Lawn Care and Maintenance

Growing trees as part of your garden requires adequate knowledge on how lawn care and maintenance, this excerpt from the book called “Reimagining the california lawn” by “Carol Bornstein, David Fross, Bart O’Brien” gives us more insight on the subject

Lawn Care and Maintenance

Next to over watering, the second most common turf care mistake is applying too much fertilizer. Excess fertilizer promotes lush new growth that requires correspondingly greater amounts of water, as well as more frequent mowing. It also encourages insect and disease infestations and contributes to the buildup of thatch.

 Although most lawn grasses are heavy nitrogen feeders, there are ways you can supply this important plant nutrient without negative impacts.  To start with, be sure that you are applying fertilizer at the recommended season and proper dose for your particular lawn. Then consider what kind of fertilizer you plan to use, because this decision will have an effect on your surrounding environment and will also influence your lawn’s water needs.

 Inorganic fertilizers add potentially damaging salts to the soil and often break down so quickly that they leach into the groundwater before the grasses’ roots can absorb them. As much as60% of the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer applied to lawns ends up volatilizing into the atmosphere or polluting groundwater.

In contrast, judicious use of organic fertilizer will keep your lawn healthy by feeding the beneficial microorganisms in the soil. This network of fungi, bacteria, and other microscopic creatures recycle organic matter below ground and make nutrients, such as nitrogen, available to plant roots.

 In addition, many organic fertilizers add structure to the soil and improve drainage as well as water retention.  Mowing the lawn may seem like a straightforward task, but the way you go about this chore will make a difference in how your lawn performs.

Turfgrasses respond better to frequent rather than infrequent mowing, but excessive mowing promotes water loss by decreasing shade and increasing evaporation. It may also create openings where weeds can become established. If you let your grass grow, however, the longer blades will have more leaf surface available to conduct photosynthesis.

 This in turn, promotes strong roots that enable the grass to withstand drought and fend off pests and diseases. To encourage optimum blade length, set the mowing height as high as possible for your particular turf-most grasses are best when kept at 2 to 3 inches high-and mow often enough so that you remove no more than 1/3 of the overall height.

Several new cultivars of traditional lawn grasses are lower-growing selections that require significantly less mowing frequency. For example, Bella bluegrass and some Bermuda grass hybrids like ‘FloraDwarf’ and ‘MiniVerde’ are lower growing, and the need to mow them is reduced by as much as half.

Another way to limit resource consumption while maintaining a lawn is to replace your gas-powered mower with an electric model. It is quieter, consumes roughly 50% less energy than a gas mower, and reduce air pollution. Or, if you want to save fuel while simultaneously getting physical exercise, you could switch to a manual (also known as reel)lawn mower, and the only calories burned in the process of mowing the lawn will be yours.

Regardless of mower style, make sure your machine’s cutting blades are sharp, and only mow when the grass is dry. Leave the cut grass to decompose in place it contains valuable nutrients. A mulching mower will chop the clippings into smaller pieces and speed up the recycling process.

Lawns eventually develop thatch between the soil and the grass blades. Once this layer of dead grass becomes more than 1/2-inch deep, it interferes with water and nutrient penetration into the soil. Remove it either by raking it away or by using a special de-thatching machine. Follow up by broadcasting lawn seed to fill in where needed then cover the seed with a thin layer of compost and water the treated area. Be sure to avoid over-fertilizing, which contributes to thatch buildup.

Use of organic fertilizers fosters a healthy soil food web-teeming with earthworms and beneficial microorganisms-that will help decompose the thatch and recycle its nutrients back into the soil.

If your lawn is growing in clay soil and gets a lot of traffic, it may become compacted over time. This too will impede percolation of water and nutrients and result in an unhealthy lawn. Correct this problem by using a manual or power-driven aerator that extracts soil cores, and then fill the resulting holes with compost. It is best to tackle this rather laborious task during spring or fall when soil and air temperatures are milder.

 A weed-free lawn is de rigueur for some gardeners.  Other lawn owners are more relaxed about the occasional weed, and some actually encourage the growth of clover or other nitrogen-fixing plants in their turf.  Bacteria living in nodules on the roots of these plants pull nitrogen out of the air and release it into the soil, thereby making nitrogen available to plant roots. (Clover is highly attractive to bees, and if you are allergic to their sting, you may not want this legume to flourish in your lawn. )If you cannot tolerate a few weeds here and there, do not automatically reach for chemical herbicides to eradicate them.

 Hand weeding is effective on a small scale, and applications of natural herbicide products, such as horticultural vinegar or corn gluten meal, have been used with success by some gardeners.  There is a long list of insect pests and diseases that can plague lawns. Even a thoughtfully maintained lawn may succumb to an occasional infestation.

By following the principles of integrated pest management, you will likely solve the problem without having to use toxic chemicals. First, accurately diagnose the cause. Next, try changing your cultural practices to see if that fixes the problem.

For example, lawns with insufficient nitrogen are susceptible to rust fungi. An additional, careful application of fertilizer should take care of this infection.  A thick layer of thatch creates an ideal environment for chinch bugs get rid of them by removing the thatch.  Other insect pests, such as sod webworms and white grubs, can be controlled with parasitic nematodes.