Every spring we receive numerous questions regarding spring lawn maintenance. Below are the most common questions we receive, along with our recommendations.
BEST PRACTICE - Lawn scalping is the practice of removing last year’s dead tissue by lowering the initial mowing height just prior to “spring green-up.” This usually occurs in March or April depending on air and soil temperature. This is a common practice on Bermuda grass and zoysia grass lawns and results in less thatch buildup and earlier green-up. Scalping Centipede grass and St. Augustine lawns is not advised because these grasses spread by aboveground stolons or runners. Scalping of these grasses could cause irreversible damage.
BEST PRACTICE - Most lawns require 1/2 - 1" of rainfall or irrigation per week during the growing season. In the southeastern U.S., we typically have a rainy season starting in late winter and continuing through late spring. This is usually adequate to sustain soil moisture. In most cases weekly lawn irrigation is not necessary until late May or June. In fact most diseases in the spring are brought on by excessive watering along with above-average rainfall and below- average temperatures. A rain gauge and a calendar are good tools to evaluate when rainfall patterns are changing. These tools, coupled with checking the soil moisture by hand weekly, will determine when irrigation is needed. Irrigating should be done between midnight and 6 a.m. to minimize the risk of stimulating diseases.
BEST PRACTICE - When mowing your lawn, you should remove no more than 1/3 to 1/4 of the total leaf surface at each mowing. Raising the mowing height during periods of stress or in shaded conditions helps maintain turf vigor.
See the Lawn Maintenance Calendar for recommended heights by season.
BEST PRACTICE - Lawn thatch is an accumulating layer of decomposing matter between the leaf canopy and soil surface. A thatch layer greater than 1/2" in depth can cause numerous problems in a lawn. Thatch can bind preemergent herbicides, use nutrients, prevent moisture from reaching the soil, and act a harborage for diseases and insects. De-thatching or vertical mowing removes the thatch layer by pulling it to the surface of the lawn and preventing the layer from accumulating. Power Rakes or Vertical Mowers can be rented daily at most local rental centers. High maintenance turfgrasses like Bermuda grass and zoysia grass are more prone to develop thatch problems and should be monitored for buildup, while Centipede grass and St. Augustine occasionally develop thatch problems, usually from over-fertilization. Excessive de-thatching of Centipede and St. Augustine can result in damage. You will see the best results when de-thatching is followed by 1/2" of top-dressing with sand.
For most residential lawns, top-dressing alone, although more expensive than mechanical de-thatching, is a less invasive and an equally effective way to reduce thatch accumulation. Top-dressing will also correct depressions and unevenness in the lawn surface.
The key to controlling thatch is controlling the rate of vertical growth of the grass by using controlled release fertilizers. If managed properly, most residential lawns will not accumulate an excessive thatch layer even if clippings are not bagged.
During the summer months, we encounter many issues with lawns caused by incorrect watering practices. Below are our recommendations for watering your lawn during the summer months.
BEST PRACTICE - Every lawn is different because of the soil (or rock) beneath and the trees or shade above. You should always evaluate how your lawn responds to the amount of water applied.
BEST PRACTICE - It is best to water your lawn early—Midnight to 6 a.m. Watering in the afternoon only cools the air temperature over the lawn, wastes water through evaporation, and encourages disease.
Special Note: If your lawn has a grayish blue appearance in mid-afternoon, running water for 30-45 minutes will cool the grass down. A grayish blue lawn color indicates your lawn is about to burn or turn brown from excessive moisture loss in the leaf. Make sure your lawn is cool to the touch after watering. Then water between midnight and 6 a.m. the next morning to replenish soil moisture.
BEST PRACTICE - The key is to begin maintaining adequate soil moisture in late spring to early summer and increase water volume per cycle as the need increases. Applying 1/2"-1" of irrigation per week in May and June is sufficient. If you are receiving 1/2"-1" of rainfall per week during May and June, irrigation at this time may not be necessary. If drought conditions begin to develop, add an additional cycle on the days you water. You should water once every 3 days for 30-45 minutes each session. This schedule promotes deep root growth. Do not water daily. Daily watering causes shallow root growth. A lawn with deep roots is a healthy lawn.
BEST PRACTICE - If you are experiencing lawn stress, water with two cycles on the days you run the irrigation, applying enough water until you begin to see runoff. Irrigate once at midnight, then wait 3-4 hours and run your system again. This helps the water penetrate deeper into the soil instead of sitting at the surface. Once the drought stress goes away, monitor your soil moisture and slowly reduce the duration of your irrigation cycles. Long periods of drought may require continued watering at two cycles per day, 2-3 days per week.
BEST PRACTICE - Inspect your irrigation system. If the stress appears in patches it could be a clogged nozzle, compaction, a rock, or a flaw in the irrigation pattern design. (i.e. Sprinkler heads do not overlap, therefore, some areas of your lawn receive less water than others).
BEST PRACTICE - When watering restrictions are enforced due to drought conditions, it can be difficult to alleviate lawn stress. In these conditions, we recommend two watering cycles for 30-45 minutes each with 3-4 hours between cycles. If you can only water 2 days per week, the soil conditions will be too dry to absorb the water beyond the 45 minute cycle and runoff will occur. The key is to let the water settle for 3-4 hours and water again. Remember, watering restrictions imposed by your municipality must be followed, even if they affect the appearance of your lawn in the short-term.
The goal is to maintain adequate moisture in the soil where roots are present. The key is growing deep roots.
As summer turns to fall and the landscape slows down, we discover many people get busy with school, sports, and other activities that replace time spent working in their yard. Even though the busy months spent in the yard are behind them, most folks forget that a few important tasks are left to be done before winter sets in.
Below is a list of tasks that should be completed during the fall to prepare your lawn for winter.
BEST PRACTICE - In the fall, water needs to subside as the lawn prepares for dormancy. As in the spring, if you are receiving 1/2 inch of rainfall each week, this is sufficient and no additional watering is necessary. Additional watering will promote Large Patch, a lawn disease that can go undetected the entire winter and will damage the lawn extensively. Evidence of the disease will appear the following spring as large patches of dead grass. If you suspect that your lawn has a disease, contact your Wayne’s Lawn Professional.
BEST PRACTICE - It is common at the end of the summer to raise the height of your lawn. This helps the lawn endure the heat and stress of late summer. If you allow the height to continue increasing through the fall, the lawn can begin to thin, resulting in a greater chance of weed infestation during the winter months. Listed below are the lawn cutting height recommendations for all the grasses grown in the Southeast. We recommend your lawn not exceed the maximum cutting height listed in the Lawn Management Calendar.
BEST PRACTICE - Allowing leaves and other debris to accumulate and stand for long periods of time can cause many problems with a lawn. At a minimum this can cause thinning to occur, resulting in unsightly spots throughout the lawn, and an increased risk of weed infestation through the winter. Leaves can be a catalyst for disease since moisture can be held beneath accumulations. If your mower has a mulch kit, you can mow the lawn every 2 weeks at the beginning of leaf fall and eliminate most of the early accumulations. By mid to late November, large accumulation will begin to develop and it will be necessary to remove them from the lawn completely.