Although the weather today on March 26th does not feel much like a spring day, the calendar says that spring is here. Many of you will soon begin to scrutinize your lawns and decide it is time to renew or replace. If your lawn is not healthy, your first step should be a soil test as your soil conditions have a huge impact on the state of your lawn. Your soil report will contain recommendations on how much and what type of fertilizer you might need to perk up your lawn. If you have lots of weeds, disease or fungus in the grass and are not sure what your plan of action should be, you can also send off lawn and soil samples to help identify the problems and possible solutions. There are many givens, such as the amount of sun or shade, that can’t be easily changed. At this point the homeowner may have to decide what level of imperfection he/she can tolerate.
If you have decided to replace your lawn (or perhaps are installing one for the first time), there is a lot of information that you should gather about your site before you choose a turf grass. Just as with ornamentals and trees where we strive to choose the right plant for the right place, we also want to choose the right grass for the right place. Please take note of your environmental conditions: whether the grass will be in sun or shade; whether you have poor or good drainage; whether you are able to keep your lawn watered, the type of soil (clay, sand) in your yard, and what your soil pH (acid or alkaline soil) is.
More questions need answers to help the homeowner determine the best turf for the site: how much time and effort and money are you willing to spend maintaining your lawn? How much work do you personally want to do to keep up your lawn? (Some folks refer to centipede as the lazy man's grass because fertilizing too much can ruin it; however, it is very picky about its growing conditions.) Do you enjoy watering, mowing, fertilizing, etc.? What kind of turf are you looking for: a lawn that looks like a golf course or are you happy with a peaceful green lawn with a few weeds here and there? Another important consideration is how much use will your lawn get. There are lawns, like centipede, which do not react well to lots of foot traffic; thus, if you have a team of young soccer players, perhaps centipede is not for you.
One of the most important considerations for the homeowner to evaluate is how much shade the lawn will get. Grass and full shade do not go hand in hand. The more light a lawn gets the better it will grow, but our blazing hot summers and continued droughts can also be very stressful on a lawn.
Once you have thought through some of these issues, consider consulting the many publications available either online at ACES.edu or at our local Extension Office on Noble Street for information regarding specific turfgrasses, planting times as well as the best planting and care techniques. A healthy lush lawn is a delight but like the rest of gardening requires thought, preparation, and continued effort.
Many thanks to Dr. David Han from Auburn University whose class on turgrasses for our MG intern training class was the inspiration and factual source for this blog.