As a Colorado Master Gardener, many of the questions I get are about lawns. Most concerns can be addressed with cultural practices, which are things you’re in control of such as seed variety, watering, mowing, fertilizing, and weed control. We all want that perfect Kentucky blue grass lawn, but in our arid climate, it can be challenging – there’s a reason it’s called Kentucky blue grass.
Brown areas are usually the result of dry spots. To check if in fact this is the cause, take a shovel and drive it six inches deep through the spot. Push the shovel forward to get a look at the soil. How moist is it when you’re six inches deep? If it’s dry, that means the roots of the grass are not extending down as they should, but rather they’re staying near the surface because that’s where the moisture is. However, when the surface dries out, so too does the grass. And with temperatures in the high 90s already in June, that’s bound to happen much quicker than you’d like.
We recommend watering two to three times a week, depending on the weather, one inch each time. One inch at a time – what does that mean? When I say one inch at a time I mean if you put a cup out on the coverage area you’re watering, at least an inch of water would collect in it before you’re done.
The longer you stick to this kind of watering schedule, the more the sub moisture will build up below the surface allowing the root zone to extend deeper. Eventually, you’ll be able to water less once you have the sub moisture established.
Another aspect of lawn care I get asked about is mowing. While you may have the itch to cut it short, it’s recommended that you keep your lawn at a minimum of three inches tall to keep it from drying out. Scalping your lawn too short exposes roots near the surface, again, drying them out.
Fertilization is another part of lawn care, thankfully, the one you have to worry about least often. Fertilize early in the spring with a high nitrogen product to encourage healthy growth. You’ll find the nitrogen content in the numbers on the bag. Typically in sets of three, nitrogen is the first number in a fertilizer formulation; second is phosphorous, and third is potash. Nitrogen promotes leaf growth, or blades of grass. Phosphorous and potash promote fruit and flower production. So, 20-5-3 is a typical lawn fertilizer, while 10-20-10 is a typical all purpose garden fertilizer.
If you use a weed ‘n feed product, do it early, before any broadleaf weeds germinate (usually March for our area). Fertilize again in early summer, and again in the fall. Three applications are sufficient. A thick healthy lawn is the best defense against weeds, as grass will choke out almost any weed. There are several varieties of herbicides for weeds in a lawn, and because most weeds around here are broadleaf, they can be easily controlled with over-the-counter weed control products.
Give me a call if you have concerns with anything in your yard; I’d be glad to try and help! 970-330-5907
About the Author
Susan is a Colorado Master Gardener, as designated by Colorado State University. She is the voice behind our Green Thumb Gossip, a weekly blog where she shares her expertise on things like when to plant what, tricks of the trade, and how to make your yard the talk of the town