Growing the perfect lawn doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Here are three simple things you can do to create a lush, green carpet of grass without breaking your back or the bank.
1. Start with the Right Grass
There are many varieties of grass seed and sod but they are generally identified as one of two categories; either cool season or warm season grasses. Warm season grasses thrive in Southern areas. They grow best at temperatures between 80 and 95°F. Cool season grasses are the choice for Northern growing areas, even those with harsh winters. They grow best at temperatures between 60 and 75°F.
Popular Warm Season Grasses
|Bermuda (Cynodon dactylon)||As its name implies, Bermuda grass shines in near tropical conditions.
It’s heat and drought tolerant and once established, grows vigorously on little
fertilizer or care. It can be aggressive, though, and could spread beyond your
lawn into garden beds and over paths and sidewalks.
|If you’ve driven through the Southeast, you’ve probably seen this grass
growing along the roadsides and in pastures, where it’s popular because of its
drought tolerance and ability to flourish in sandy soils. Bahia is a slow
grower, so less mowing required, but also a coarse grass that doesn’t handle
traffic well. However, if you have a particularly infertile or dry patch you
want to convert to lawn, Bahia might be your best choice.
|St. Augustine grasses are favorites all along the Gulf Coast regions, an
easy maintenance turf choice for hot climates, slow growing, disease and pest
resistant, and a strong competitor against weeds. These grasses do not do well
in dry or cold conditions, however, and will not hold up in lawns seeing hard
use, like athletic fields or playgrounds.
|Zoysia is almost the perfect grass for summer lawns. This beautiful,
soft, low growing grass is easy to maintain, requiring less mowing and
fertilizing than other grasses. It’s resistant to most pests and diseases. And
it does well in a range of temperatures and light levels. However, Zoysia has a
tendency to go brown starting in autumn and stay that way through the spring.
|Centipede is a grass mostly used in South Carolina and Florida, because
it does so well in acidic and sandy soils and sunny conditions. This grass
cannot tolerate a hard freeze, a drought, or heavy traffic. It does, however,
green early in the spring and stay green almost through the winter.
Popular Cool Season Grasses
|This grass is super tough. It’s the grass often used in public parks and
playing fields. Its long roots allow it to draw water from deep in the soil
during any hot, dry period. This is the grass that will hold up to sunny lawn
areas that are frequently trampled by kids, big dogs, dirt bikes, and back yard
(Festuca rubra, Festuca glauca)
|The fine fescues are perhaps the most cold tolerant of the lawn grasses
and do well in the salty, frigid condition of maritime areas, a characteristic
that’s hard to find. Fine fescues are also some of the most tolerant of shade, poor soil and drought. They are often the best choice for planting in the shade of large trees.
|Kentucky Blue Grass
|If there were beauty pageants for turf grasses, there’s no doubt
Kentucky blue grass would pick up first place. Soft, thick, and a vibrant green
with the bluish tint that gives it its name, this grass also spreads quickly,
keeping your lawn looking full. But there’s more than a pretty face to Kentucky
blue grass: It’s tough, making it a popular choice for athletic fields and
other lawns that get lots of wear and tear.
|Another tough customer in the cool season grass family is the sun-loving
perennial ryegrass. You’ll find this grass seed in many turf mixes as it adds
disease resistance, pest resistance, and durability to other varieties.
|Quick-germinating, annual ryegrass is the
short-lived cousin of perennial rye grass and is used to provide almost-instant
green to bare spots in the lawn. Use it to overseed warm season grasses during
the winter to provide color through the dormant seasons or temporary groundcover for the patches in your summer lawn waiting repair. Because it germinates
quickly, annual rye is perfect for mixing with other grass seeds to hold them in
place until they sprout.
When buying seed mixes, make sure you check the label for the percentage of each sort of grass included as well as the percentage of weeds and inert materials.
You can save grass seed season-to-season, but be aware its germination rate will fall with each passing year, as much as 20% a year after the first 18 months. Make sure you store the seed in a dry area protected from rodents and other pests and at a temperature between forty and fifty degrees.
2. Pay Attention to Your Mower Blade
For most of the lawn growing season, set your blade to cut the grass 3.5 to 4″. This longer height shades at ground level and keeps weeds from sprouting. It also allows the grass to focus its energy underground, building up a strong root system, which makes your lawn more resistant to disease and drought.
In areas where you can expect snow cover, lower your blade for the last mow of the year. The shorter grass will help prevent snow mold from forming.
Keep your mower blade sharp, re-sharpening after every ten hours of use. A dull blade will tear rather than cut your grass, resulting in jagged edges that invite pests and diseases into your lawn.
3. Change Your Mowing Routine
Don’t always mow in the same direction or pattern week to week. By changing both every time you mow, you’ll keep ruts from forming and the grass from flattening on a set track.
Don’t mow wet grass. It can damage your mower and cut your lawn unevenly.
Leave the clipping in the grass to compost, returning essential nutrients and disease-fighting microbes to the lawn’s soil.
Follow these simple tips, and you’ll end up with a beautiful and durable lawn–and the time and energy to enjoy it.