American lawns range from golf course spectacular to weed infested, bare patch ugly. And lawn care treatment ranges from chemical assault, to doing nothing, to organic purist.
You can have a better lawn, without constantly attending to its needs and without spending a fortune. While many of us coddle our ornamental plantings and our vegetable gardens, some of us almost ignore our lawn’s basic needs. Grass plants, like all plants, need food, water, and air and they need a hospitable growing environment.
Food for Your Lawn
Your lawn may survive without any added food; but, it probably will not thrive, and may not be healthy. Indeed grass will grow in sidewalk cracks and on the prairie without any special care; but, turf grass needs some care. You should feed your lawn approximately every six weeks, preferably with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Organic lawn fertilizer is ideal, but some “chemical” fertilizers will provide good nutrition in the form of both the basic N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) and some trace elements and minerals.
The N-P-K numbers on a bag of fertilizer indicate the percentage of the three key elements, by weight. Lawn fertilizer labeled as 10-5-10 has 10% Nitrogen, 5% Phosphorus, and 10% Potassium. The remainder of the weight is usually inert carrier material.
Nitrogen helps plants produce more chlorophyll, so they grow quicker and taller and develop a darker green color. Phosphorus assists root development and Potassium boosts disease resistance and helps with drought protection.
Like people, lawns are healthier when they’re fed smaller meals with increased frequency, vs. a big feast in the spring. Indeed, the application of too much Nitrogen at any one time can “burn” and lawn and destroy grass plants.
Water for Your Lawn
Generally speaking, most lawns require about one inch of water (or rainfall) per week. During particularly dry periods, you may need to water your lawn just to keep it green and healthy. When lawns are allowed to stay very dry for long periods of time, they’ll turn brown and go dormant until there’s enough water to grow new grass plants from the root system.
One of the best ways to prevent your lawn from turning brown is to water it before it’s too late. Two inexpensive investments can pay big dividends for lawn care – an accurate and easy-to-read rain gauge, and an effective sprinkler can take the guess work, and the drudgery, out of caring for your lawn. Unless you have a postage stamp size lawn, you simply can’t water it effectively with a hand-held garden hose.
Air for Your Lawn
Grass plants thrive in healthy soil; and, healthy soil needs air. If your lawn has earthworms, you probably have healthy soil with good air circulation. Over time, most lawns become compacted because of foot traffic or riding mower traffic. If your lawn is seriously compacted, consider aerating it, or having it aerated by a lawn care service. Moderate compaction, in cool season grasses, can be treated with the Mantis Aerator attachment.
Serious thatch build-up will also rob your lawn’s soil of much needed air circulation, not to mention precluding water and nutrients from reaching the grass roots. If you have thatch build-up, dethatch your lawn with the Mantis Dethatcher attachment; it’s easy to use, and will really improve your lawn’s health and appearance.
Summer is a time of high stress for lawns. The increased heat and occasional dry spells will make it hard for your lawn to continue to look its best.
Avoid allowing your lawn to get too dry too quickly. And, avoid repeated foot traffic in the same locations when the lawn is stressed. A stressed lawn is significantly less tolerable to people standing or walking in the same area repeatedly.