We all know Crew SC's award-winning Grounds team has maintained the best pitch in Major League Soccer for years, and now those professionals are passing off some lawn care advice as summer approaches.
Read below to learn from Director of Grounds Ben Jackson, who answers common questions and gives advice on maintaining the optimal lawn.
Fertility, temperature, water availability, and height of cut will always play a factor, but the “1/3 rule” is a great way to make sure you’re not taking too much off.
This simply means we never want to remove more than one-third of the plant at one time. So if your grass is 3 inches tall, you should never be removing more than an inch when you mow.
If you want a low maintenance lawn that looks good, a longer height (3-4”) is ideal. It will tolerate more traffic from kids and pets. The taller height will also encourage better performance during heat and drought stress in the summer. The lower we cut the turf, the more inputs we have to use to keep it healthy. This includes more fertilizer, water, and pesticides. Shorter heights can look and work great, but be prepared to babysit it a lot more.
Lawns in this area of the country are mostly clay and retain their moisture well. This makes supplemental watering unnecessary most of the year, aside from the hot and dry summer months. During the summer, deep and infrequent watering should be practiced. Meaning an application of 1” of water once per week should suffice. Additional irrigation may be necessary if the growing environment is extremely stressful (Very hot and dry).
I know no one wants to get up this early (and there are irrigation timers to help us out on this), but in the morning right before the sun rises. This allows maximum infiltration into the soil without any loss of water to evaporation caused by the sun. Try to avoid evening irrigation during the summer. Many summer turf diseases love to grow in the water that sits on the grass overnight.
In the fall once the summer heat has passed. Usually somewhere towards the end of September and the beginning of October. If seeding bluegrass, you can start a couple of weeks earlier due to its slower germination rate (It can take up to 3-4 weeks). This allows the grass to establish before going dormant in the winter. The plants will continue to mature in the spring and be prepared to take on the stress of the next summer.
Like the human body, a lawn that is fed properly performs much better than one that doesn’t have the proper nutrition. To out-compete weeds and environmental stresses, lawns will always be in better shape when given the proper fertility.
This can vary depending on what you’re targeting but a late fall application of nitrogen will boost green-up and performance in the spring. Try to stay away from excessive nitrogen applications in the summer, as this will encourage shoot growth and use up nutrients needed to stay healthy during the stress of the summer heat.
Mulching your clippings and allowing them back onto the soil allows for organic matter to continue feeding your lawn after its initial use. This will cut down on fertilizer needs.
The best control of these unwanted pests is maintaining a healthy lawn. Weeds can only grow in voids that other plants aren’t occupying, so keeping as much healthy grass in the lawn will prevent weeds from encroaching. And just like us, a healthier plant will be able to fend off diseases. Healthy soil and good watering practices can prevent many of the diseases you will see in your home lawn. For lawns in rough shape with weeds, there are a lot of products out there you can use to attack them. But if you don’t get new healthy grass growing in their place once they’re gone, don’t be surprised when they inevitably return.