If your neighbor’s yard is making you green with envy, the West Virginia University Extension Service has advice to help spruce up your surroundings and take steps to ensure an attractive lawn that is in good shape.
“Just like any plant, the lawn is a living thing that needs proper care to thrive,” said Rakesh Chandran, WVU Extension Service specialist and professor in weed science. “It needs a solid base to grow from and maintained carefully to be as healthy, and beautiful, as possible.”
The first step in achieving a healthy lawn is to “get the dirt” on the soil conditions of the yard.
“The soil is at the root of a healthy lawn, and knowing what you’re working with and what sort of condition the soil is in is critical,” advised Chandran. “Your local WVU Extension Service county office provides everything needed for a free soil analysis through the WVU soil testing laboratory.”
The test results offer insight into soil acidity levels so that type and volume of fertilizers can be determined, if needed. Fertilizers are generally applied in spring or fall months, and the chemical composition varies by season.
Based on the recommendations of the soil analysis, choose the correct treatment and apply fertilizers to a dry lawn as uniformly as possible with a properly calibrated spreader. Avoid overlaps in application, and be sure to keep fertilizers away from surface water.
Once the soil has been primed for optimum growth and the grass is growing tall, the next step is to maintain the growth. Properly mowing is vital to having a lush, healthy lawn.
According to Chandran, mowing grass too short will result in a poor strand of grass and excess weed growth. In general, he recommends a mowing height of approximately 3 inches to promote root development.
“However, whenever possible, the most ideal way to mow is to remove only one-third of the lawn’s top-growth and allow the clippings to be recycled back into the lawn,” said Chandran.
Make sure that mowing equipment is at peak condition for best results.
“When mowing, sharp blades are of utmost importance — dull blades pull instead of cut, potentially triggering diseases and reducing the overall vigor of the lawn,” explained Chandran.
During the summer months, when rainfall is scarce and watering may be necessary, deep watering promotes deeper rooting which makes grass more resistant to heat and drought according to Chandran.
To determine initially how much water constitutes sufficient watering, place a coffee can under the sprinkler and irrigate until the water depth in the can measures one inch. Lawns should not be watered in the evening as it will not have time to dry before nightfall, making it prone to disease.
For good root health, Chandran recommends aerating the lawn once every three years during fall months, followed by a top-dressing of quality compost. Hollow-tine aerators work best, but other types may be used. Check with a local equipment rental agency to see what is available.
“Unfortunately, there are some lawn problems that cannot be controlled by general maintenance practices and lawns often fall prey to diseases, insects and weeds that can result in serious problems,” said Chandran. “Identifying those problems and getting recommendations on treating them is a subject that your local WVU Extension agent can gladly help with.”
For more information about caring for your lawn, please contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service or view this fact sheet.
CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU Extension Service
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