep soak allows the water to penetrate thatch and surface soil, making its way down to the roots of the grass which most desperately need it. More frequent and shallow waterings will encourage your grass to grow shallow as well – keeping the roots closer to the surface where they can absorb the water. In addition, watering too often can leave the ground and thatch damp and more vulnerable to fungal turf diseases such as brown patch and gray leaf spot. Timing is also important – water early in the morning (between 4am and 9am) to reduce evaporation and avoid scalding your grass with water that has been warmed in the sun all day.
Fertilizer is fantastic – it’s like legal steroids for your lawn but once again the SIGMIB mantra can derail the best of intentions. By adding nutrients and balancing out the natural acidity of the soil, proper application of fertilizer can help boost healthy lawn growth. Over fertilizing however can cause excess leaf growth without the root structure needed to support it. The high levels of nitrogen can actually burn the lawn if applied too heavily. Fertilizer can be applied in both the spring and again in late summer but avoid doing so for the month leading up to the peak summer temperatures. Also avoid fertilizing if your lawn has just been treated for brown patch or take all patch turf diseases as the new plant growth may reinvigorate the diseases.
Avoiding these five mistakes will save you time and money and your lawn will thank you for it. Here is a lawncare checklist of things you should be doing to get your lawn healthy before the heat of summer.