Lawn maintenance does not involve a lot of chemicals and work, it just takes a little time and effort. I break lawn maintenance into a few categories including soil maintenance, equipment maintenance, and finally turf maintenance. I will cover these in more detail in the project pages but this will give you a basic understanding of what is required to have a health lawn.
Soil maintenance gives your turf the conditions and nutrients your grass requires to thrive. Once you establish a healthy ecosystem in your soil the other steps become much easier. There are all sorts of living organisms in your soil that create an environment that grass will thrive upon. The first step is to test the soil for pH, organic matter, and nutrient content. These tests are available through your local extension service for a nominal fee, here in Michigan it is $25. A soil probe will make taking the sample easier but is not required. After the samples are taken they are sent off to the extension service and they will email a report and suggest what needs to be done. Most often, balancing the pH and adding a little nitrogen is all the is required.
Now that you have a healthy and happy soil as a base for your lawn the grass will thrive, which leads to the next step which involves equipment. Keeping the grass cut at the proper height helps it become lush reducing weeds. Your mower needs to be kept sharp (both reel and rotary) so it does not damage the turf. Cool weather grasses prefer to be cut at three inches or more so the root system can establish deep into your healthy soil. Some turfgrass, such as bent grass, prefer to be cut lower but require regular irrigation and more fertilizer. If you have a gas mower keeping the engine tuned up will make it last longer and start when you need it.
The final step is keeping up on the turf maintenance which involves regular mowing, aerating, and occasional additional nutrients. The soil sample you sent off to the extension service will tell you what nutrients may be beneficial which often includes nitrogen. It is important to understand that a regular fertilizer application is usually not desired and can be detrimental to your lawn. Spring and fall is a good time to add a slow release fertilizer but not in the summer. I also aerate yearly as this helps the grass clippings to break down feeding the soil and the turf.
A beautiful healthy lawn does not require a lot of chemicals and work, just a little effort and common sense. The biggest mistake many people make is to over fertilize and over water killing the soil while making the grass chemical dependent with a shallow root zone. Take a soil sample and have it tested, mow at a healthy height, and keep your equipment properly maintained and enjoy your lawn without the use of pesticides and other chemicals.
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