Benefits of a Well Maintained Lawn
Appealingly maintained lawns can be especially beneficial in regions that have a high level of urban development, as they can provide a peaceful and relaxing change of pace from the concrete jungle environment. Grassy areas can actually provide the psychological benefits of increasing feelings of peace, serenity, privacy, thoughtfulness, and happiness. It has also been shown that hospital patients recover faster when they have access to views of beautiful green landscaping as opposed to a purely urban environment.
In addition to these psychological advantages, a well maintained lawn can provide several environmental gains as well. A healthy lawn will filter rainwater as it makes its way to our aquifers, preventing phosphorous, dirt and other contaminants from reaching our water supply. As with all plants, grass absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen as part of its photosynthesis process, perfectly complementing our breathing in oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide.
A Gallup Survey found that 62% of homeowners feel that an investment in lawn and landscaping is at least as worthwhile as other methods of home improvement. That is because the average recovery rate for a landscaping investment is 150%, whereas many other home improvements will only recover 70% of the initial investment. When you are selling your house, a beautiful lawn can not only entice more buyers to look at your property, but it can actually add as much as 15% to your final sale price, so maintaining a beautifully landscaped lawn can literally pay dividends.
A properly cared for lawn can provide a pleasant place for you and your family to spend some quality time in each other’s company. It can provide a good cushion to help prevent injuries while engaging in rough housing activities. It can also offer a comfortable place for picnics, sunbathing or stargazing.
During summer months it is particularly important to maintain a proper watering schedule. It is typically recommended to increase your watering from the normal 1 inch of waterfall, once per week, to 1 inch of water twice per week once temperatures start to creep up above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need help knowing the quantity of 1 inch of water, the next time you water, place several containers on your lawn in various areas that your sprinkler reaches and put a timer on how long it takes for those containers to collect 1 inch of water. You should then water for this amount of time to accumulate 1 inch of water in the future. Obviously, this is just a loose guideline and your lawns’ needs will vary depending on your location and the severity of the season in a given year.
You will need to keep an attentive eye on your lawn and be on the lookout for signs of it needing water which can include a bluish green or gray hue, curled blades or appearing dry and wilted, and footprints that stay imprinted for a long period of time. No matter where you live or how hot your local temperatures can get, it is always a good idea to water in the early morning, during all seasons and not just summer. Doing so can conserve water and ensure that most of it actually makes it to your lawn. Watering during peak heat hours can keep up to 30% of your water from reaching the roots of your grass between evaporation effects and wind blowing.
In addition to drying out and wilting your grass, watering too little can cause grass-like weeds to grow, such as foxtail, crabgrass and goose grass. These grass-like weeds can detract from the desirable look of your lawn and they can also choke out existing grass, adding unnecessary competition for water and sunlight. Keep in mind that during times of drought, you should be mindful of water conservation restrictions that may be put in place by your municipality. If an extended period of drought arises, you might want to consider watering less frequently. Your lawn can survive on as little ½ an inch of water every 2 to 3 weeks if needed.
Too much water, or watering at night can lead to the growth of mushrooms, moss and algae. None of these pose too much of a threat to your lawn, besides decreasing its visual appeal. A ring of mushrooms, or fairy ring, however can harm your lawn by causing the grass within the ring to have to compete overly hard for resources. Mowing over unwanted mushrooms will do nothing to harm your lawn, though you may want to pluck and dispose of them in another fashion, as mowing over them can release spores that in combination with more wet weather, will lead to more mushrooms in your lawn in the future. Moss and algae can be removed simply by raking your lawn and avoiding over-watering to prevent their return.
Mowing and Fertilizing
One common misconception is that a healthy lawn is a very shortly trimmed lawn as many people seem to want a fairway or green like low cut pasture in their yard. You will actually want to set your mower blades as high as possible, if your mower is of a type that offers adjustable cut length. Cutting your grass to around the optimal 3 inches will provide you with several benefits that you lose completely by cutting it too short. Taller blades of grass are better able to absorb solar energy, and can then use this extra energy to provide more nutrients for the surrounding soil, and can help to keep itself healthier than short-cut grass. Keeping your grass longer also brings the added benefit of shading your grass’s root system and the surrounding soil, allowing it to maintain moisture better through the long hot days of summer.
When mowing, you also do not want to waste time and energy by collecting and disposing of lawn clippings. Disposing of them can provide a temporary aesthetic advantage but it is a better bet to accomplish mowing and fertilizing at the same time leaving or redistributing the clippings on your lawn can help to better maintain your lawn’s overall health. Doing this keeps your lawn healthier by helping to shade the existing root system and supporting soil, effectively maintaining moisture and preventing wilting. Leaving your clippings can also provide the perfect summertime fertilizer as they return their nutrients to the soil from whence they came.
Another common misconception is that you should be fertilizing your lawn throughout the summer months. Doing so can actually cause undue strain on your lawn by promoting growth that cannot be sustained through the months of less water and more sun. Fertilizers should be applied in early spring to provide an abundance of nutrients in order to jump start growth, and in the fall to assist your lawn in storing nutrients throughout the winter months. Once a year, preferably before fertilizing in the spring, you should consider aerating your lawn to promote healthy soil composition and to increase your fertilizer’s efficiency.
Weed Infestation and Disease
It is important to keep an active eye out for weed infestation. A good habit to get into would be to walk the entire area of your lawn at least 2-3 times per week on the lookout for weeds, in order to catch and remove them early, before their root systems have a chance to take hold and begin choking out your desirable grass.
Broadleaf weeds such as dandelions, clover and thistle are best treated by applying your herbicide of choice after they have appeared. There are many brands of post-emergence herbicides available that will kill these weeds, while not harming your lawn at all. Grassy weeds like crabgrass are best countered through preventative methods, such as proper fertilization, watering and mowing habits. Maintaining good habits in these areas will allow your lawn to grow quickly, full and thick which will discourage the appearance of these grassy weeds.
Many grass diseases that you will encounter are caused by fungi, and are often indicated by discolored or spotted patches of grass. Leaf spots will present most frequently during cool weather with lesions on the blades which can then spread to the roots and destroy the entire plant. This is best treated with a series of fungicide treatments the either you or a lawn care professional can apply.
Snow mold is a fungus that can develop during cold and wet periods such as spring and fall. It can cause crowns and roots to rot, and is especially damaging when left to sit untreated underneath snow or during extended periods of excess moisture. Raking can encourage lightly affected areas to repair themselves by increasing air circulation, but seriously affected areas will likely need to be reseeded.
As far as a diseased lawn is concerned, it is best to prevent occurrences with proper fertilization, irrigation and mowing practices. Waiting for the appearance of diseases, instead of preventative maintenance can be costly and unsightly as it may require professional treatment and/or necessary reseeding.
Lawn Pest Control
One of the best ways to know whether or not your lawn is suffering from a pest infestation is to simply pay attention to your yard. You’ll want to keep an eye out for moths flying up from your grass when you mow or walk through your yard. Maintaining a vigilant eye for billbugs and grubs that can be spotted on sidewalks surrounding your lawn is important as well. Dead brown spots that you think are due to drought stress may actually be caused by damage from grubs or other lawn pests. A high occurrence of birds and other insect eating animals in your yard could be a sign of infestation as well.
Lawn pest control is truly a year round job, as some species of pests are best fought during larval or young phases, while others are more easily combated by killing adult specimens before they can lay eggs. That being said, one of the biggest threats you may deal with during summer is the threat of grubs. Grubs damage your grass by munching on the root system until there is nothing left to absorb water and nutrients with. A heavily grub-damaged area of grass can be lifted from the earth like a rug and will eventually die from lack of water and nutrients, no matter how well you maintain proper irrigation practices.
If you do recognize signs of an infestation, it is important to enact immediate action to prevent further damage. You can purchase the appropriate pesticides and administer them yourself, as long as you are prepared to dispose of your leftovers properly, because while pesticides that are administered according to the directions on their labels are deemed to be safe. Pesticides should never be poured out in the street, down the sink or drain, or into running water. Instead, you can put them to use for a friend or neighbor in need of them or bring them to a hazardous waste collection facility near you or you can hire a professional lawn care or pest control company to take care of the problem without having to worry about taking care of the proper chemical disposal steps.
In conclusion, while this has not been a comprehensive lawn care guide, you should now understand a wide variety of the most commonly presenting problems, as well as general strategies for proper preventative care and maintenance. Remember that most problems can be stopped before they even begin, by continuing to practice proper fertilization, irrigation, and mowing techniques. Also, while keeping your lawn lushly green and beautiful might be hard work at times, hopefully now you have some extra incentives to help you keep at it when the going gets tough.