The lawn is often thought of as an extension of our home. It’s a place were families gather to relax and have fun. But keeping a green lush lawn means understanding the requirements of our lawn and providing the appropriate conditions they need to thrive. Such things as drought, excessive shade, poor drainage, soil compaction, inadequate fertility, acid soils, infestations, disease, thatch build-up, improper mowing, poorly adapted grass species, and others may contribute to poor lawn performance.
Cool Season Grasses:
Most lawns in the Philadelphia region consist of cool season grasses, like perennial rye, Kentucky bluegrass and the fescues. These grass species thrive during the cooler seasons of fall and spring and can handle the freezing conditions and snow cover of winter. It’s during the hot and dry summers that these grasses struggle, often going dormant and turning brown.
One of the first important steps to a successful lawn is to assess your soil conditions. Check the degree of compaction and amount of topsoil present. Also it is essential to get a soil test done. You can easily purchase a test kit from a university or private test lab. A soil test report will provide you with information about pH and lime levels and the amount of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium and organic matter in the soil. Along with the test results, test sites will often provide recommendations for liming, soil amendments and fertilizing. Taking these steps will help you determine the best course to take in improving your lawn.
Helpful tips to improve your lawn:
- Cut lawn at 3” or higher, not cutting more than ⅓ of the leaf tissue
- Mow frequently during active growth
- Leave clippings on your lawn, clippings containing important nutrients that will return to the soil, significantly reducing the need for fertilizer applications.
- Make sure mowing blades are sharp
- Choose a complete fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) made for lawns
- Read and follow all directions when applying
- Spring and early fall are the best times to feed
- Sweep products off hard surfaces and back into the lawn
- Its okay for lawns to go dormant during the summer
- If you choose to water during the summer do it early in the morning
- Water deeply and infrequently, about 1” a week when there is inadequate rain fall.
- Frequent light watering encourages shallow rooting and germination of weed seeds
If you have been struggling to get a successfully established lawn it might be time to do a full lawn overhall. Lawn renovations restore failing lawn and with the arrival of cooler temperatures, September signals the perfect time to renovate thin, tired, weak, and wore out lawns.
Basic Steps for Renovating a Lawn
|Weed Control||Physically Pull||For large or spreading weeds; won’t kill all weeds.|
|Broadleaf Herbicide||If weeds are primarily non-grasses.|
|Nonselective Herbicide||Kills most green vegetation; allow 5-14 days to effectively kill the plants.|
|Thatch Removal||Vigorous Hand Raking||Not practical for extreme thatch problem or large areas.|
|Vertical Mower||Can be rented or hired; can also be used to prepare seedbed.|
|Sod Cutter||Recommended for extreme thatch problem; can be rented or hired.|
|Soil Preparation||Vigorous Hand Raking||For small sites with little vegetation remaining.|
|Aeration||3-5 passes with commercial aerifier; especially recommended if soil is compacted.|
|Vertical Mowing||Tines should nick surface to a depth of ⅛-½ inch.|
|Fertilize||Nitrogen (N) Phosphorus (P) Potassium (K)||½ pound of N per 1000 square feet; P and K as determined by a soil test.|
|Seeding||Hand||For small sites mix 1 part seed with 4 parts fine sawdust or a natural organic fertilizer such as Milorganite.|
|Rotary Spreader||Preferred method if mixed with sawdust or Milorganite.|
|Drop Spreader||Seed in 2 directions or overlap ½ way.|
|Slit Seeder||Equipment can be rented but requires skill; generally best done by professionals|
|Irrigate||Water lightly to provide good seed-soil contact; then, water lightly twice daily to rewet soil surface. Don’t allow to become soggy.|
|Mow||At 3½ inches, mow to 2½ inches with sharp mower; continue regular mowing as needed.|
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