Rhonda's Top Ten Turf Tips - U of I Extension

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Rhonda's Top Ten Turf Tips

This article was originally published on April 8, 2013 and expired on April 15, 2013. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

I've done a lot of educational programs this winter about lawn care, including two television interviews last week on WHOI's Good Company. Here are my top ten turf tips listed in order, starting with the ones that I think are most important.

1. FERTILIZE at the proper time. Most homeowners only need one application a year, which should be done in early September. This helps the grass prepare for winter dormancy and spring growth. If your grass needs two applications a year, add the second application in early May.

2. MOW using the 1/3 rule, which mean to never remove more than one third of the grass height in a single mowing. Many homeowners mow their lawn too short. For best results, mow grass 2 to 3 inches tall and let the grass clippings remain on the lawn to return nutrients back to the soil.

3. WATER infrequently and deeply, providing one inch of water a week. If you decide to water your grass to keep it growing in the heat of summer, be consistent. Don't water a little each time the grass starts to brown. This stresses the grass as it bounces in and out of summer dormancy.

4. Put the RIGHT PLANT in the RIGHT PLACE. Grass types for full sun areas include Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue. For shady areas, use fine or red fescue. If the area is too shady to grow grass, try shade perennials or mulch instead.

5. WEEDS are best managed by maintaining a healthy, dense lawn. If weeds become a problem, time control measures carefully. For example, if using an herbicide to control crabgrass, it must be applied before the crabgrass seeds germinate. They germinate when soil temperatures are 50 degrees for 5 consecutive days, which is usually about the time the forsythia blooms.

6. When SEEDing a new lawn or renovating an older lawn, timing is very important. The best time to seed lawns is in the fall between mid-August and mid-September. The second best time is spring between mid-March and mid-April. Prepare the site and provide tender loving care until plants are big enough to survive. Consider overseeding your lawn every 3-5 years in the fall with a mix of resistant turfgrass varieties.

7. If your grass needs a CULTIVATION activity such as dethatching or core aerification, do those in the fall or spring. Only dethatch if the thatch layer is greater than ½ inch. Cores aerify every 3-5 years to reduce soil compaction.

8. INSECTS and DISEASEs should only be treated if the problem actually exists. If confirmed, proper timing of control measures is critical.

9. DECIDE ON the QUALITY of grass you prefer, but remember that the more you do, the more you'll have to do! Fertilized grass grows quickly and needs mowed more frequently.

10. Finally, have Fun and ENJOY your home lawns!

Go to my ILRiver Hort Blog at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/eb253 to see my turf factsheet with pictures and links to more information, including my WHOI Good Company interview videos.

Source: Rhonda J. Ferree, Extension Educator, Horticulture, ferreer@illinois.edu

Pull date: April 15, 2013