Lawn and Landscape Blog (part 6)

Brian Burns / May 30,2020
Lawn and Landscape Blog (part 6)

Lawn and Landscape Blog (part 6)
The topic of this blog is lawn care.
As I mentioned when I began the Lawn and Landscape Blog earlier this spring my professional training and expertise was in horticulture and landscaping. I have not had any formal training in lawn management, but do have plenty of experience in maintaining my nearly 13,000 square foot lawn.
I will list the practices which work well for me.
The first (and most obvious) comment about lawn care is that it is much easier to have a healthy and thick lawn when the lawn receives as much sunlight as possible. While there are varieties of grass that tolerate shade, in general the best lawns will be those that receive the most direct sunlight. Because of the way my property was laid out, I was able to choose to not plant trees in the yard immediately in front of and behind the house.
In general, lawns receiving the most sunlight will be thicker and require less fertilization and weed control.
Lawn and Landscape Blog (part 6)My backyard: The trees are in the rear part of the yard, which allows plenty of sunshine for the lawn
Lawn height
The general rule of thumb with lawns (officially called “turfgrass”) is that the higher it is “on top”, the deeper the roots will be.
I do not have an irrigation system, so I need to rely on adequate rainfall, or lug hoses around the yard.
The lawn, like the rest of the landscape, needs about an inch of water per week during the growing season. I adjust the height of the lawn per the time of year. During the early spring (when rainfall is “usually” more consistent), I mow very short a few times (around 2 inches), then gradually raise the height. Mowing short at this time stimulates lawn growth, and if the lawn is healthy there will be plenty of roots to support growth. If rainfall is consistent and plentiful during the rest of the growing season I maintain the lawn height at either 3 ¼ inches or 3 ¾ inches. When it looks like dry weather might be on the way for a while, I will mow at the highest mower setting, 4 ¼ inches. As mentioned above, a healthy lawn that is kept taller will have deeper root system which will allow better tolerance of periods of (very warm and) dry weather. During the fall, I gradually lower the height of the lawn, as a shorter lawn will be subject to less winter compaction and be easier to rake in the spring.
I usually fertilize three times a year around these dates: Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. I have tried using organic fertilizers (including milorganite), but have found I have to use a large amount of them to provide the necessary nutrients the lawn needs. So I prefer to use a chemical fertilizer in the range of 30-0-3 or such. Fertilizing at these times of the growing season seems to provide enough nutrients for the entire year, and allows the lawn go dormant more naturally/slowly in the fall, and begin growing at a decent pace in the spring.
These days there seems to be a debate in some circles about the appropriateness of watering the lawn. Some prefer to leave the lawn to respond to the weather without intervention. In general, healthy lawns will go dormant if there is not adequate rainfall during the growing season. Dormant lawns will turn brown. Dormant lawns do usually recover when consistent rainfall returns, but can be prone to more weed growth as well. So I am willing to water the lawn during dry periods. But I find I need to water less if the lawn is kept taller.
Weed control
For most of the growing season I am able to spot-spray for weeds, using one the of broad-based liquid weed killers that I mix in a gallon-size sprayer. This is another advantage of growing the lawn in full-sun. The lawn is thicker and less prone to weed growth.
Grub control
Grub control products are either “preventative” (applied before grubs become active) or “curative” (applied after grub damage occurs). I have experienced some grub damage to the lawn, and it takes a lot of time and effort to get the grubs under control as well as restore the lawn from the damage. So I have had reasonable success applying one of the commercially available granular season-long preventative grub control products in the spring (usually toward the end of May or early June).
I hope these tips are helpful to you. As always, please email me with questions or comments: