Marc Smith Lawns
Tips for an extra green lawn....
Over the last 10 years, I've seen many lawns. I've had the opportunity to work many different sides of the lawn maintenance. Below are a few things I've noticed over the years.
Water is the most important factor in a beautiful lush lawn. Oftentimes, sprinkler coverage isn't correct. Check for head-to-head coverage. The heads are most effective when one sprays all the way to the other. Plenty of water is important when it gets hot. Use a shovel to open the ground to see if the soil is moist six inches down. I usually check a green spot on the lawn and compare it to the dry spot. It is easy to be fooled; the top inch can be wet while it's dry as a bone a few inches below. I regularly get the questions of how much to water and how often. The best way to water a lawn is heavy, but infrequently. Watering every day will lead to shallow roots and a lawn that can be stressed very easily. Train your roots down by deep soaking. If the water pools on your lawn, you may need to get an aeration or to set up multiple short waterings to get the water to soak in better. Another point is your water start-time. Most people like to run their sprinklers between 2am and 8am. I would avoid this time. Often subdivisions over-develop and you my have pressure issues. Sprinklers don't work under low pressure and you can get dry spots that don't make sense. Also, if you can watch your heads to make sure the pressure is good, I would recommend it. Watering in the middle of the day? It is a myth that you will burn your lawn if you water in the middle of the day. Watering in the middle of the day does waste water in losing it to evaporation, though, so I would advise watering in the late afternoon or late morning. Night watering is also frowned upon by many. Yes, you can set yourself up for fungus, but if you water deep enough and let the top dry out, you should be fine. Whatever you do, never let the water puddle; this will burn lawns anytime of the day.
Below are a few projects from last year...
Most people like a short cut lawn. I really wish we could do this - I like a short lawn, too. Sadly, the lawn blends we commonly use aren't designed to be cut too short. If you want really short grass - bentgrass is the variety used on the golf course greens. If you do go this route, be careful. Bentgrass has to be maintained almost daily and spreads everywhere. Using a taller grass will retain water better and not dry out as fast, and it also shades the soil. Have you ever noticed how weeds take over after an area dries out or thins out? Many weeds need dry, sun-baked soil to germinate. If you can stand it, try cutting it a bit higher. Also, the shade cast by the blades of the grass makes your lawn look darker green. Remember, cutting your lawn stresses it! Have you ever cut a lawn that got a bit too tall and cut it short? It probably turned yellow or brown afterward. The more you cut off, the more you stress the lawn. The rule of thumb is no more than a third of the blade height. I have a customer in Eagle that cuts her lawn every 4rd or 5th day and lets a good portion of the clippings fall. She has one of the greenest lawns and my fertilizer applications last longer for her. One more note... If you cut really short, use sand to level your lawn. An uneven lawn is easy to scalp or cut into the crown of the grass which will really brown your lawn. So the long and short of it -- taller mow height is better.
Fertilizer is also an important factor on how green your lawn looks. I've tried many different products over the years and they all work. Good results from a product costs a bit more. The amount you use depends on the mix you use and the condition of the lawn. If a lawn is lush and green, you don't want to use quite as much. You may have to build up to this. Don't expect miracles overnight. It is often difficult to tell where a lawn stands on its fertilizer budget. Many factors play into how your lawn looks. Personally, I take into account when the lawn was last mowed, water stress, how short the grass was mowed, the history (how the lawn has looked in the past and how much fertilizer has been applied), and when the last fertilizer application took place. I advise using a fertilizer mix with a pre-emergent in the spring, a special coated time-release fertilizer in the heat of the summer, and a mixture to promote root growth in the fall. Lawns with special needs could use a little different mix.
We do get billbugs in the Boise area. If you have a lawn with a bluegrass blend, be forewarned. Billbugs love bluegrass roots. Bluegrass lawn is beautiful but does come with a few issues. How do you spot billbug damage? This can be a little difficult. The foolproof way is to take a shovel and skin back your lawn. Peel the sod back with a shovel. Billbugs eat in a zone about a half inch to one inch below the surface. They look like maggots with a reddish-brown head, approximately a quarter to a half-inch long, and no legs. If the critter you're seeing has legs, you probably have a sod web worm. If you really watch your lawn, you will notice it - not as healthy before the damage really begins. Most bad damage is seen in July and August. If you choose not to use a shovel for diagnosis, the damage will look random. Just remember, billbugs aren't smart enough to eat in straight lines or perfectly curved shapes. Billbugs are driven by the heat. Product timing is important with the standard chemical (imidacloprid). I believe around the beginning of June is best. If you use a more expensive product like Arena Insecticide, you have a bigger application window. In rare cases, you might need to change this timing. Your lawn history will let you know.
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