With the drought and dryness of August upon us, most of us have brown lawns. To have an attractive lawn this time of year can demand a good deal of attention and water! If only there were ways to minimize the labor of lawncare. According to master gardener Bob Alde, there is hope. He credits a University of Maryland fact sheet #637 with the answers. This bulletin titled “Effective Lawn Care with Reduced Pesticide and Fertilizer Use” offers helpful explanations and alternatives determined through years of field test trials.
Let’s review the causes given for poor lawns in this metro area.
- Poorly adapted species or cultivars were planted.
- Uncertified seed or sod was used.
- Mowing height wrong and at too infrequent intervals.
- Misuse of fertilizers and limestone.
- Poor watering practices.
- Sites are too shaded or poorly drained.
- Compaction of soil from too much traffic.
- Serious damage from diseases, insects, and/or environmental stress.
Now, to solve the first problem, plant the best choice of grass for this area, tall fescue. This grass is very drought tolerant, resistant to insect damage, requires less fertilizer, and produces very little thatch. In addition it is fungus resistant, does well in full sun to medium shade, and the finer-bladed varieties have excellent all season appearance.
If it’s the weeds that bother you, the university trials show that correct cutting height can reduce weeds. Cut grass at 3 inches and do not let the height grow in excess of 4 inches before mowing again. This height discourages weed seed germination and shades the soil. Mowing too short will not only encourage weeds but also make the turf more susceptible to drought and temperature extremes.
This weakens the grass plants allowing disease and insects to cause more damage. Follow these cutting rules and the bagging of clippings becomes unnecessary. Don’t deny your turf this important source of organic fertilizer. If the grass has grown too tall between mowings then it is advisable to remove clippings. Large amounts can smother the turf and cause disease. When it is necessary to remove these clippings, take them to your compost pile to develop a rich supply of humus.