The secret to thick, lush, green grass isn’t as simple as installing a sprinkler system in the front yard – it’s a science, and therefore a bit more complicated.
What’s the point of understanding the science behind lawn care? There are several benefits that come from cultivating a healthy yard of grass. Here are just a few things it can do:
- Reduce temperatures and cool the air
- Effectively absorb noise and rainfall
- Create oxygen
- Prevent runoff and erosion
- Help clean and remove pollutants from the air
- Positively affect moods
- Provide a safe place for outdoor activities and sports
Front, back, and side yards should all be treated equally, literally and metaphorically. This requires a bit of “get-to-know-you” type of research. What is the surrounding environment like? What is the lawn’s current state of health? Where is the most sunlight and where is the shade?
Having some familiarity with a lawn is a key step in developing a suitable care routine. In order to do that, you have to start with exploring the science behind your customers’ yards.
Seeding and Aeration
Aeration is a process that mechanically removes plugs of soil and deposits them on top of the soil surface. As these cores break down, the surrounding soil – now relieved of compaction and newly oxygenated – will fill in the holes.
This is when it’s most beneficial to overseed the lawn with the most desirable blends of turf grass. For example, newer varieties of seed tend to have a higher resistance to disease and are better able to survive drought.
There are several stressors that can negatively impact the ability of turf grass to fill in naturally and thicken. Low fertility combined with summer stresses, diseases, and compaction can create many bare areas, large and small. The overseeding process thickens the lawn by placing new seed, and ultimately new grass plants, into these bare areas.
Because most lawn seed is a mixture of several different types of grass, it is best to fertilize in both spring and fall; however, all lawns need fertilizer in early spring when the grass begins to grow. The type of grass, fertilizer used, and the climate should dictate the fertilization schedule for the rest of the season. Be sure to identify these factors before selecting a fertilizer.
Here are the basic types of fertilizer that can be used:
1. Slow-release: This fertilizer doesn’t need to be used as often, but is typically more expensive.
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2. Fast-release: You’ll yield quick results with a fast-release fertilizer, but they need to be applied in smaller amounts and more frequently. Be careful not to burn your lawn with this method. Using too much fast-release fertilizer allows for an extended period of direct contact with the grass.
3. Weed and Feed: Be sure to identify any weeds before using a weed and feed product. Also make sure that same weed is listed on the product label.
4. Organic Materials (such as compost and manure): Because the essential nutrients aren’t as concentrated in these types of materials, a larger amount must be used. Dry or compost manure before applying it to the lawn. Be aware that some manures, particularly horse manure, may contain weed seeds.
5. Liquid Fertilizers: These aren’t recommended because they are difficult to apply evenly and require frequent applications.
Water the lawn a few days before fertilizing to ensure the grass isn’t suffering from drought stress. Make sure the grass blades are completely dry to avoid any burning. Always be sure to fill the spreader on a driveway or over cement in order to sweep up spills easily.
Just as with our wardrobes, lawn care needs to change with the seasons in order to maintain a healthy turf year-round.
Early Spring (February – April)
Lawns wake up hungry in the spring. Feeding them strengthens roots before the heavy growing season begins. A good rule of thumb is to always feed the lawn around the first time it needs to be mowed.
Late Spring (April – June)
Lunchtime! Grass is busy in the spring and is using up stored energy, which is why it’s important to supply it with plenty of feed. Also keep in mind that certain types of weeds are actively growing, too. By using a combination weed & feed, you can kill two birds with one stone.
Summer (June – August)
Summer is often a rough time for grass. Stressors such as the heat, drought, foot traffic, and insects can deteriorate lawns quickly. In order to strengthen and protect them during this time, grassy areas should be fed over the summer months as they grow steadily from spring to fall.
Fall (September – November)
With fall comes ideal growing conditions. Cool nights, warm days, plenty of rainfall, and morning dew is a lawn’s paradise. The grass is ready to grow again and will need to replenish the nutrients lost during summer damage. Some experts say fall is the single-most important lawn feeding of the year, right before the winter napping months. This will strengthen roots and increase nitrogen storage for an early spring green-up and a healthier lawn next year.
Insects and Disease
Like any plant, lawns can encounter a variety of problems. Chewing insects, such as grasshoppers, may attack grass blades; burrowing critters, like gophers, may munch through grass roots and cause green tops to die. While it’s not too difficult to spot dying patches of a lawn, it’s often a challenge to detect exactly what is causing the problem and how best to treat it.
A yard overridden with volcano-like mounds of soil and raised ridges running through the grass is suffering from none other than pesky moles. Moles tunnel through lawns to feast on insects, worms, and grubs, and are commonly found in overwatered lawns. The most effective way to rid a lawn of moles is by using a specific trap to catch the animal.
When it comes to identifying what’s chomping the lawn, don’t be afraid to rely on clues. With Japanese beetles, for instance, the beetles may be seen physically on the grass. Most likely, they’re laying eggs in the soil and not really feasting on turf. Keep an eye out for other small hints that might alert you to the culprits.
The best defense against pests is maintaining a healthy lawn, which requires constant care and attention. A spread of healthy, thick grass provides far more benefits than just curb appeal. By routinely watering, feeding, protecting, and manicuring your clients’ lawns, they also get a few things in return: clean, cooler air; a safe outdoor space; and a beautiful sight of green.