Lush green grass gently swaying in a light breeze on a warm summer day. Birds are singing, kids are laughing in the distance, and passersby are doing a double-take every time they pass by your yard. That's the picture of perfection for any homeowner concerned with having the healthiest, most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood. But, how do you get to that result if, after a long, hard winter, your yard is looking more like a desolate wasteland?
It's simple. By doing your research in those winter months, coordinating a lawn care plan, and executing it once the last frost is a distant memory, you too can have a healthy lawn that will make others jealous!
Here at Simple Lawn Solutions, we have everything you need to reinvigorate your lawn and keep up with a healthy lawn care regimen for years to come.
What’s Your Grass Type?
Grasses can be differentiated based on their affinity for warm weather. Cool-season grasses grow best in cool, temperate climates and warm-season grasses grow best in the heat and humidity of sub-tropical and tropical climates. The United States is split into three growing zones, the cool-season zone, the warm-season zone, and the transition zone, a region where neither warm- nor cool-season grasses are well adapted.
These grasses are less hardy when temperatures soar into the 80s and 90s, so they are best grown in regions where spring and summer temperatures are moderate, not scorching. An easy way to decide if you have a cool-season grass? If your grass tends to do well in the fall but suffers significantly in the heat, that's a sure sign you have cool-season grass! A few examples of cool-season grasses are:
- Creeping bentgrass
- Fescue (fine and tall)
- Kentucky bluegrass
Ryegrass (perennial and annual)
Warm-season grasses are grasses that reach their optimum growth in hotter than average temperatures, anywhere from 80-95°F. This means that these grasses tend to go dormant during the cold winter months but seem to flourish during the dog days of summer. That’s a good thing for those of you living in the South, where these grasses thrive! A few examples of warm-season grasses are:
- St. Augustinegrass
But what happens if you get a mix of both warm and cold weather?
Living in the Transition Zone
Because temperatures are often too cold in the winter months to keep warm-season grasses alive and it's too hot in the summer months to keep cool-season grasses alive, it can be a frustrating balance. It is often hard to find the right lawn care regimen to maintain a healthy lawn in the transition zone. However, it’s not impossible!
Utilizing tools like soil tests, calculating your lawn's sun exposure throughout the day, and talking to neighbors and other lawn care professionals in your area can prove to be essential steps in choosing the right grass. For the most part, those in the transition zone that strive for a healthy lawn tend to choose cool-season grasses, as they believe it’s more manageable to provide extra maintenance and treatments through the summer months.
Now that you know what kind of grass you have, it’s time to dig into how to care for your lawn, starting with the three most essential macronutrients every healthy lawn needs.
The Three Key Macronutrients to a Healthy Lawn
No matter what you take away from this post, remember this: three main ingredients come together to grow a lush, healthy lawn. The macronutrients that every lawn needs are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In fact, on any fertilizer bottle you pick up, these macronutrients are in order as a fertilizer rating, N-P-K, so you know how much of each nutrient you're getting. But first, what do each of these nutrients do? Let’s take a closer look.
1. Nitrogen (N)
Nitrogen is the mineral element used in the greatest quantity by turf. Nitrogen is a component of many of the biochemical constituents of plants, including chlorophyll, amino acids, proteins, and enzymes.
2. Phosphorus (P)
The proper level of phosphorus in your grass is essential for root and early plant development. Sometimes referred to as “phosphate,” phosphorus is an important part of many plant compounds that are essential for growth. Its primary role is in the storage and transfer of energy. Without sufficient P, normal growth and development cannot occur. However, it is possible to have too much or too little phosphorus in your soil.
3. Potassium (K)
Potassium is involved in the regulation of plant water status, enzyme activation, carbohydrate translocation, and the formation of proteins. Potassium-deficient plants are also known to be less resistant to plant diseases.
Phosphorus deficiency symptoms in turf initially show as a dark green sickly color. Plants with more advanced P deficiencies produce an excess of a plant pigment called anthocyanin, which gives the leaves a purple discoloration.
Phosphorus is relatively immobile and it does not move into the soil solution as readily as do other elements. This can make it more difficult to obtain sufficient P for proper growth and plants that have a limited root system may have more difficulty in obtaining Phosphate.
Soil Testing 101
Soil tests are significant in determining what nutrients your soil contains and what, if anything, your soil is lacking. If you’re serious about cultivating a healthy lawn, doing a soil test every few years should be a top priority for you. By following this step-by-step guide, you'll be a soil testing expert in no time!
- When soil is dry, take a few soil samples from different areas of your lawn or garden. Note: These samples need to be from holes about six to eight inches deep to get an accurate reading.
- Make sure that no weeds or rocks are in your sample. Also, ensure that you do not touch the soil with your bare hands, as skin oils can alter the pH reading.
- Ensure that you have at least two cups of soil to send in for your soil test. Spread out and allow the soil to dry for up to 24 hours before sending it in for testing.
- We recommend sending off the soil samples to a lab for the most accurate results. Contact your local county extension office for more information.
Once you have determined your soil’s pH and what nutrients you may lack or have too much of in your soil, you can begin to fix it immediately, and then you'll be on your way to a healthy lawn in no time!
When (and When Not) to Fertilize
Depending on the temperature category your grass falls into, you’ll need to fertilize your lawn accordingly.
For cool-season grasses, it's essential that you fertilize in the early fall, in the early spring, and once again in late spring to grow a healthy lawn. Because different grass types need different care, you’ll need to research your specific grass to make sure you fertilize it properly.
For warm-season grasses, you'll want to fertilize three times before the grass goes dormant in the winter months: in the early spring, early summer, and once more in the late summer. If you have a lawn full of bermudagrass, you’ll want to focus on green growth and tolerating stress, so a 16-4-8 Liquid Lawn Formula will work wonders at giving you a healthy lawn.
Whatever your lawn needs to become the healthy lawn you've been dreaming of, the tools and products are right at your fingertips! Visit our online store to identify the right products for you and your lawn, whether it’s warm-season or cool-season, or anything in between. We’ll get you growing a beautiful yard that the entire neighborhood is envious of in no time!