Summertime lawn essentials (6-29-09)
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Midsummer is the most active growth period for our warm season turf species. And to benefit from these few months of optimum conditions, it is important to maintain the most basic lawn essentials of mowing, watering, fertilizing, and pest management.
Every turf species has an optimum mowing height to ensure good turf health and density. Therefore it is important to keep a regular mowing regime that limits the removal of clippings by following the “one-third rule” which requires that only one-third of the total turf canopy to be removed at a single mowing.
As an example, a St. Augustine lawn with an optimum mowing height of 2.5-3.0 inches should be mowed frequently enough that no more than 0.75- 1.0 inches of the canopy is removed at each mowing. In contrast, a bermudagrass lawn that has an optimum height of 1.0-1.5 will require more frequent mowing since only 0.33-0.50 inch should be removed at a single mowing. Regardless of the turf species, keeping the blades sharp is critical to a clean, neat, least injurious cut to the leaf blades. A sharp blade also puts less strain on the mower engine.
The most essential need for maintaining a healthy lawn is water as it is involved in almost every function of plant growth and survival. Hopefully natural rainfall is adequately provided, but irrigation may be necessary to supplement the requirement of 1.0 –1.5 inches of water weekly. Irrigation is most effectively applied in thorough less frequent applications rather than light daily applications. Irrigations should occur early enough in the day to allow foliage to dry before nightfall.
Since midsummer is a period of active growth, this is an ideal time to apply fertilization. Always have a purpose for fertilizing, however, whether it is to encourage a weak lawn to fill in, adds color or density to a healthy lawn, etc. Think nitrogen for foliar growth, phosphorous for rooting, and potassium for stress.
The final summertime lawn essential is pest management. As the lawn is lush and actively growing so are the many pests that also thrive midsummer such as insects, weeds, and turf diseases. The MSU Extension Service has several excellent publications (#1322, #2331, #1532, etc.) that can help you identify and manage these pests. These publications can be downloaded from the Extension Web at www.msucares.com or obtained from any local Extension Service office.
Published June 29, 2009
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org