on Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Lawn fertilizer and water isn't the only key to a lush green lawn - it's also about timing
As a homeowner or property manager throughout The Thumb of eastern Michigan, you want to keep a lush, vibrant lawn throughout the summer and into the cooler months. There’s always that one neighbor who seems to stand out among the rest of us on the block with the “yard of the month.” We talked to a few of our own lawn care experts to find out how to help the rest of us get into the lawn care big leagues.
In most areas around Michigan, the grass is a combination of several types: Kentucky bluegrass, creeping red fescue and perennial ryegrass. This is not uncommon but it is important to note that these grasses are all cool-season grasses. Cool-season grass grows best when days are warm and nights are cool—spring and late summer to early fall. Grass blade and root growth occurs during the fall and spring months.
But even with this knowledge, you might be asking yourself…
Maybe our lawn just needs some more water?
We’ve been taught to make sure our seeds and plants get enough water. While this is a major component of lawn care, it is also a bit of a science mixed with perfect timing. Applying too much water at a time to your grass can end up wasting water because it flows right past the root zone—this is because grass roots are naturally shorter during hot, dry conditions of summer.
“Anyone managing property should know it’s best to water the grass in the morning or early afternoon,” said Mark Williams, one of Tri County Equipment’s lawn care experts. “Watering lawns at night can actually elevate fungus diseases.”
On the flip side, not watering cool-season grasses at all could cause your lawn to become dormant, which causes brown, crunchy grass. A dormant lawn is the plant’s defense mechanism to keep itself alive during extended heat waves or dry conditions.
Fertilizer should do the trick—or will it?
Bad news: fertilizing a dormant lawn (brown grass) doesn’t generally work because the grass isn’t actively growing. Summer heat causes grass growth to slow or stop so it’s best to fertilize when you know a storm is coming or if you know you have time to dedicate to watering your lawn yourself.
Williams points out that lawn fertilizers are not made to be “one-size-fits-all.” Do you know exactly what nutrients are in your soil and which nutrients are lacking? For those of us living in the Thumb, the best way to leverage the benefits of lawn fertilizer is to send your soil off for testing at Michigan State University. For $25, you’ll receive a test kit and the results of your soil to help you figure out the right fertilizer for your Michigan property.
Late-August to early-September is the ideal time to fertilize your lawn because nights are cooler and rain showers can happen more often. Grass is also entering an active growth period during this time as well, allowing nutrients to complete their plant growth journey.
Pro Tip: Lawn aerators help the root system
If you’re ready to get serious about a great lawn, Williams recommends a lawn aerator to allow nutrients, air and water to penetrate the grass roots; aerating should be done at the same time as fertilizing. With Michigan’s cool weather grasses, it’s usually better to aerate in the fall.
“Fertilizing while aerating your lawn helps you take full advantage of what you’re doing to help your lawn,” said Williams. “Aerating reduces compaction and stimulates the grass roots, so doing both at the same time makes all your efforts come full picture.”
How often should I mow my lawn in Michigan?
How often you mow depends on how quickly your grass grows (see above!), but the secret is all about the sharpness of your lawn mower blade and the blade height. Similar to a kitchen knife, lawn mower blades should be kept sharp to provide a precise, clean cut to the grass blade to prevent rips and tears to the plant tissue.
“A dull lawn mower blade can cause water loss to grass blades,” said Williams. “It’s also important to make sure your blade height is about 3-3.5 inches or more from the ground to reduce the amount of stress put on the grass. This helps stimulate healthy growth by creating shade for weed spores and keeping moisture in the ground.”
Looking for more professional lawn care advice or need a mower tune-up? Request lawn mower service for your John Deere lawn mower at Tri County Equipment, and be sure to ask about service promotions to keep your mower in tip-top shape.
Also, big thanks to Mark Williams from Tri County’s sales department as well as our friends at Michigan State University for providing lawn care tips and research.