There are three main components to having a great lawn:
1. EarthCare Signature Lawn Program from Lawn Dawg
2. Proper mowing practices
3. Proper watering practices
You’ve made a conscious decision to pay a professional to provide the proper blend of nutrients and control products to your lawn. To maximize your investment, please follow these simple instructions for mowing and watering:
Height: 2 ½ to 3 inches. Different grasses have different optimum mowing heights, but the general rule of thumb is to cut as tall as you can stand it – the higher the better. Leave cutting the grass so low it looks like a golf course to the golf course superintendents. Ironically, they don’t want to cut their grass as low as they have to – they want to cut it a lot higher.
Frequency: Follow the 1/3 rule – never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf surface in any one cutting. For example, if the lawn is cut to a height of 3 inches, then never let the lawn grow beyond 4.5 inches before cutting. The 1/3 rule determines the frequency of cut. Typically, once per week during the season is sufficient, but you may have to cut as often as once every fifth day during the spring when its growing quickly.
Blade: A rotary mower cuts by blunt force. A sharp blade will cause the least trauma to the leaf and give the best results. A dull blade leaves wounds that are an entrance point for disease and give a dull white appearance to the lawn after cutting. A professional landscaper may sharpen his blades as often as once per day if he is cutting acre upon acre of turf. You obviously don’t need to go to that extreme – once or twice per season usually works just fine.
Clippings: Ah. The age-old question: to remove or not to remove? The correct agronomic answer is to return the clippings – they recycle nutrients and organic matter to the soil. But there are drawbacks. Wet clippings can mat on the lawn and if left unchecked they can kill the turf beneath them. Excessive clippings, even if not wet, will do the same thing. Both of these scenarios are related to the frequency issue in that the more you cut, the less the clippings. That said, many people do not like the look of clippings on a lawn. Removing the clippings will result in a reduction in the nutrient levels of the soil but many people are willing to put a little extra effort and money into the lawn in order to have an exceptionally neat lawn.
Every single expert on turfgrass management will give a different answer when asked for the best management practices for water – as well they should. Truth is that every lawn has situations that are unique to that lawn. Soils are infinitely different, trees shade lawns in different ways during the day. All of these factors and more go into determining the proper watering schedule.
Timing: Despite what you may have been told there is no reason not to water overnight. That fallacy stems from the fact that a lawn that is left wet longer than it would be naturally is more prone to disease, and that unplanned watering usually leads to overwatering. During the overnight hours, dew forms on the grass plants. The duration that this free water exists on the leaves influences the amount of infection from turfgrass diseases. If you water when the plant is naturally wet anyway you do not influence the disease pressure one way or the other. The trick is not to extend the length of time that the turfgrass plant would otherwise be wet naturally. For instance, if the dew was present on the plant until 8:00 in the morning and you did not conclude your irrigation until 9:00 you have significantly elongated the time in which the plant is wet. More wet = more disease.
Frequency: Turfgrass plants will respond to how often you irrigate by altering the depth of their root zone. Consider a lawn that is irrigated to with one inch of water per week. If that water is applied equally over seven nights it will have shallower roots than if it were irrigated with the same water over three nights. The difference is that infrequent irrigation stimulates the plant to go in search of water deeper in the soil. This would be fine if there were not other variables in the environment. If it is a hot, windy day the soil will dry quickly at the surface. If the plant’s roots are shallow, it will go into drought stress much quicker than if the roots are deeper.
Amount: The amount of water a lawn requires is unique to the lawn, indeed even areas within the same lawn have different requirements based upon differences in soil, exposure to the sun, the time of day that it is either sunny or shady, etc. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that one inch of water is available to the lawn per week. If it rains one inch then no additional irrigation is required; if it does not rain then that one inch should be applied through the irrigation system. At some points during the season it becomes so hot and dry that the lawn will use more than one inch of water during a week. This is where the science of turfgrass management yields to the art of turfgrass management. Trial and error is required to know your lawn and its irrigation needs.
And it is perfectly acceptable not to apply any water at all – my home lawn is never irrigated. If that is your choice, then the lawn will go into dormancy during the heat of the summer naturally and will almost certainly recover very nicely once the cooler and wetter weather of the fall returns. It is all about managing your expectations.
Be sure to check out our blog for more discussion on turfgrass management topics.