Frequently Asked Questions

Should I have my soil tested? If so where?

Soil testing reduces some of the guesswork involved in preparing a planting site. It’s like any other project, eliminate possible problems before you start and success is more likely. Most of the land grant colleges and universities will test soil samples for the residents of its state. Sometimes this is coordinated by the local Cooperative Extension Office. In states that don’t offer soil testing programs, there are numerous private laboratories. Look for them in the Yellow Pages or ask your County Extension agent for help.

Should I buy seed or sod?

Each has advantages and disadvantages. Improved varieties of cool season grasses and warm season grasses are frequently available as either seed or sod. A wider range of blends and mixtures is available as seed as compared to sod. St Augustine grass and the improved Bermuda grasses are sold as sod, sprigs, or plugs and are not available as seed. Starting from seed is less expensive. Many homeowners have trouble getting good establishment from a seeded lawn. The critical period of initial care is longer. Also, many weeds may start the same time as a lawn seed. If your lawn seed was an in an inexpensive, low quality mixture, weeds could possibly have been planted along with the seed but more likely they were already in your soil. Sod provides an instant lawn, is usually weed-free, and of course germination is no problem. Sod can be a great help for starting a lawn on a slope or for a limited area. For example, sod near and entryway will keep mud from being tracked inside the house.

Experts use the words straight, blend, and mixture when talking about lawn seed. What should I use?

A straight is simply one type of seed of the same species and variety. An example is Adelphi Kentucky Bluegrass. Straights can be used for making your own mixture. Think twice, though, before planting an entire lawn with one kind of grass because disease or insect infestation can wipe it out. A blend is two more varieties of a single type of grass. A hypothetical blend of three Kentucky Bluegrass would come by and Fling, Adelphi, and Baron. By blending, strengths are combined. A blend can produce a quality, picture perfect show lawn. A mixture combines more than one species of grass per container. A typical mixture will have Kentucky Bluegrass, fine fescue, and turf type perennial rye grass. A mixture is best for the average lawn. For most climates, they have the best insect and disease resistance and overall adaptability.

What type of grass should I buy?

The best advice is plant grass that is well adapted in your area. Bermuda grass is an easy lawn grass to grow in most states in the South. Tall fescue makes a hardy lawn in transitional areas. Where the growing season is long, zoysia grass will make a good, shade tolerant lawn. Another shade tolerant grass is St Augustine grass. Bahia and centipede grass make low maintenance lawns. Carpet grass will thrive in wet soggy soil. Kentucky bluegrass is often grown in the upper south, especially at higher elevations and inland. Mixed with turf type rye grass it is more disease-resistant. One tip. Look around your neighborhood for the kind of lawn you like. If you find one that is appealing, ask the owner about it.

Do I need to improve the soil if I buy sod?

Soil preparation is the most important step in building any good lawn. Cultivate the soil as deep as possible and add plenty of amendments. Good soil promotes a healthy, deep-rooted lawn that will need water less often. It will tend to be more resistant to attack by either disease or insects. In short, the better the soil before planting, the easier your lawn will be to take care of the future. This is true whether you’re starting a lawn from seed, sod, or any other way.

How do I know when my lawn needs water?

There are many ways to check for adequate water. Visible signals, soil moisture meters, and coring tubes that actually let you see and feel the subsurface soil. Each is a guide and require some experience and observation to employ. Probably the simplest and most reliable signal is a change in turf color from bright green to a dull blue green. This color change first occurs in the most drought-prone spots, especially beneath trees. Water as soon as it’s noticed. Another way of checking for water need is to take a walk across the lawn. Look to see if your footprint impressions remain visible for more than just a few seconds. If the grass doesn’t spring bring back fast, especially in the morning, water is needed.

How soon after seeding should I mow the lawn?

Mow new lawn for the first time after it has grown 30 to 40% higher than the regular mowing height. For example, a lawn to be maintained at 2 inches should be mowed when it reaches 2 and ½ inches to 3 inches. The mower blades should be sharp. The young grass plants can be easily pulled from the soil by a dull blade. The same thing happens if the lawn is mowed when its too tall. Our staff favors either a manual push reel mower or rotary mower for new lawns. They are lightweight and thus safer for new grass and less disturbing to soft soil. New lawns from sprigs, stolons, plugs, or sod should be mowed with care the first time, but are established much sooner and don’t need the delicate treatment required of a newly seeded lawn.

How often and how much should I water my lawn?

To avoid wasteful over-watering, wait until a lawn shows signs of needing water. Then water thoroughly enough to wet the soil down to the depth of the roots, usually about 6 to 8 in. How often your lawn needs water will depend on your climate, soil, the time of the year, and the type of grass you have, How deeply rooted it is, and even how high you mow. Watering the soil to this 6 to 8 inch depth, assuming there is no run off, will require about an inch of water in a loam soil, more if the soil is clay, and less if it’s sandy. An inch of water over 1000 square feet is about 625 gallons. A 1/2 inch diameter hose 50 ft long will deliver 350 gallons per hour. Thus it would take a little less than 2 hours to water a 1000 square feet.

What type of mower should I buy?

Power reel or rotary mowers are commonly used for home lawns. For either type, be certain the mowing height is adjustable to the height your lawn requires, and safety features are adequate. Older design rotaries do not have the important safety improvements of the new models. Push reel types are the safest mowers. The type of grass you have and the kind of lawn you want are very important considerations. Reel mowers, properly cared for, give the manicured, golf course look. They are required for low growing grasses such as hybrid bermuda and bent grass. Rotaries are better for taller growing, less intensively maintained lawns. They are also lighter weight, easier to handle than power reels, and less expensive, but they do require more frequent sharpening.

Should I remove clippings or let them filter down?

There is no yes or no answer here. If your lawn is mowed often enough so that height is being reduced only 1/3 or less, leaving the clippings should be no problem as long as they do not accumulate on the lawn surface. There are new types of mulching rotary mowers which help in dissipating clippings. Clippings of cool season grasses do not contribute significantly to thatch and do return some nutrients, permitting reduced fertilizer rates. But if there’s a lot of clippings, they become unsightly and may suffocate grass trying to grow beneath. In such situations.,removal of clippings is necessary.

How much fertilizer does my lawn need and when should I apply it?

A lawns need for fertilizer depends on the type of grass, the season, and the weather. Some grasses require much more than others for proper growth. Lawn experts talk in terms of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. For instance, a 30 lb bag of 20% nitrogen has 6 pounds of actual nitrogen. Spring and late summer to fall are the best times to fertilize cool-season grasses. Late spring is the best for warm season grasses. Subsequent applications through spring into summer are determined by the amount your lawn needs and the type of fertilizer you use. Fast release fertilizers should be used sparingly and more frequently. Slow-release types can be use more heavily and less frequently.

What is thatch?

Thatch is the layer of grass stems, dead roots and debris that accumulates above the soil and below grass blades. The name thatch is well deserved. Like the thatched roof on a tropical hut, it stops water as well as fertilizer and most everything else from reaching the soil. That is not a problem until it becomes too thick. A thatched lawn will feel spongy underfoot. Insects and disease may develop in the thatch layer, and getting enough water and fertilizer into the soil becomes difficult. Because of their horizontal or runner type growth habit, St Augustine, Bermuda, and bent grass are notorious for thatch zoysia grass and fine fescue are wiry, tough, and slow to decompose so they also tend to form thatch. On the other hand perennial rye grass rarely thatches badly.

How do I tell the difference between insect and disease damage?

When you see a symptom such as a dead spot in your lawn, play the role of a lawn doctor – eliminate the most likely problems first. Spilled gasoline, fertilizer or chemical misuse, or even visits from the neighborhood dog and cause dead spots that looks suspiciously like insect or disease damage. Close examination of turf and soil will often reveal insects or where they have fed. Diseases may produce definite symptoms such as spots, banding, and discoloring. In many cases, grass that has died from disease is firmly attached to the ground. Grass killed by insect damage is often loosely attached. Consider, also, the season. The disease that looks most like the offender and not be active at that time of year. The same is true of insects some are at their worst in spring and fall, others in summer.

What can be done about broad leaf weeds like chickweed and clover in my Saint Augustine grass lawn?

Maybe you’ve already discovered the difficulty in ridding a lawn of these weeds. Technically they’re broad leaf and vining. They also have extensive root systems. Worse still, they are common in southern lawns. First of all, plant quality seed or sod. Make sure it doesn’t have too many weeds or weed seeds. If you’re starting from plugs or sprigs, do a thorough job of soil preparation. This can include some kind of pre-plant weed control. Your next line of defense is good lawn care. This means mowing at the right height and fertilizing and water correctly. Good maintenance will go a long way in avoiding weed trouble. If your present lawn is overrun, there are weed control specifically designed for these and similar weeds in St Augustine and other southern grasses.

How do I know crabgrass when I see it? What can be done about it?

Crab grass a weed well known by name but little known by sight. We’ve heard of it being confused with other weeds like tall fescue, timothy, and nimblewill. You can see how crabgrass differs from the stiffly upright, tall fescue. Crabgrass blades are wider and softer than timothy blades. Nimblewill forms dense patches and its perennial. Crabgrass thrives wherever summers are quite hot and particularly when very moist. Crabgrass is an perennial, meaning that it completes its entire life cycle in one season. It starts brand new from seed each spring, that’s the key to its control. Use what’s called a pre-emergent crabgrass killer. This product establishes a short-lived chemical barrier on the soil which kills crabgrass seedlings just as they begin to grow. Timing is important. There are ways to kill crabgrass once it has gained the foot hole, but they’re much more difficult.

What is brown patch? Can I prevent it?

Brown patch is really two things. One, it describes a symptom, a patch of dead grass. And two, it is a common name of a specific disease caused by the fungus rhizoctonia solani. It can be confusing when the words brown patch are used to name both problems. Literally, brown patch can be the result of a multitude of causes. Insects, fertilizer burn, or spilled gasoline are typical. The fungus that causes brown patch is most damaging in transition zone areas during midsummer. Bent grass can be severely damaged and, in the South West, St Augustine grass is often attacked. It’s rare in cool summer areas such as the pacific northwest. Kentucky bluegrass is really bothered by the disease, rye grass and fescue only moderately. Brown patch disease is promoted by warm humid weather. You can discourage it by fertilizing properly and by improving drainage of surface water. Several fungicides will prevent this disease. Go to Homepage