Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gardening Thursday - Successful Lawn Maintenance

This is a topic that could easily consume several posts, so I plan to keep it to the basics, keeping it to two, and as usual will be dealing with my growing area, although much of it applies everywhere.

In this area, we are generally too hot for Bluegrass and too cool for the southern grasses.  The grass that does the best here is Bermuda, but the choice for most lawns is Fescue, using the appropriate variety for sun and shade locations.

I not sure many people think of it this way, but grass is just another plant and has the same requirements as all plants – sun, nutrients, water.  It generally likes fertile, well drained soil, with a neutral pH, and appropriate nutrients.

As with all successful plantings, a soil test should be done by taking random samples around the yard area and preparing a compound sample to be tested, then make the necessary adjustments to the soil.

For cool season grasses, such as Fescue, mid August thru mid September should be considered it’s springtime and most of the serious work should be done then – remember it’s a cool season grass.  It likes the fall weather and any new plants will have the winter to become well established before they must survive the hot summer.

In the fall for my lawn with clay soil, I do the following things in this order.

SOIL TEST – Every 3-5 years depending upon your situation

DETHATCH – I use a double row rake that pulls behind my mower to break up any thatch and rough up the soil a little.

AERATE – This is important for the heavy clay soils of our area as it allows the soil to loosen up permitting better flow of air, water, and nutrients into the soil.  It’s best to use a core aerator that actually pulls up little plugs of soil.

LIME – I do this based upon the soil test and I like to use the pelletized variety as it can be applied with a broadcast spreader.

FERTILIZE – Again base it upon the soil test and for both lime and fertilizer, it’s best to apply half of it in one direction then the other half in a direction 90 degrees from the first application – this will ensure more even coverage.  For our area, it is recommended fertilizer be applied three times in the fall.

OVERSEED – Fescue is a clump type grass and can be thickened by a light over seeding.  For larger areas, use more seed and add straw such that 50% of the ground is still visible as this will prevent rain from washing away the seeds and help with moisture retention.  This is done after the fertilizer has been watered a few times.

PRE-EMERGENT FOR WEEDS AND POANNA – I prefer to use a pre-emergent herbicide after the new grass is up but before the weed seeds begin to germinate, in lieu of spraying once they’ve sprouted.  This requires good timing to make sure the grass is far enough along prior to applying.

Throughout this time, the lawn should continue to receive appropriate water and be mowed until it stops growing for the winter.  Depending upon heat and humidity conditions, grass generally needs 1 1/2” of water per week applied in two long soakings rather than more frequent lighter watering’s.  The light water applications make the roots stay closer to the surface and therefore more susceptible to drought conditions.

The recommended height for Fescue is 2-3 inches, but I usually go up to 3-4 inches in the dry summer months to help conserve moisture.  Mowing of fescue should be done at a frequency that removes no more than 1/3 of the plants height and with a sharp blade that cuts the grass rather than ripping it off.  You can just look at the grass leafs and tell if it’s being cleanly cut by a sharp blade.

Here are two publications from UT Extension that have most of what you need to know about the above topics.

Tune in next week and we’ll discuss spring and summer activities including dealing with pests and diseases.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them - if there were any that is.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.



  1. We have Bermuda. In the last two weeks the mister just fertilized and also tried to stomp out some of the weeds that evaded everything done to prevent them from popping up!

  2. We have a lawn full of who knows what!!!! ha.... BUT--we do fertilize and we never cut it close to the ground. It usually stays fairly green all summer long (unless we have a big drought --like we do some years).

  3. I will pass this information along to our gardener Meakin, who needs all the help he can get. Thanks Larry. Great information that we really can use.

    I see you've recommended two UT Extension office publications. Local county extension agents are a big help, especially if you're stumped about something. Our cotoneasters developed a blight and they came to the rescue.

  4. Larry, Way too much work and thought involved in this effort... My philosophy is call the lawn service and plan our next trip or find that next place to eat! Take care, Big Daddy Dave

  5. Hi Larry, the broccoli did make everything taste like broccoli so I will not use it for that recipe again. I usually use cabbage slaw. I did not have any trouble with the salmon stinking everything else up, and it remained very fresh tasting- Himself had one on day 7 and it was very fresh. So maybe the glass/layering helps with this?? Now when I have leftovers I layer them in jars, even pasta and sauce so that it looks like a new meal instead of leftovers if I had mixed it all together. Now the kids can grab a "leftover" jar and have a nice new looking lunch. Yesterday I baked biscuit type cinnamon rolls in the 4 ounce jelly jars and put some in the frige and a few in the freezer for when the kids go back to school. I also made some breakfast jars- on the bottom sausage gravy topped with panfried new potatoes, then scrambled eggs for a nice hearty meal- I put it in quart jars and made 6 in all which will help with my growing teenager. To reheat I dumped each layer side by side on a plate and nuked it for about a minute- instant breakfast! But very fresh tasting! I think with trial and error, I hope this will make my life a bit easier with 3 very hungry children.

  6. Definitely a timely post, Larry. I have a "bald spot" that requires some TLC this fall. Isn't there some kind of temperature guideline for overseeding? I thought it was something like once the nights get below a certain temp (70?).


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