Landscaping in America

Turf grass care and lawn care improvement tips

Understanding the American Lawn

Check here for a full listing of common turf grasses suitable for American Lawns.

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Lawncare for America's Homeowners

Let's face it, your lawn, yard, grass, turf, whatever you call it, is pretty cool stuff. Grass smells good when it gets cut. Nice Bluegrass lawns feel good to walk barefoot across. Fine fescue lawns look pretty in the fall when the first frost settles in. Plus, your lawn has that wonderful environmental thing going for it.

No matter what kind of grass you've got growing in your yard, the only thing all that lovely green turf asks from you is a little care, a little patience, and to be fed, watered and groomed occasionally.

An entire industry has grown out of trying to feed and trim that patch of green. The lawn care industry is now a multi-billion dollar affair that didn't exist 50 years ago, even though grasses have been around for centuries.

Where our culture once accepted weed-plants and grass growing side-by-side in our lawns, it wasn't until the advent of modern day selective herbicides that it became possible for us to isolate the grass plant from the weeds. Until the industrial machine starting seeing the potential in weed-free lawns, we were happy in our bliss of just accepting green spaces no matter what constituted those green areas. Marketing departments started to show us how your lawn could look just like a golf course or country club. For must of us, we became hooked on having near perfect lawns. Weeds in the lawn became unacceptable.

The American consumer had no concerns about our environment or what was best for the soil, results were all that mattered— and that's how things remained for a number of decades. That "results only" mind set is now beginning to change. More lawn care companies are offering organic programs, and taking extra precautions when using potentially harmful pesticides. In Canada, it is now illegal to apply pesticides. So too is our American culture beginning to make adjustments.

In the next decade we may see a complete ban on pesticides in the United States. Tighter restrictions or modifications of consumer products will probably make it tougher to kill weeds and bugs. Our population is growing so fast that we cannot proceed as we have in the past, Turfgrassfor fear of harming our future.

Some lawn factoids:

  • A Harris Interactive survey reports that U.S. households spent in excess of $11.6 billion on lawn care in 2003.

  • Among the environmental benefits of a healthy, well-maintained lawn are:

  • Oxygen production: a 50'x50' backyard produces enough oxygen for a family of four.

  • Cooling effect: eight average healthy front lawns have the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning - enough for 16 average homes.

  • Pollution control: dust and smoke particles from the atmosphere are trapped by blades of grass. Lawns also convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.

  • Water quality: dense, healthy turf slows down and filters runoff, removing contaminants and trapping soil from running off as well.

We grow grass for one reason: we can mow it and it survives, even thrives. Any other plant, even most other grasses would die after being mowed with any regularity. There are over 10,000 species of grass, yet only about 50 of those are suitable for use in a lawn.

Although there are a multitude of turfgrass brands, there are basically 2 types of grass: Cool and Warm Season Grasses with each type better suited to particular climates in North America.

Read more about types of grass that make good turf grasses

See the MOWING section for mowing recommendations. Also see the HISTORY section for a brief history of lawns in American culture.

The major goal of turfgrass management programs is produce attractive turf that is healthy, and able to withstand the rigors of its intended use. Fertilization is one of the most basic and important components of a turfgrass management program.

Turfgrass fertility programs often revolve around the quantity and timing of nitrogen applications. Nitrogen is used by turf plants in large quantities, and because it is rapidly tied up, it should be applied to most turfs 1 — 4 times per year. Most turf fertility recommendations will indicate the pounds of actual nitrogen to be applied per 1,000 square feet of turf per year.

Determine the natural fertility of the growing site by testing the soil—this is the first step in developing a turfgrass fertility program. A basic soil test usually includes analysis of soil pH, phosphorus, and potassium levels, but testing labs may or may not include recommendations for the basic soil test fee. Knowing the fertility conditions allows you to make informed decisions regarding other aspects of turf fertilization such as fertilizer application rates and frequencies.

Read more about lawn fertilization

More people are asking for information regarding organic lawn care. Many people want to decrease or eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in their home lawns. There is concern some products may be harmful to humans, beneficial insects, wildlife, and pets. This is not necessarily true however. With proper use and common sense precautions, lawncare products are quite safe. That being said, organic lawncare does have some benefits over traditional lawn care.

The fastest way is to stop using chemical fertilizers: stop spraying for insects. Mow your lawn at the highest level possible for the type of grass you have, leave your lawn clippings on the ground, aerate your soil periodically, and apply organic fertilizers that are protein based. You can also add a thin layer of compost (top dressing) every 4 — 5 years. Compost is not a fertilizer, but a soil amendment that improves microbe activity. That is pretty much the gist of organic lawncare.

Read more about organic lawn care options

Occasional weeds in a healthy looking lawn are to be expected. For the most part you can ignore a few nuisance weeds that popup during the growing season. However, next season you'll probably see more weeds throughout the lawn. At this point you might want to spot treat them to prevent their spread.

Dandelion: common lawn weed found in many parts of the countryA lawn full of weeds signals more problems than just weeds. Most weed problems are related to the top soil's health and condition, and the vitality of the turf grass.

Soil problems usually fall into several categories:

Read more about weed control in the lawn

Also read about Organic Weed Control

If you just look at your lawn and wonder what ever happened to the American dream of a perfect lawn, there's hope, especially if you live where cool season grasses rule.

Not every lawn needs a complete renovation or lawn re-establishment. Some lawns need just a little loving care for a few seasons and some repair work.

However, if your lawn is in need of a major renovation here are 6 steps to follow to make all your effort worth it.

Read more about renovating your lawn