The most common landscape feature of any yard, no matter how large or how small, is the lawn. Lawns do take quite a bit of care with the water, fertilizer, and pesticides that all work in conjunction to keep your lawn green and healthy. If you think about it though, your lawn provides you with many great qualities. Lawns eliminate soil erosion so that your soil stays put instead of washing away with heavy rain. Your lawn also reduces runoff water as it absorbs into the ground and it lowers surface temperatures in the dog days of summer heat. They also muffle noises from traffic and neighbors and reduce glare from the bright sunshine. Finally, lawns filter pollutants from the air while they consume carbon dioxide and release clean, fresh oxygen for you to breathe. Your lawn also provides your family and friends with an inexpensive recreational area for a game of catch or volleyball. Following the three key ingredients of watering, mowing and fertilizing at the proper intervals can keep your lawn lush and green.
Mowing Your Lawn
Mowing your lawn correctly is the first and foremost important item that can make or break a great lawn. Improper mowing is the main reason for the deterioration of many lawns. If you mow too infrequently and too close, it can stunt your grass or actually kill it in some instances. These practices cause scalping of the grass so that the roots will be shallow and not shaded, which in turn causes a lower resistance to diseases, weeds, and drought.
Different types of Texas grasses have different mowing heights associated with them for great health. Common Bermuda grass should be mowed at a height of 1 to 2.5 inches and hybrid Bermuda grass at 0.75 to 1.5 inches. St. Augustine in the sun has a perfect mowing height of 2 to 3 inches and in the shade 3 to 4 inches. Zoysia should be mowed at 1 to 2 inches tall and centipede grass at 1.5 to 2 inches tall.
You may ask yourself how to judge this height since different lawnmowers have different mowing heights. A push mower or self-propelled mower has an adjustment to raise and lower the tires in order to change the setting of mowing height. A riding lawnmower or zero turn lawnmower has the adjustments on the deck height to change the settings. An easy way to get the mowing height correct for your type of lawn is to put your lawnmower on your driveway or another concrete surface, such as a sidewalk. Then you measure to the bottom of the deck from the hard surface and make adjustments as necessary to adjust the mowing height.
Your mowing frequency all depends on the growth rate of your lawn. The best rule of thumb is to remove 1/3 or less of the grass blades. For example, if you have St. Augustine grass in the sun and you keep your mower set at 2 inches, then you should cut the grass when it reaches 3 inches tall. This greatly reduces stress on your lawn and allows you to let the grass clippings fall back onto your lawn to use as nutrients for your grass. The faster your grass in growing in the summer, the more frequently you will need to mow it. In the summer, you may actually need to mow every 4 to 5 days. Also, remember to keep your lawn mower blades sharp so it doesn’t tear the grass rather than cut it cleanly and cause browning on the tips of the torn blades.
Fertilizing Your Lawn
Nitrogen is the most vastly different nutrient among lawn grasses in their needs. Centipede grass needs very little nitrogen and Bermuda grass requires the most. When you allow grass clippings to fall on the lawn, they return nutrients to your lawn as they decompose, so you will have less need for fertilizer if the clippings are returned instead of bagging them.
A soil test will tell you exactly what nutrients your lawn is in need of to be beautiful and green. Most Texas soils are low in nitrogen and potassium. These are the first and third numbers on bags of fertilizer. Phosphorus is the middle number on the bag and lawns in Texas are usually naturally high in this nutrient.
If you decide not to do a soil test, the best fertilizing practice is to choose a product where the three numbers on the bag are in a 3-1-2 ratio or a 4-1-2 ratio. You should keep the first and last number close to the same number and the middle number low.
You can use a slow-release fertilizer for slower and more even growth. This is a great choice if your lawn is sandy. Organic fertilizers provide a slow release of the nutrients and also help build up your soil.
Apply your first application to your lawn in the spring after the grass is actively growing. This can be as late as April in Texas. Grasses develop a much stronger root system if they are allowed to green up without being forced into vigorous top growth by fertilizing them early.
Watering Your Lawn
You may need to water your lawn a bit even in the winter to prevent it from drought stress. Dry lawns during a cold winter are much more prone to injuries.
In the lack of rainfall, you should apply 1 inch of supplemental water to your lawn every week. Amounts quite a bit over 1 inch will create a lawn with shallow roots going into the hot summer and can encourage lawn diseases such as gray leaf spot in St. Augustine grass.
It’s best to water your lawn in the morning so that less water is lost to evaporation. It also allows the grass to dry quickly and results in fewer disease problems.
Following these guidelines in the spring will help your southern lawn looks its best throughout the entire year with minimal problems.