The Q&A Archives: Bare Spots In Lawn

Question: I want a thick, healthy lawn. We have some bare spots and also about 6 or 7 pines trees. We have to rake the pine needles up all the time--but the grass needs to be thicker. How can we encourage this?

Answer: Pine trees are hard on turfgrasses. You are doing the right thing by raking the needles to prevent even more shading. But even so, it will be difficult to get a thick turf established under the trees.

In general, a nice, thick, healthy turf is achieved by the following three cultural practices: mowing, watering and fertilizing. If you will do these three properly, your lawn will be the best on the block!

Frequent mowing is better than infrequent mowing. Mow on a 5-7 day schedule, removing no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade with each mowing. For example, a St. Augustine turf should be mowed to 2 1/2" when it reaches 3".

While many homeowners like to water 15 minutes a day, your turf will benefit from a good soaking applied less often. Apply 1/2 to 1 inch of water once or twice a week. A coffee can makes a good rain gauge to test out how long it will need to be run to apply an inch. Frequent wetting promotes disease problems and a shallow rooted turf. Let the soil dry out a bit between waterings and the grass will develop a deep root system and do much better.

Fertilize with no more than 1/2 to 1 pound of nitrogen in spring and again in fall (less is o.k.). Apply a product with a 3-1-2 ratio of nutrients as this is roughly the ratio of nutrients grass takes in. So, for example, if you purchased a 15-5-10 fertilizer (15% nitrogen), you would apply about 7 pounds per 1000 square feet (1 pound / .15 = about 7). If you purchased a 21-7-14 fertilizer (21 % nitrogen), you would apply about 5 pounds per 1000 square feet (1 pound / .21 = about 5).

Good luck with your lawn!

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