Spring is around the corner. The cool season grasses such as fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass are those lawns over which people have exclaimed, "You look marvelous!" (Can't you just hear Billy Crystal?) They have been bright green all winter. They are still growing fast; mow them weekly with a rotary mower (to 1 1/2 inches in height).
You should be feeding all established lawns now with a complete lawn fertilizer--containing phosphorus and potassium as well as nitrogen--to get warm-season grasses off to a good start and keep cool-season grasses going longer. A healthy, well-fed lawn is better able to withstand pests and diseases and choke out weeds
Warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda, dichondra, and zoysia, are waking up from winter dormancy. As they start growing, begin mowing weekly with a reel mower to the correct height for each. Mow common Bermuda to 1 inch, hybrid Bermuda to 1/2 or 1/4 inch, St. Augustine to between 3/4 and 1 1/4 inches, and zoysia to 3/4 to 1 inch height. Cut Adalayd grass with a rotary mower between 3/4 and 1 inch in height.
We have mentioned two different kinds of lawn mowers: rotary and reel. A rotary mower is one in which one blade spins horizontally and uses a sucking and tearing action to cut the blades of grass. A reel mower is one in which the blades spin vertically and use a scissoring action to cut the blades of grass.
You notice that we recommend fertilizing with a complete fertilizer. While nitrogen gives your lawn top growth and a healthy green color you can see, phosphorus and potassium feed the roots and growth systems of the plant that are unseen but just as important. Phosphorus and potassium are longer lasting in soil than nitrogen, so one feeding a season with them is often adequate. After this complete feeding, you can switch to a less expensive, pure nitrogen fertilizer if desired, and feed warm-season grasses with it once a month for the rest of the growing season.
Before applying your complete fertilizer, be sure to read the instructions for your lawn type. Apply fertilizer when the ground is damp and grass blades dry, and follow up by watering deeply. Otherwise, you risk burning your lawn. As an alternative fertilizer for the cool season lawn, add coated slow-release fertilizer. Cool-season grasses need little or no fertilizer during the warmer months of the year. Slow release fertilizer will work perfectly for this type of lawn.
Irrigate all lawns now, according to their individual needs, if rains have not been adequate.
Both warm- and cool-season grasses may be bought as sod, and cool-season grasses can be planted from sod any month year-round. Although you can plant both warm- and cool-season grasses from seed this month, fall is actually a better time to plant cool-season grass seed. This is because fall planting gives cool-season grasses planted from seed more time to establish a root system before summer heat arrives. When planting warm-season grasses, wait until the weather has warmed up in your area. (If you plan to plant zoysia, it's best to wait until June.)
There are numerous lawn types and you should investigate each of them before choosing and planting one. How do you choose which grass is right for you? There are many considerations: sun, shade, foot traffic, pets, children, hardiness, style, color, and simply the "look" that you like.
When planting a new lawn, regardless of the type of grass and method of planting you choose, be sure to prepare the site thoroughly. If you're planting an invasive grass, such as Bermuda or an invasive variety of zoysia, first install edging to keep it from creeping into borders.
For all lawns, roto-till deeply, add plenty of soil amendment, then level and roll this amended ground. "Level" might mean rolling the area completely flat or it may mean compacting the soil but adding mounded areas of interest. The point is to level out soil so that your new lawn is not filled with hundreds of hills and valleys that would make walking on it (and mowing it) difficult.
If you have chosen to put in a seed lawn, sprinkle seeds evenly. This is most efficiently done using a hand-held fertilizer spreader or a seed spreader and covering the seeds with mulch or a lawn topper product.
Perhaps you are putting in a lawn that can be grown from stolons. Stolons are little portions of the plant that will root once in contact with the soil. St. Augustine is an example of this type of grass. Either roll stolons with a roller to press them into the soil or simply partially cover them with topsoil or a lawn topper product. Keep your freshly planted lawn damp until established. Sprinkle it two or three times daily, and avoid watering late in the day.
Just water and watch. In a few months--voilà--your new lawn!
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