Turf Maintenance Tips
Mowing two strips around the perimeter of turf and then mowing in straight lines perpendicular to this, alternating the pattern every other mow if possible, is usually the most effective method. Mow weekly during the growing season to assure you are not removing more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a time.
Sharpen mower blades at least once per season. Checking oil each mow and changing oil each season will add life to your mower. A good mower will mow wet turf and pick up clippings better. Consider a mulching mower, it allows much of the water and nutrients in the clippings to return to the soil, thus reducing the need for watering and fertilizers.
A good edge to the turf keeps the lawn looking great and creates separation between bed areas and turf. A gas powered edger works well, but a weedeater held vertically will also do the job. Edging every other mow helps keep grass from growing into the beds.
Weed Control in Turf
Weeds will be at a minimum if the turf is healthy. Following the tips on appropriate mowing height, frequency of mowing, sharp blades, watering and fertilization and soil amendment will help keep your lawn healthy. When weeds do crop up, they are best treated with a contact, selective herbicide or by hand removal. Do not use a non selective herbicide, (Round Up), as it will kill the grass and the weed. Fertilizers with weed controls deposit the herbicide throughout the whole lawn area, thus putting more herbicide into the environment than is needed to treat weeds.
You may find if you spend a minute each mowing pulling up the weeds manually, it may take less time than actually buying and applying a herbicide, not to mention the environmental benefit. This is most effective if you spend a bit of time every mow, as opposed to waiting until the lawn is so weed infested that herbicide application is the only alternative.
Crabgrass, velvet grass and other undesirable grass varieties that make your lawn look “patchy” are best dealt with by cutting out these patches and overseeding with a Rye/Fescue grass seed mix.
Moss Control In Turf
Moss tends to form in shady areas and in areas where the soil is not conducive to healthy lawn. Pruning can help add more sunlight, and following the tips to create a healthier lawn will reduce moss growth. You may want to consider removing the lawn and replacing it with shade tolerant plants if the shade is so severe that maintaining a lawn would require much additional effort.
When you do get moss, apply liquid Iron per label instructions. It will kill the moss within hours, sometimes right before your eyes. Be careful not to get it on any hard surfaces – it stains. After the moss has died, rake it out manually, or with a power rake. Overseed bare areas and cover with a sandy soil with some organic content, or with peat moss. Do this in early Spring. Iron can damage lawn in warmer temperatures, and you want the seed to grow in quickly.
Turf Watering Guidelines
Over watering can be as harmful as not watering because turf roots need oxygen to survive. If turf is in standing water or the ground is “soppy” you should cut back the watering or look into installing drainage or topdressing. Turf aeration can also help with this as well.
As a general rule, turf may need 3-5 waterings per week in the dry season. Pop up heads (those that do not rotate) typically need to be on for 7-12 minutes and rotor heads (those that rotate) need to be on 12-20 minutes. Your soil composition and the slope of the lawn will affect these times and frequencies. Water only enough to keep your lawn green – you can see when it starts to brown a bit and then bump up the times. Watering should not be necessary during the wet winter months unless there is a long dry spell.
Turf typically needs fertilization 3-5 times per year. Follow directions on the bag for application rates, and be careful not to over fertilize as that can burn the lawn. Fertilize only when below 80 degrees. Fertilization can be reduced if the quality of the soil is amended through topdressing and aeration. Organic fertilizers are also available.
Aeration is the process of removing plugs from the turf with an aerator. Renting a heavy, gas powered aerator works better than hand aerators as they pull a better plug. The benefits of aeration include allowing more oxygen into the root zone and reducing compaction which allows microorganisms to naturally reduce thatch. It also aids with drainage and is an excellent precursor to topdressing. Aeration is best performed in the Spring or Fall.
Applying Lime in spring or fall helps reduce high PH which is often found in the Northwest as a result of needle drop from coniferous trees. It’s inexpensive and often results in the elimination of one fertilization application.
Thatching is the process of mechanically removing thatch (a dead grass layer between the roots and foliage of grass) from turf. It is typically not needed as much as is often thought. If your turf has a spongy feel, thatching is probably indicated. Use of a thatcher will remove thatch and also healthy grass, leaving the turf fairly bare. Overseeding and topdressing will help fill the turf back in.
Overseeding helps fill in bare spots and helps crowd out undesirable grass varieties. Use a mix of Ryegrass and fine fescue and apply in the Spring or Fall. Be sure the seed does not dry out until after it germinates – typically about 3 weeks.
Topdressing is the process of adding soil amendments to the surface of the turf. If your turf suffers from poor drainage, and mixture of sand on organic content is best. 80/20 soil, which is 80% sand and 20% compost is a good mix for this. If your turf requires several fertilization applications to keep green, a highly organic product, like Groco is best.
These products are best applied at a ¼” depth. Aerating and overseeding just prior to topdressing will improve the benefit of the topdressing, and allow the lawn to fill in more quickly.
Moles are best controlled with traps, but there are other methods for control that have various rates of success. Applying used kitty litter in and around mole hills can force moles out as they sense the presence of a predator.