Lawn care manual

lawnsanityJuly 17, 2013


The internet seems to say a plethora of different things when it comes to fertilizer.

I am basically looking for an accurate care guide. Mowing and watering I think I have down but I have read I should fertilize every 6 weeks .

Scott's site says this:

These guys say for my KBG that I shouldn't fertilize too early in the spring because I'll get too much top growtn at the root's expense.

1. How often should I fertilize. (I like the 6 week rule, it's easy)
2. What numbers should I be using at what time? (high P & K in the fall? normal stuff the rest of the year?)
3. When do I apply my broad leaf weed killer?
4. When do I seed (if ever, or just let the lawn go to seed)
5. When and what do I apply something for grubs as preventative maintenance as I see many june bugs out now. (milky spore, grub-ex etc...)

Thanks everyone!

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I've been in this forum for over 10 years and have moderated several forums for organic lawn care. Over the years I have had to forget about all I thought I knew about lawn care as I learned more and more from these forums. Here's what I have learned.

Basics of Lawn Care

After reading numerous books and magazines on lawn care, caring for lawns at seven houses in my life, and reading numerous forums where real people write in to discuss their successes and failures, I have decided to side with the real people and dispense with the book and magazine authors. I don't know what star their planet rotates around but it's not mine. With that in mind, here is the collected wisdom of the Internet savvy homeowners and lawn care professionals summarized in a few words. If you follow the advice here you will have conquered at least 50% of all lawn problems. Once you have these three elements mastered, then you can worry about weeds (if you have any), dog spots, and striping your lawn. But if you are not doing these three things, they will be the first three things suggested for you to correct.

Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an inch in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. Do not spread this out and water for 10 minutes every day. If your grass looks dry before the month/week is up, water longer next time. If that does not work, then you might have to water more than once per week during the summer's hottest period. Deep watering grows deep, drought resistant roots. Infrequent watering allows the top layer of soil to dry completely which kills off many shallow rooted weeds.

You will have to learn to judge when to water your own lawn. If you live in El Paso your watering will be different than if you live in Vermont. Adjust your watering to your type of grass, temperature, humidity, wind, and soil type. It is worth noting that this technique is used successfully by professionals in Phoenix, so...just sayin.' The other factors make a difference. If you normally water 1 inch per week and you get 1/2 inch of rain, then adjust and water only 1/2 inch that week.

Every week mulch mow at the highest setting on your mower. Most grasses are the most dense when mowed tall. However, bermuda, centipede, and bent grasses will become the most dense when they are mowed at the lowest setting on your mower. In fact there are special mowers that can mow these grasses down to 1/16 inch. Dense grass shades out weeds, keeps the soil cooler, and uses less water than thin grass. Tall grass can feed the deep roots you developed in #1 above. Tall grass does not grow faster than short grass nor does it look shaggy sooner. Once all your grass is at the same height, tall grass just looks plush.

Fertilize regularly. I fertilize 5 times per year using organic fertilizer. Which fertilizer you use is much less important than numbers 1 and 2 above. Follow the directions on the bag and do not overdo it. Too much is better than too little*.

If you use chemical fertilizers, then fertilize only 3x per year. Timing is once in late spring, once in early fall and once in late fall. At this point you do not have to worry about weed and feed products - remember at this point you are just trying to grow grass, not perfect it. Besides once you are doing these three things correctly, your weed problems should go away without herbicide.

* This used to read, "Too little is better than too much." Recent test results show that you cannot get too much organic fertilizer unless you bury the grass in it.

To your specific issues, if you are seeing June bugs now, then watch for them to produce grubs this year. When you don't see any June bugs, you won't have a problem. Milky spore works excellent in theory but doesn't work at all in practice. Wait until a few weeks after the June bugs go away and use Grubex. The organic alternative is beneficial nematodes. Again over the years the results seem to be that these guys work in the south but not in the north. Dunno why.

For broadleaf weeds, spot spray with a liquid. Mist, not drench.

With KBG you never need to seed. It's wonderful!

Fertilize KBG 3x per year. Once in late May (Memorial Day in the US), once in early fall (Labor Day in the US), and once in the late fall (Thanksgiving...). If you can remember the US federal holidays, those aren't so hard to deal with. Maybe you have Canadian holidays that come close. If you want to use organic fertilizer, you can do that any day of the year without fear of harm. The reason you don't fertilize in early spring is the reason you got. The reason you don't fertilize every 6 weeks is you might burn the grass in the summer heat.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 9:19PM
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For KBG, 3X @1# of N per thousand sq ft. a year is the bare minimum. Using synthetic fertilizer, I'd suggest you apply 1# of N once summer heat starts to tail off, around the end of August/1st week of September. This application helps the KBG to wake up/photosynthisis, bring it out of any summer dormancy and to green up. A second application a month later (end of Sept/Oct1 to keep the grass green and growing to take advantage of spreading when soil temperatures fall below 65 degrees F. A third application of 46-0-0 urea after the KBG stops topgrowth (when you no longer need to mow or hardly need to mow) to continue making N available for root/rhizome spreading and availability for carb storage for early spring green-up and continued rhizome/root growth next year. A final application around next May/June to replenish the carbs used up in Spring and so the turf can prepare for summer stress and dormancy. If you are a high maintenance type person (like to mow and can water or Mother Nature coops w/regular rain thru the summer) you can add a 5th application of 1/2# N (slow release) in mid-late June and a 6th application of 1/2#N (slow release) after August 1 or apply organic N June, July and August.

Edit: As far as the "numbers" to use: As you may know, the numbers represent the percentages of N,P, and K in the bag. As you're shooting for 1# of N. for each application, a low N "number" means you are going to need to apply a lot more product than you would need to apply with a high N "number." For instance a 50# bag of 46-0-0 containes 46% N or 23# of N and at the rate of 1#/k, will cover 23k. A 50@ bag of 12-12-12 contains 12% or 6# of N and will only cover 6k. But-- a triple 12 also containes 12% K and P, so for every pound of N, you are also applying 1# of P and K. If your soil is deficient in either P or K and you want to add more than one pound per app. you would look for higher P and K numbers, depending how much more you want to add, a 14-24-10 would apply nearly 2# of P for every 1# of N applied, but slightly less than a pound of K.

This is not advice, but what I do is apply a triple 12 or 19 (fast release if I can find it) for the May feeding to make sure P&K are available for preparing the turf for summer. I do the same for My September app to make sure P&K are available to strethen the turf for fall and hardening for winter. Be aware, that some studies have indicated too much K in late fall can be detrimental to turf health. Some is good (hardening off), more may not be better (increasing disease susceptability).

This post was edited by grass1950 on Thu, Jul 18, 13 at 0:21

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 11:13PM
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I am a little confused with a the #1 and 2# stuff.

I should have mentioned that it is crazy hot right now and my grass is green due to my irrigation system. and I leave the mower on high and cut my grass twice a week (or else is gets WAY to long)

**Does this change any of your answers?**

Also it seems that people do not fert. in the summer with synth stuff. Seems like if you fert in summer use organic. Interesting. Why is this is?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 1:17PM
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Could you clarify which #1 and #2 has you confulsed?. The first two applications of fertilizer stated in my post? (if so what would you like clarified?) Your first two questions? (again, if so, please expound), or something else?

The ability to irrigate and willingness to actually do so, is what I was refering to as "high maintenance" If you are irrigating regularly throught the summer, then let your "desired maximum growth rate" (basically how often you want to mow) be your guide for fertilizing during the Summer and add applications 5 & 6.
I like to use organics (Milorganite in particular) during the summer for 3 reasons: #1. I don't have an irrigation system and depend on rainfall with occasional use of a sprinkler. With organics Mother Nature controls the release of N as the microbes that break organics down and release N need moisture to be active. No rain,-no moisture-no N.. #2. Organics will not burn the turf and don't need to be watered in (I'm lazy and frugal-water is expensive). #3.. Organics add OM and promote beneficial micro-organisms (which thrive best during Summer) that improve the quality of the soil and the health of the turf.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 2:23PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

If you were referring to my #1 and #2 then I used to have numbers on my headings. #1 was watering and #2 was mowing.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 9:32PM
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Organic lawn care is an important factor to maintain your lawn .This will help your lawn to look evergreen. The following are a few tips for organic lawn care:
1. Nutrient requirements and pH level of the soil should be maintained for the grass to remain fresh.
2. Make sure that you use the right amount of water while watering your lawn. Aerate your lawn once a week so that air, water and nutrients will penetrate into the soil.
3. Mulching and mowing will bring down the need for additional fertilizers.

Here is a link that might be useful: organic lawn care tips

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 3:49AM
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Aerate once a week??? That seems like bizarre advice. If you're following good organic lawn care practices, you shouldn't have to aerate ever (unless you have heavy equipment/cattle induced compaction).

With weekly aerations, all you will likely do is provide your yard with a steady supply of weed seeds for germination.

To the OP, David and grass1950 have posted excellent advice. I'd recommend following it, the information on this thread is much better than any manual you will find on a website.

Btw, the # sign was used to indicate "pound", i.e., "lbs" to describe the quantities to apply.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 8:10AM
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