Now that we are well into summer, a very unusual summer I might add, now is the time to be thinking about some midsummer lawn care.
This can be critical for performance and longevity of warm season lawns such as buffalograss, bermudagrass and zoysiagrass. These warm season grasses are great lawn options for Kansas because of the low water use and ability to withstand the hot, dry summers.
However, making sure you manage them correctly to lead to thick, healthy lawns. All grasses are not created equal and require different amounts of water, fertilizer, and are mowed at different heights.
Homeowners who prefer well maintained yards have been very fortunate this year with all the rain we have received through the first part of July. But as we get into the swing of summer and our first hot and dry spell, now is a good time to provide tips for effective watering of lawns.
When watering lawns, we like to recommend that you water “deep and infrequently.” It is recommended that enough water be applied to soak the soil 6-8 inches deep at a rate slow enough that there is no runoff. Do not water again until the grass is showing signs of stress or wilting. This allows the grass to send roots deeper down in search of water.
If you water your lawn too often, a shallow root system is developed and the turf could be damaged during drought, if water restrictions are placed, or the homeowner is gone for a few days.
Choosing to mow your grass at the right height can help keep the lawn healthy. Most people like the look of a short-mowed lawn, however a shorter lawn is less drought resistant, requires more frequent watering, and allows weeds to compete. A good rule of thumb is the “1/3 and 2/3” rule.
This means that you should cut no more then 1/3 of the grass and leave 2/3 of the grass. Both bermudagrass and zoysiagrass like to be mowed at 1-2 inches high, meaning to follow the 1/3, 2/3 rule, you would need to mow when the grass is 1.5 to 3 inches tall, removing one-half to 1 inch of grass.
Most other grasses including buffalograss, fescue and bluegrass like to be mowed at 2-3 inches high. Following the same guidelines, the lawn would need to be mowed when it is 3 to 4 inches in height and removing 1 to 1.5 inches of grass.
A few more tips for mowing include the following: keep mower blades sharp. it’s better to mow wet grass than let it get too tall. Change mowing patterns to prevent compaction.
Another key component to maintaining a good lawn is fertilizer. Kansas State University turfgrass specialist Jared Hoyle suggests applying 1 to 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each year for bermudagrass and zoysiagrass.
“You can split that up into multiple applications of quick release fertilizer, or you could do fewer applications of a slower release, but the main goal is 1 to 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet,” Hoyle said.
The application timing for the fertilizer is best done between the beginning of May through the middle of August. Studies at Kansas State University show that buffalograss only needs about 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
“It’s hard to split up a pound of multiple applications, so that’s one where you might want to look at a slow release to put out that pound of nitrogen,” Hoyle said.
Now how much total nitrogen is needed? How do you figure that with the product you are using?
I ventured into a local store the other day to check out what they had, and I found a bag of lawn fertilizer labeled “Lawn Food 21-0-7.”
Those numbers tell you how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that fertilizer contains on a percentage basis. So that tells me for every 1 pound of product, I am getting 0.21 pounds of nitrogen and 0.07 pounds of potassium. Knowing that you can calculate how much you need to reach your 3 pounds of nitrogen, you take 3 and divide it by 0.21 to get approximately 14 pounds of fertilizer product is needed to fertilizer 1,000 square feet.
Weed control can be a season long battle in some lawns and knowing what weed you’re dealing with and the appropriate spray needed is important. Going to your local home and garden store can be a little overwhelming with all the herbicide options they have available.
Some products are weed specific such as crabgrass preventer while others are broad spectrum and can control many weeds.
There are many factors that go into weed control programs for your lawn so I would recommend visiting with your lawn care provider or contact our office to develop a program that meets your exact needs!
If you have any questions, please contact the K-State Research and Extension office located at 712 S. Buckeye or (785) 263-2001. Be on the lookout for another article coming soon on seeding or reseeding cool season grasses for Fall 2019.