Are the seeds old? Are they any good?
Some varieties are from older seed crops and some were just produced. However, no matter when they were produced, they have been tested and all have current, up to date, germination rates mandated by their state agriculture department.
At what height do I mow?
Please view the "Seeding Rates" chart for instructions on recommeded mowing heights for most areas and regions.
Mowing height and frequency directly affect lawn quality. The common practice of mowing a lawn short, under the assumption it will require less frequent cutting, is responsible for much lawn deterioration. If cut too closely, there is not enough leaf surface to manufacture necessary foods for balanced growth.
Clippings seldom need to be removed. With proper mowing, clippings filter down to the soil surface, decay and recycle nutrients back to the soil. Remove clippings when they remain on the surface or when excessive thatch is already causing a problem.
When do I fertilize?
All lawns should be fertilized in the fall. Additional late winter or early spring fertilization may be necessary if fall applications were missed. Fertilization at this time will be influenced by desired level of turf appearance, turfgrass species, soil type, irrigation intensity, and fertilizer carrier. Late spring fertilizer applications may be desirable and even necessary depending on the condition of the turf. When an application is required, do so about mid to late May, after the spring growth surge is over.
What are the differences between common varieties and proprietary varieties?
In general, proprietary indicates that a variety is owned by an individual or corporation that holds a plant patent or has a plant variety protection license on the variety. Common varieties are varieties that occur as a natural species or are varieties released by public agencies (such as USDA and State Universities) for everyone's use.
Propreitary varieties indicate that research has been conducted on a particular species to make it better. A plant breeder has selected, crossed, and tested individual plants to attain characteristics like disease resistance, heat tolerance, finer texture, and darker color. Further testing is done to determine uniformity and see yield. Proprietary indicates better value and improved quality for the end user.
Is there such a thing as the "perfect" grass?
In a word, "no". There are hundreds of factors that make up the growing environment: soil, heat, cold, humidity, shade, plant compeition, usage, etc. For each of these complete environments there are species (and within species, individual varieties) that will perform better than others will. Mixtures are recommended so that you can take advantage of the different strengths of each species.
How do I manage the grass in the shade?
Maintaining a lawn in the shade of trees, large shrubs, buildings, walls, and other structures is a challenging task for professional turf managers and homeowners, alike. Though reduced sunlight is the primary problem in shaded areas, other factors such as reduced aire movement, soil compaction, and the competition for water and nutrients from trees and shrubs also play big roles in the thinning and loss of turf. These conditions lead to reduced density, succulent unhealthy growth, and increased susceptibility to turf disease. Couple these problems with reduced tolerance to traffic, heat, drought, and cold, and you have a situation destined for lawn failure.
Selecting the proper turfgrass is the most important element in growing turf in shaded conditions. Several turf species have greater shade tolderance than others, and within those species there is frequently a significant difference in shade tolerance from one variety to another. Mixes incorporating different shade tolderant species is also a common practice and, generally, produces a stronger, more durable turf. Whenever possible, modify the conditions to reduce the amount of shade. Careful pruning of trees to open up and raise the canopy will increase the amount of sunlight reaching the lawn. Higher canopies allow more direct sunlight to reach the surface during the early morning and late afternoon. It is also important for both tree and lawn to not plant the turf directly next to the large shrubs or tree trunks.
How do I manage the grass in the shade? (Continued)
Remember to keep leaf litter and traffic to a minimum. Lawns can be quickly smothered by fallen leaves and problems can develop quickly during wet weather. It is also important to know that turf typically struggle in and around firs, pines, and other conifer trees. Shade and needle drop typically create conditions very unfavorable for most grass species. Traffic and water tolerance is also greatly reduced in shaded areas, and efforts should be made to reduce damaging activities. It isn't ever wise to plant turf in shaded, narrow pathways or in shaded areas subject to heavy foot traffic.
For buildings, walls, and fences it is important to not plant the turf directly against these structures, especially north facing walls. Also it is best to avoid planting turf in dark corners. Shade, lack of air movement, maintenance practices should also be changed for shaded situations. Raising the mowing height will not only allow for more light gathering leaves, it also reduces the mowing frequency and thus the amount of traffic. If the area allows, changing mowing patterns will also help relieve wear issues. If the area allows, changing mowing patterns will also help relieve wear issues. Irrigation practices should also be modified to provide deep, infrequent watering for imporved tree and lawn health. Fertilizer is best applied to shaded turf during the spring and fall. In some situations, despite the best program and varieties, shade may be just too dense to maintain a quality turf.
The area in the backyard where I let my dog run has deteriorated.
When given full run of the yard, dogs, especially females and young active animals, can easily ruin a new lawn in a few short months. The most common damage is from urine spotting, digging by younger animals, and the wear and tear from consistent use.
*Urine spotting is the most frequent problem. The damage is typically widespread and random in nature, as dogs will rarely choose a favorite spot. There is little that can be done to avoid this type of damage especially if the dog has free access to the lawn area. Younger dogs can be trained not to use the lawn but this requires a great deal of time and patience on both your part and the lawn's. Usually it comes down to what you want most, a happy dog with free run of the yard or a beautiful spot free lawn.
*Digging problems are commonly a problem with younger, more active animals. They are more playful, like to rough house, and like to dig. The digging will not only destroy portions of the turf, it will also ruin this level grade of the affected area.
*Most dogs tend to be point A to point B animals; they rarely stray off their path. Consistently, in a very short time, wear patterns will start to appear in your lawn. If your dog's travel patterns are not changed, the lawn will gradually thin out and disappear with only soil remaining.
How do I properly water my lawn?
Proper watering practices improve the quality of your lawn, provide important environmental benefits, and save you money. It may be hard to believe, but most homeowners tend to over water their lawns and actually waste water by not following a few relatively simple irrigation practices.
*The healthiest lawns are produced when they are watered heavily at infrequent intervals. On an average, the lawn needs about 1" of water per week, either by rainfall or in combination with irrigation. This 1" rule will normally soak the soil to a depth of 4-6", allowing the water to reach deep into the root system. The best time to water is early morning and early evening. When there is, generally, less wind and heat.
*Let the lawn completely dry out between watering intervals. Most lawn grasses can tolerate dryer conditions over a reasonable period of time. Interrupt watering when puddles or run-off occurs. Allow water to penetrate into the soil before reuming watering. soil types vary in the speed at which water will soak into them.
How do I properly water my lawn? (Continued)
How do I properly water my lawn? (Continued)
*Keep a newly seeded or sprigged lawn moist, but not soaked, during the germination process. Too much water can cause poor germination and seedling disease. A light mulch over the seed or springs will help keep the soil moist. As a new lawn begins to grow, lower the frequency of watering and increase the amount of water. After 4-6 weeks, treat the new lawn as an established lawn.
*If you have a newly sodden lawn, soak it completely after placement, for a period of about 2 weeks. This allows the root system to become firmly established in the soil. Soaking may require watering every day or two. After a couple of weeks, water the sod as an established lawn.
*No matter what kind of irrigation system or method you use, check and adjust it to the soil's absorption rate. A good rule of thumb is to apply water at a rate equal to or slightly less than the soil's ability to absorb it. Most irrigation systems apply water faster than necessary, which wastes water through run-off. Also, don't forget to check if the system is applying water uniformly. The best way to check both of these functions is to set out a series of straight-side, flat bottom cans for an in-ground system or a few cans for a movable sprinkler system. Run the watering system for 30 minutes and measure the amount of water collected. You can determine the length of time needed to apply 1" of water with a little simple math.