Summer has come and gone; another season has been spent battling to keep your lawn green and lush.. You’ve watered, weeded, fed, raked, mowed, mulched and it still doesn’t quite have that gorgeous, rich green of a truly healthy lawn. With fall coming, now is the time to think about your lawn for next year and correct some of the problems you encountered this year.
First, consider the type of grass you have. Some varieties of grass are simply greener than other varieties. If you live in the south, chances are that your lawn is Bahia grass. Bahia grass is not an especially attractive grass, nor is it very green, but it is highly drought tolerant and very hardy. Bermuda grass would be a good substitute, especially the Tifgreen and Tiflawn varieties (available primarily as sod) which are used for golf course greens in the south. If you are in the west, you may have buffalo grass, which is native to the low-rainfall areas, but is a blue-green color. Buffalo grass is hardy, but, unlike Bahia and Bermuda grass, will withstand the cold winter temperatures found in the northwest. You might consider replanting or transplanting with a fescue mixed with Kentucky bluegrass. This is a good option for almost anyone in a mild-to-moderate climate zone. If you have rye grass, a very popular, low-cost option, chances are it will die out once the real heat of summer sets in as it has very little tolerance for heat. Some varieties of ryegrass are mixed with Kentucky bluegrass with very nice results, especially the Manhattan II variety which contains the fungus endophyte, a known pest repellant. Endophytes can be dangerous to livestock, and potentially harmful to domestic house pets that may be inclined toward chewing on grass. Whatever grass you have, make certain it is the right kind for your region and kind of shade. It is also critical that you know how to care for the kind of grass you have so it provides all the beauty of its kind.
Second, consider the moisture level of your lawn. If you are watering frequently and for extended periods of time, you may be over watering. If you water for just a few minutes every day, you may be under watering as well as getting grass with shallow roots and very little heat and drought protection. Most of us are likely guilty of over watering – just putting the sprinkler on and walking away several times a week. In general, lawns need one good soaking, an inch of water, every week. The water will soak down four to six inches into the soil, which is the optimum depth for watering. The way to measure this is to put some kind of inch or larger container at various positions in your lawn so you can stop watering at one inch. There are also lawn buddies commercially available that you can put in your lawn. The buddies will change color depending how much water is in the soil so you know when to water.
Sometimes a very green lawn, in the heat of summer and in the right climate zone, becomes the target of Japanese beetles, northern masked chafer grubs and other beetles who lay eggs in the soil. When the eggs hatch, they destroy the roots and leave you with a very sad lawn indeed. You may want to wait until the cooler end of summer before you water heavily, or you could invest in one of the many chemical solutions used to fight the different beetle and grub species. You will want to determine which kind of infestation you have before you purchase, however, as many formulas only target a specific variety or handful of varieties.
Next, make sure you are mowing your lawn to the proper height. In general, you should have at least two inches of grass. Anything shorter than that will begin to weaken and kill the grass. It is also important to allow some of the grass clippings to remain on the lawn as a natural fertilizer (and if you are mowing regularly this shouldn’t be a problem).
Finally, consider fertilizer for your lawn. A stressed-out lawn, just like a stressed-out person, will look sickly and worn down. It is possible to find green ways to fertilize, such as natural, de-odorized manure, but many of these kinds of options are for earlier in the year. Once your lawn has become stressed it may already be too late. Prepare your lawn for the next growing season late in fall by applying a winterizing fertilizer to help it survive the colder winter temperatures and then begin in the spring with a nitrogen fertilizer (be careful not to over fertilize).
A green, lush lawn can be the pride of any homeowner and, with some patience, some skillful observation of your lawn and climate conditions, you can achieve a truly beautiful lawn.