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KETR Local Interest
Wed June 1, 2011
Turf Care and Maintenance
By DeAnna Hambly
Greenville, TX – Years ago, back when lawnmowers were powered by nothing more than sheer human strength, maintaining your lawn seemed much less complicated than it is today. There's enough lawn and garden equipment on the market today to completely take over a garage. There are also many different types of grasses available today--each having its own maintenance requirement. So how does a person know what to do when it comes to keeping their lawn looking its best? Here are a few basic and simple steps to follow.
First, you need to know what type of grass you have. Is it a warm-season grass--maybe St. Augustine or Centipede? Or do you have a cool-season grass like Fescue or Rye? Warm-season grasses grow best in temperatures ranging between 80-95 degrees and have high growth rates in summer; whereas cool-season grasses grow best at 60-75 degrees and peak in spring and fall. A word of caution, a warm-season grass does not mean the grass grows best in full sun. For instance; St. Augustine, a warm-season grass, will tolerate shade. However, Bermuda, also a warm-season grass, has a poor shade tolerance.
No matter what type of grass you have, most experts agree, it's best to water your lawn infrequently and deep rather than watering a little every day. Light and frequent watering produces weak, shallow roots, and your lawn is more susceptible to stress. Early morning is the best time to water because temperatures and water loss from evaporation are low. Watering in the evening makes grass susceptible to fungal diseases because the grass remains wet throughout the night. Most of the time, you only need to observe your lawn to determine when to water it; however, the general rule of thumb is to apply enough water to wet the top 3-6 inches of soil once or twice a week, depending on temperatures.
Fertilization requirements also vary among grass types. If you've ever used the wrong type of fertilizer, you know how devastating the effects can be to your lawn. Always check the label to be sure you are using the appropriate fertilizer for your type of grass. If you're not sure what type of grass you have, take a few blades of grass to your county extension office or local garden center. They can identify your grass and help you select the right fertilizer.
When mowing your lawn, avoid mowing in the hottest part of the day. This places unnecessary stress on the lawn. Also avoid mowing your grass after a rain--cutting the grass while wet makes it more susceptible to diseases. Mowing when grass and soil are wet also causes ruts to form in the lawn. The optimum time to mow is in the evening when grass is dry and temperatures are lower.
Mowing frequency and height is determined by several factors; type of grass, rainfall amounts, fertilization rates, etc. The general rule is never cut off more than one-third of the blade height at any one time. You can plan to mow your grass at least once a week and more frequently during the growing season. Mow in long straight lines, varying the pattern on each successive mowing to prevent the same grass from being run over by the lawnmower wheels. This will help eliminate ruts in your lawn.
One of the best things you can do for your lawn is to have a soil test performed. The test will reveal the pH level of the soil and help you determine its nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium requirements--three of the most common elements found in lawn fertilizers today. Once you determine the condition of your soil, you can add soil amendments and fertilizer to help ensure you have a healthy green lawn without a lot of work. Soil test kits are available for a small fee at your county extension office. For more information on turf maintenance, stop by the Texas AgriLife Extension office at 2217 Washington Street in Greenville.