A healthy lawn adds to your home’s curb appeal while giving you and your family a great space to enjoy the outdoors. Read on for our best tips for lawn care, including proper watering and mowing, plus a guide to lawn pests. (For the ultimate convenience, our lawn and outdoor services make it easy to have the lawn you’ve always wanted!)
How much water your lawn needs.
Generally, your lawn needs about one to one-and-a-half inches of water per week to keep it green and actively growing. Underwatering causes stress that leaves your lawn more vulnerable to disease, insect problems, and weeds. To avoid water stress, most lawns need watering twice a week for 45 minutes to an hour at a time.
Checking to see how much water your lawn is getting is easy: Place an empty tuna or cat food can (or another can that’s one inch deep) in the area being watered. When it’s filled, you’ll know to move your sprinkler to another area. Note: Grass that’s adjacent to curbs or pavement will often need more water, since heat builds up there and dries the soil out faster.
Water as infrequently as possible.
When you do water, do it thoroughly so that water reaches the roots. Exceptions to this rule include newly seeded lawns, which need to have their surfaces kept moist, and newly sodded lawns that haven’t yet rooted into the soil; or when you have a problem with summer patch disease. Otherwise, avoid watering frequently, which promotes weeds and shallow root systems.
Water early if possible.
If you have the choice, water early in the day when lawns are normally wet with dew. Why is this the best time of day? Lawns watered at midday won’t receive enough water due to evaporation, and lawns watered in the evening or at night will stay wet for too long, which makes them vulnerable to disease.
As always, though, there are exceptions in some conditions: During periods of extremely hot weather and when nighttime temperatures don’t drop below 70 degrees, it’s better to water in the late afternoon or early evening unless watering-time restrictions are in effect. This will allow more water to reach the roots when the temperatures remain very high for most of the day.
Mowing is more than just trimming your lawn: It’s an important part of keeping your lawn healthy and resistant to problems.
How much to cut.
Don’t remove any more than one-third of the grass leaf at any one cutting. Even if your lawn has gotten taller than usual, don’t give in to the temptation to just lop it all off to get caught up. Instead, break your mowing up into a few sessions, with about three days between cuttings. Always try to avoid cutting grass when wet.
All grass varieties should be mowed at or near their optimal mowing heights. This will keep grass healthy and dense. Higher density means more soil surface shading, which severely restricts the germination of many annual grassy and broadleaf weeds. Maintaining a dense, healthy lawn is the best weed control.
These are optimal mowing heights and frequency for various types of Florida home lawns:
What to do with clippings.
When mowing only a third of the grass leaf with each cutting, you can safely leave the clippings; they will quickly decompose and add nutrients back into the soil. Grass blades are made of about 75 percent water, and do not add to thatch buildup. As noted on the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s Gardening Solutions website, “Although many people believe that clippings contribute to thatch, research has shown that clippings are readily decomposed by microbial action.”
Vary mowing directions.
Mow your lawn in a different direction with each mowing, especially if your lawn is of a shorter grass type. This ensures a more event cut since grass blades will grow more erect and be less likely to develop into a set pattern.
A mower blade will need to be sharpened several times during the height of the mowing season. (Professionals often sharpen their blades after just eight hours of use.) Keep several blades around so you’ll always have a sharp one on hand.
Change the oil.
Don’t forget to change your mower’s oil at least twice during the mowing season.
Discard old gas.
If you didn’t drain your gas tank in late fall, or if you used a fuel stabilizer, don’t use that old gas, which can cause a number of problems. It’s better to use fresh gas to begin the new mowing season.
A lawn is naturally filled with all kinds of insects. Most are harmless and beneficial, but several types of pests can cause problems, and even damage or kill your turf if left unchecked.
These one to one-and-a-half inch long insects chew on grass roots and thrive in moist, warm weather. They work night and day creating areas that appear streaked or closely clipped. Mole crickets create small six- to eight-inch deep tunnels and do the most damage by disrupting the grass root system with their tunneling.
The moths of tropical sod webworms may be seen flitting about the lawn during the wet season. Their larvae mostly feed at night and lay resting on the surface of the soil during the day. They can usually be found along the edges of damaged areas.
Armyworms are caterpillars that cluster to feed on grass leaves in the daytime only; they rest under dead or dying sod during the night. Their bodies are brown and hairy with green, beige, or black stripes. In the summer, adult moths deposit eggs on the grass where the hatched larvae begin feeding. Armyworms are most active in the warmer months. Their activity usually forms irregular bare patches in the lawn that appear to have been poorly mowed.
This tiny chinch bug damages grass in its early stages. Adults have black bodies marked with a dark, triangular pad separating their folded wings. Immature bugs are reddish in color with a white “racing stripe” running across their backs. Adults are about one-eighth to one-fifth of an inch in size and fly from lawn to lawn. They create large yellowish circular patches that spread in lawns with heavy thatch.
If you’d rather just enjoy your beautiful lawn while we take care of fertilization and pest protection, contact us to make an appointment for a free, no-obligation estimate on our lawn and outdoor services.