Dr. Becky Grubbs, AgriLife Extension turfgrass specialist, College Station, said lawn care is a multifaceted effort homeowners can tackle if they follow AgriLife Extension recommendations and invest the time to create healthy, thriving grasses.
AgriLife Extension has several online resources available to help homeowners establish and maintain turfgrass. Aggie Turf at https://aggieturf.tamu.edu/ has extensive information about caring for species including Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, buffalo grass and others.
One thing all homeowners can check for is excess thatch – a layer of living and dead grass stems, roots, rhizomes and stolons, which are new plant growth that develops between the live green vegetation of a lawn and the soil surface.
Thatch can help provide a good growing environment for grasses, but excess thatch can prevent water and oxygen from reaching plant roots and create conditions for diseases.
The nitrogen requirements for grasses vary with species, but most warm-season varieties should receive nitrogen fertilizer every four to six weeks.
Bermuda grasses, for instance, can require moderate-to-high levels of fertilizer. Bermuda grass needs approximately 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet every four to six weeks between May and August
Grubbs does recommend homeowners refrain from watering until grass shows initial signs of stress – such as reduced bounce-back.
“When you walk on your lawn and the leaves don’t immediately bounce back and your steps leave an indention – it’s time to water,” she said.
Typically, watering one to two times a week for a total of 1-2” of water when conditions are dry is plenty, she said. Moisture- or rain-sensing technology is a good way to avoid overwatering.
Proper lawn watering information can be found at https://bit.ly/2GDkzR4.
Grubbs said the best way to fight weeds is by promoting warm-season grasses. Creating ideal conditions for specific warm-season grass varieties includes fertilizing and watering appropriately.
Grass health will also depend on other conditions such as whether it is a high- or low-traffic area, the amount of shade or sun it receives, and mowing height, she said. Post-emergent herbicides, such as 2,4-D, work well against broadleaf weeds such as dandelions without hurting most turfgrass varieties, but they aren’t effective against clover and grassy weeds.
“Weed identification is very important when it comes to determining what the treatment options are,” she said. “Again, I would reference Aggie Turf publications or contact a local AgriLife Extension agent.”
Grass species will play the most significant factor in mowing height, and conditions such as rain and sun will direct frequency of cutting, Grubbs said.
“Homeowners should never take more than one-third of the plant’s mature height throughout the season,” she said. “The amount of shade or sun will also factor into how high the grass should be cut. The height should be raised about 50 percent for areas that are shady most of the time.”
An AgriLife Extension publication on mowing practices at https://bit.ly/2H2eNrx can direct homeowners on cutting height, mowing equipment and frequency for several grass species.
Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent.