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Keeping Your Lawn Healthy And Beautiful

Jan 3, 2008
Lawns are not so puzzling if viewed as populations of grass plants which have the usual plant requirements for growth and survival. Simple reasoning then suggests timing and frequency of fertilization, steady mowing - not so severe as to cut away large portions of vital green leaf - seasonal weeding to lessen competition for the grass and other practices appropriate for the kind of grass planted.

Today even the most amateurish lawn owner can procure effective, ready-to-use products, with the directions for use simply stated on the package. Laborious practices have fallen before science and research.

Soils and Seedbed

Lawn making, like any gardening, is helped by good soils. But a little extra attention can make up for poorer soil, so don't be disheartened should your lawn be upon subsoil from a basement excavation. Fertilizer and grass roots can turn this into "topsoil," and in most cases purchase of topsoil is not necessary.

For a new lawn, till the soil several inches deep, breaking up the compacted layers. Grade and rake level, with the land sloped for drainage away from the house. Avoid steep slopes, impoundments, obstructions that will be in the way of mowing convenience. The surface need not be pulverized; in fact a dusty fineness will cake, inhibiting sprouting and leading to soil wash.

Incorporate ample plant food. This is the last chance to get fertilizer into the root zone without disturbing the grass. Almost any complete fertilizer is suitable, but especially should phosphorus be mixed in. Phosphorous is "fixed" by soil, will not move readily downward from the top. Twenty pounds of 12-12-12, or something equivalent, to 1,000 sq. ft. is not a heavy rate for most seedbeds.

Choice of Grass

Next comes the all-important choice of grass. The kind of grass will determine the appearance of the lawn, and guide maintenance practices.

For the northern area there are three main grasses - Kentucky bluegrasses, red fescues, and bentgrasses. Bentgrass requires extra attention, and is best left to the specialist. Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue have similar growth habits and make good companions. The bluegrasses do best in open situations and on good soil, while the red fescues are adaptable

The short-lived ryegrasses and coarse tall fescues (Kentucky 31 and Alta) are frequent ingredients of inexpensive mixtures. They are quick to sprout, but smother the slower permanent grasses. With mulching commonly practiced nowadays, there is little need for quick nurse grasses in a seed mixture. Reject seed mixtures which contain more than a very minor per cent of rye grass, and don't use tall fescues at all for fine lawns.


Constant moisture is vital to sprout seed or start new sprigs. Established and well fertilized turf rarely dies from lack of water. Of course, during summer drought grass tends to brown, and then watering determines whether the lawn will be green or not. Obviously, watering can help the weeds as well as the grass.


Bermudas, Zoysias and bents have low trailing growth, can be mowed rather closely (usually 3/4 to 1 inch). Blue-grasses, the Fescues, St. Augustine, Carpet and Bahia prefer somewhat higher mowing (1 to 3 inches; the more difficult the climate, the more is high mowing apt to help the grass). Centipede is intermediate.

For close mowing, reel mowers usually are preferred; they do a precision job.

7 Basic Steps to Having a Good Lawn

1. Prepare a good seedbed for a new lawn, amply fertilized.
2. Choose quality grass - bluegrass mixtures in the North, sprigs or seed of choice in the South.
3. Mulch the seedbed after seeding, then water regularly until the new grass is established.
4. Mow whenever the grass grows an inch, and keep it mowed (high in
difficult climates).
5. Fertilize generously, especially at seasons just preceding greatest grass growth.
6. Weed if needed, by hand or chemically. If the latter, follow product
directions carefully.
7. Above all, plan procedures so as to not overtax time or budget, so that you can really enjoy having a lawn.

Follow these guidelines and you will have a lawn to be proud of.
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