There are three main tasks when it comes to follow-up maintenance or the actual culture of the grass.
These three tasks are irrigation, fertilization and mowing. Properly performing the cultural practices is very important.
Overdoing these practices can be equally disastrous.
Irrigation is probably the most critical cultural practice in all your procedures. Irrigation can be broken down into two separate procedures.
1. Watering to get the seed to germinate and sprout.
2. Backing off the irrigation so the plant will establish itself and develop a good root system. Once the roots are well established, the top leaves will be green and healthy.
To germinate your seed evenly and as soon as possible, the seed must be kept moist. In sandy well drained soils irrigation will be less. If there is adequate rainfall present, and the temperatures are moderate, the seed will germinate without irrigation. The only thing that may change is the amount of time required for enough of the seed to germinate and give you an even cover. Irrigation can be used to supplement natural rainfall.
The frequency with which you irrigate will depend completely on how fast the surface you have seeded dries out. Always do an on-site inspection during the day and DO NOT water late in the day so that standing water would be present at night. Standing water can bring an attack of disease that would kill out the young plants. Your watering program needs to fit the species of grass you are trying to grow.
Once you feel that 75% of the seed has germinated and is growing, it is time to start changing your irrigation program. This should entail less frequency of watering, but watering longer. The goal is to dry out the top one inch of your soil, but maintain moisture below. This will force the grass plant to push it’s roots lower to find the moisture. Eventually you will need to cut back on watering to once a day, then every other day, then stop all together. This process could take 4-6 weeks depending on weather, soil and the species you are trying to grow.
After you have successfully germinated the seed and the grass plant is growing, you will be thinking of a time to start mowing.
Mowing should be started when the majority of the grass is 3 inches high. No more than 1/3 of the leaf blade should be removed at any one time. The cutting height should be no shorter than 2 inches.
Your mowers should have sharp blades. This makes a cleaner job. The young leaf is soft and will tend to rip or even be pulled out of the ground by a dull mower.
Do not mow if there is dew on the grass. Let it dry off. Mow. Then water the grass if necessary.
After the turfgrass is established, apply fertilizer.
Fertilizer may be applied at 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. feet 2-4 times per year.
This addition of nitrogen will help the plant to develop more leaves and tiller to spread and thicken.
Avoid fertilization during the heat of the summer Early Spring (March, April, May) and Fall (September, October, November) are the best months for fertilization.
Compacted soil and heavy thatch are the two biggest obstacles to a beautiful lawn.
Compaction tends to suffocate grass plants by preventing air, water and nutrients from reaching the root zone. This means your lawn looks less than satisfactory in spite of adequate fertilization, water and tender loving care! Aeration opens up the thatch and helps relieve compaction. It should be a regular part of your annual lawn maintenance program.
Aeration is accomplished by the use of a machine equipped with cylinder-like spoons designed to penetrate and shatter the soil. Half-inch diameter plugs of thatch and soil are actually pulled from the ground during this process. The plunging action of the spoons into the ground opens up the soil – allowing the grass plants to breathe and promoting deeper, healthier roots.
Major benefits of aeration …
- Increases air, water and nutrient movement to the root zone
- Intensifies decomposition of thatch
- Helps relieve soil compaction
- Stimulates new growth
- Improves drainage
- Provides a better environment for over seeding
- Increases the effectiveness of fertilizers and control products
- Incorporates organic matter into the soil
- Increases tolerance to heat and cold
All this adds up to a healthier lawn!