Well, we think spring may finally be here! With that being said, it's time to start getting your lawns ready for the summer! I know it doesn't even feel like spring yet, but now is the time to start practicing good mowing and watering habits to promote a healthier lawn throughout the summer!
All plants require a healthy root zone to support the life and health of the plant. So in order to have a healthy lawn, we have to have a healthy root zone. The majority of us maintain a cool season lawn, so the ideal times to focus on root growth and health is in the spring and the fall. There are a couple of things that you can do to really promote good root growth and health in your turf.
1. Do not over-water!
The more frequently you water, the more shallow your roots will be. We don't want to under water, but avoid watering everyday. When you water too frequently, the energy the plant uses to promote root growth will be focused on the moisture in the top of the soil. As the weather warms up, the root growth slows down. Most grass roots thrive when the soil temperature is between 55-65 degrees. So if the majority of the roots are in the first couple of inches of the soil, there is a greater risk of the soil temperature being much warmer than that. So shallow roots will often struggle to maintain and provide the plant with what it needs, especially throughout the summer when the root growth pretty much comes to a halt. So even though your grass may be a tad bit greener and grow a little faster in the spring if you water more frequently, it will result in significant summer stress and disease.
2. Do not over-fertilize!
More is rarely better, especially when it comes to fertilizing. We all want our lawn to be thriving, lush and green after a long winter. But the spring is not the right time to be force feeding our cool season grasses. We want to spoon feed it. Low doses of slow release nitrogen is ideal for the spring. The problem with pouring an excessive amount of fertilizer on the turf this time of year has more to do with the summer than it does the spring. Again, as mentioned above, the lawn will respond, green up and start growing once you put a large amount of fertilizer on the grass. But the plant will suffer as a result in the weeks to follow. The roots store carbohydrates, or food so to speak, to support the functions of the plant. Whenever you over fertilize the lawn, it promotes growth. Well, in order for the plant to grow, it requires food, or energy. That food comes from the roots, not the fertilizer, so once the roots uses that energy to promote the upward growth in the blade of grass, it has less energy to promote downward growth in the root zone, which as we discussed above is extremely important! As the soil temperatures warm up, the roots become less active, so if the roots have been supporting lush growth instead of maintaining a healthy balance in the root zone, it becomes difficult to replace the carbohydrates the plant needs as summer approaches, thus making the turf more susceptible to stress and disease.
3. Do not mow too short!
Sorry if this is getting lengthy, but once you have made your first initial mowing, it's good to start letting your grass get to 3-3.5 inches. One of the reasons being, the taller you let your grass get, the more extensive your root zone will be. The roots will match the size of your plant. So when we mow our lawns a little shorter, you will have a much more shallow root zone, because the roots don't need to support as big of a plant. The opposite is true as well. So when you mow your grass a little taller, the roots will respond in branching out to support the needs of the plant. This happens as a result of the amount of sunlight the plant receives, which in turn promotes photosynthesis, promoting good carbohydrate production to help support and achieve good root growth. Look at it as a tiny plate at an all you can eat buffet line. If you have a tiny 4 inch plate, you are unable to get very much food on there, the same goes for mowing your lawn too short. When I go to a buffet, sorry to say, but I want a big 10 or 12 inch platter so I can load up! Again the same goes for your grass. The taller you mow, the more sunlight it receives, and the more food the plant can produce. This is especially important in shaded areas!
As you can tell, we like our emails like our grass.....long. If you got through all of this without falling asleep, congratulations, you are on your way to being a grass geek too! We know you spend a lot of effort, time and money on your grass, and we truly do hope this all makes sense to you and helps you achieve the results you wish to have! As always, if you have any questions, please let us know, we aren't too hard to find! Thank you and God Bless!