The Q&A Archives: Need help and advice to grass and lawn care.

Question: Bought house in Louisville CO. Some of the grass is ok some is brown. Want to know what to do. How do I know what type of grass I have in order to by the right soil, fertilizer,etc to achieve a pretty lawn. Front has a lot of sun light back of house is all shade. What can I do with the ugly grass in back as well?

Answer: Since you are new to your lawn you might want to spend the summer trying to rehabilitate it through good maintenance practices. It may recover with a little TLC and you may not have to start all over. 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. 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, again in June, another feeding in September and again in late November. 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 may be pleasantly surprised how well your lawn responds.

If it does not respond over the summer months you can aerate the lawn and overseed this fall. A core aerator will remove one inch by three inch plugs from the lawn. Leave the plugs on the lawn and they will dissolve in rain or water from the sprinklers. After aerating spread a thin layer of sand or compost over the area and water it in well. The sand or compost plus the soil from the plugs will work their way down into the holes left by the plugs. You can then overseed your entire lawn.

You may have to take turf samples to your local cooperative extension office for identification, or you can look at a grass-type chart at your local nursery or garden center to try to match the grasses in your lawn so you can purchase a similar type grass seed for overseeding.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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