Is there more disagreement in lawn care than ... every facet of lawn care? Probably not. This is one subject where you'll get a different answer from each "expert" you ask. We turned to MSU Extension and Scotts for answers to proper care for cool season grasses, and this is what we found. These tips will guide you to a healthier, more carefree lawn that saves you time and money and benefits the environment.
Are you one of the 'Wild Ones' who believes the outdoors should be left to the control of Mother Nature? We respect this and agree that there are some very cool and effective alternatives to standard turfgrass. However, if you prefer a lush green lawn then you're not alone. Turfgrass covers 50 million acres in the U.S. and understanding proper care will benefit you and the environment.
Turfgrass brings numerous advantages to people and the environment, and we're continuously discovering more. Many of these advantages are things we wouldn't normally consider, such as improving wellness and reducing stress. Yes! A lush green lawn is calming to our senses and considered therapeutic. More tangible benefits include protecting bodies of water by slowing the absorption rate of stormwater, filtering pollutants from stormwater, reducing environmental heat, reducing noise pollution (all plants absorb sound), reducing erosion, improving air quality by reducing CO2 while increasing O2, and trapping dust and dirt. That's a lot of benefit.
LAWN CARE in simple terms. In addition to proper watering, which we discuss below, these are things we can do to improve the quality of our lawns, saving time and money and the environment.
Cutting to a height of 3.5-4". No more than 1/3 the height of the blade should be removed during mowing. Mowing your lawn super short to achieve golf course aesthetics (where a special variety of grass is used) is not ideal. Lawn that is too short requires more mowing, more water, more fertilizer, and results in shorter, less stable roots. Longer grasses establish a deeper root system, shade the soil, require less water, choke out weeds and therefore require less fertilization. Longer grass is also your best defense against grubs!
Aerate your lawn in spring or fall for cool season grasses (Michigan). Aeration reduces soil compaction, improves absorption of water and nutrients, and increases air flow.
DON'T bag your grass clippings. Grass clippings don't create thatch! Clippings do provide much-needed organic matter by releasing nitrogen and potassium as they decompose - free food for your lawn, yay! Bagged clippings results in an increased need for fertilizer and increases your carbon footprint. After all, those clippings first have to be transported and then disposed of in a landfill where grass clippings/yard waste comprises a whopping 12% of solid waste - even more during peak season. "Grasscycling" - returning clippings to the earth - is the environmentally sound way to handle clippings.
Overseed in early fall. Overseeding will help to fill in bare areas and improve the density of your lawn. Overseeding that's done in combination with aeration produces the best result.
WATERING. So what is a proper watering schedule? Too much water can lead to fungal diseases and increase thatch problems. Too little water leads to, well, we all know the answer to this one. Watering too frequently leads to shallow roots. Watering in midday is wasteful as the evaporation rate is high. Watering at night leaves water sitting on the lawn also leading to fungus. So here's the answer:
Water in the early morning preferable between 5am and 10am. This allows time for absorption before temps rise and winds pickup increasing the evaporation rate.
Water at a rate of 1" per week. Whether you do this in one single application or two half-inch applications doesn't matter, but 1-2 deep waterings per week are best as they encourage a deep root system. Shallow water = shallow roots. Deep water = deep roots.
How does 1"/week translate into watering times? Since every watering method offers a different rate of application, use a tin can or pie plate to measure how much water is applied during a 15 minute watering session. Add or subtract time to reach 1/2" twice per week or 1" once per week. Rainfall does count and should be factored into your watering plan by using a rain gauge to measure accumulation.
Finally, make sure your watering system is focused on your lawn and not being wasted spraying sidewalks, driveways, or roadways. Water is a valuable resource!
We've been studying and practicing turf-grass management and everything related to life outdoors since 1998, so call our experts with any questions. If we don't have the answer we'll find it! ~Parrott Landscaping