The Q&A Archives: Lawn needs Help!

Question: Just moved here. Lawns has been in for almost a year and wasn't taken care of. Lots of weeds, grass is not thickening. Suggestions have been weed killer and lime. Soil is primarily clay. Can you help?

Answer: Linda,

I am sorry for this delayed reply to your gardening question. The spring rush has brought a deluge of questions and we are working hard to catch up!

Good lawn care can be summarized in 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 a semi-dwarf bermuda or zoysia would be mowed to 1 1/2 or 2" when it reached 2 or 2 1/2".
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 after you have mowed the grass twice, and again in fall (around late October). 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).

Healthy turf will choke out most of its weed problems. When the turf is thin and soil is exposed to the sunlight, weeds will sprout and you have a battle on your hands. So first concentrate on the above 3 cultural practices and you will be amazed at the results.

I also suggest you have a soil test done. Your local County Extension Office can provide info and assistance in interpreting the results to see if lime is needed or not.

Thanks for the question. Best wishes for a wonderful gardening season. Please stop in again soon!

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