Our lawns are the single most important part of our landscape. We can work around and make changes with almost any other feature, but it's impossible to have a home with no grass at all.
That's the reason we all start to get uptight when something goes wrong with our grass. We don't want to see the whole thing die out and put us back to square one, having to till, seed, mulch, and water everything again.
Of course, prevention is worth a lot in maintaining the health of a lawn. Some of the things we do during the establishment and maintenance of our grass can go a long way toward building its durability for decades to come. Here's where many homeowners run off the rails.
Starting On The Wrong Foot
Establishing the correct species of grass in your lawn is critical. Some species will grow in your area without necessarily thriving in your area. Things may go well at first, with good germination and a nice layer of grass across the whole lawn, but in time, your particular conditions will begin to weaken the grass.
Weak lawns are susceptible to diseases and insects, so at some point, the bad choice of seed can catch up with you. Do some research to help you decide what is the best grass seed for your situation. Consider the amount of foot traffic you have, the weather in your area, the climate, and your soil. Taking all these factors into account, you will have a much better idea of what will work for your particular situation.
Cutting the lawn seems like it would be almost foolproof: If you cut every blade, you've done it right.
But that's not exactly the case. The way you mow your lawn can have a significant impact on its health over the long term. Improper mowing techniques can create injury from drought and disease, all while your neighbor's correctly coiffed turf stays healthy.
The first thing to look at is the mower itself. While you're making sure it runs properly; you also need to check its blades. Make sure they are sharp, without a narrow edge that will chip easily. Dull blades break the grass instead of cutting it, and those ragged injuries don't heal as effectively, leaving the door open for water loss, insect feeding, and disease attacks.
Mowing height is important, too. You never want to remove more than half the overall height in a single mowing, because the roots are fed by the grass blades and can't remain healthy without an adequate supply of food from above ground. The shorter grass is less tolerant to dry conditions, and you'll be the first in the neighborhood to go brown when the rainfall stops.
A good pest management program is essential to keep insects, weeds, and diseases at bay through the growing season. However, sloppy use of pesticides can do more harm than good.
Pesticides should be applied exactly according to the label. If you read the fine print there, you'll see an admonition from the federal government that it's illegal to do otherwise. Unfortunately, many people feel that if a little is good, a lot is better, and they overdose their lawns with powerful and pollutive chemicals.
They can also treat at the wrong time of year. Crabgrass preventer is a good example. It's essential to keeping this ugly, invasive weed under control, but if you're too late with it in the spring, it can impact your desirable grasses.
Whatever chemicals you are using for whatever problems, do so judiciously and strictly by the book.
Lawns are unique things. They are composed of thousands of individual plants, yet they often live and die as a single plant. If you view prevention that way, you'll be able to head off many of the issues that leave many lawns sick and dying.