Different grasses offer different advantages for particular applications. Kentucky bluegrass requires more sun than many other grasses. Fine fescues are more shade tolerant. Ryegrass has very good tolerance to wear. Bentgrass species are not suitable for most home lawn situations due to their high maintenance requirements. Tall fescues, fine fescues and perennial ryegrass may contain beneficial fungi and are more resistant to many common insect pests. A lawn that is made up of a variety of grasses can tolerate a range of growing conditions (e.g., shade and sun) and is less susceptible to pest damage than a lawn of a single grass variety. Where conditions are not suitable for a lawn, try growing other ground cover plants more adapted to the area.
Grass cut at a height of 6–8 cm (2.5 – 3 inches) will develop a deep, extensive root system, grow thicker and better retain soil moisture. Cut your grass when it’s dry. Sharpen your mower blade in the spring and keep it sharp. Grass can recover more quickly and easily from one clean cut than from many tears. Leave the lawn clippings on your lawn after mowing. This provides a great source of slow-release nitrogen for the grass and humus for the soil. Under wet spring conditions, remove thick layers of clippings (over ˝ cm thick) to avoid smothering the grass.
Apply at least 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water. This can be measured by placing a container on the lawn while it is being watered. Water according to need rather than on a set schedule. Excessive watering can lead to poor growing conditions and disease problems. Early morning is the ideal time for watering. This minimizes water lost through evaporation and wind. Watering in the evening leaves the grass wet for longer, increasing the risk of disease. Grass growing near large trees may need more frequent watering, since the tree roots may use much of the soil water. In extended hot dry periods, a lawn may wilt, turn brown and become dormant but will green again when regular moisture conditions return. A healthy lawn can survive several weeks in a dormant state.
Compost is a great fertilizer that will add organic matter to your lawn as well as supply both major and secondary nutrients needed for plant growth. Apply at any time of the season. Mix it into the soil before seeding or laying sod, or spread it in a thin layer raked over the existing lawn. Commercial fertilizers usually contain the three major nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). As a general guide, a good ratio for a lawn fertilizer would be 4-1-2 (numbers can be higher but in that proportion). Rates and timing of fertilization can vary with the type of soil, the type of grass, and site and weather conditions. As a general rule, a lower rate is used in spring and early summer than in early and late fall. Have your soil analyzed every few years by a professional laboratory to determine what kind of nutrients your lawn needs. Combined fertilizer–herbicide products (weed and feed type) should only be considered if your lawn has a widespread weed problem that cannot be dealt with by other weed control methods (e.g., hand digging, spot-spraying.)
Aerating your lawn allows a better flow of water, air and vital nutrients to the plant roots, allowing them to grow more easily through the soil. Signs that you need to aerate your lawn: ground is hard and compacted; thatch is building up; and water does not penetrate well when you irrigate. There are two types of mechanical aerators: solid-tined machine that drives spikes into the ground core machine that removes small plugs of soil. Sandals and shoes equipped with spikes can be used for small lawns. Aeration is best done in the early fall before overseeding and topdressing. Do not roll the lawn in spring as this will increase compaction problems.
Weed and Pest Control
Sometimes, even with good lawn care practices, weather conditions or other factors can cause pest and weed problems to develop. Pesticides can help control many lawn pests. Herbicides can control many lawn weeds. But these chemicals have risks as well as benefits, and it's important to use them properly or have a professional do it. The chemicals we call pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. These products are designed to kill or control pest insects, weeds, and fungal diseases. Pesticides can be very effective. But don't be tempted to rely solely on pesticides as a quick-fix solution to any lawn problem. Serious, ongoing pest problems are often a sign that your lawn is not getting everything it needs. In other words, the pests may be a symptom of an underlying problem. You need to correct the underlying problem to reduce the chance that the pest will reappear. All pesticides are toxic to some degree. This means they can pose some risk to you, to your children and pets, and to any wildlife that venture onto your lawn--especially if these chemicals are overused or carelessly applied. Pesticides can also kill earthworms and other beneficial organisms, disrupting the ecological balance of your lawn. Store pesticides out of children's reach in a locked cabinet or garden shed. When spraying, protect your skin, your eyes, your lungs Wash your clothing separately before using it again.