How do I water my lawn properly?
What is thatch? And what can I do about it?
How do I fertilize my lawn?

How do I water my lawn properly? back to top

Proper watering techniques are absolutely essential to an Ecology Friendly Lawn, and can result in water savings, and reduce disease & insect and weed infestations.Watering techniques should be adjusted during the growing season to compensate for precipitation and lengthy hot and dry periods. The amount of water and the duration of each watering period should be adjusted according to soil types and grass types. A high cutting height will also help to retain moisture.

Measure the Water with a Cup
Every home has different water pressure, pipe size, and sprinkler types, so you need to measure your system in order to determine the amount of time required to apply the necessary water. Place a flat bottomed, straight sided cup, like a coffee cup, under the water sprinkler and measure the time it takes to collect 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water in the bottom of the cup. You can use this time to determine how long your sprinkler needs to run to apply the necessary amount of water. You can also ask your local Nutri-Lawn for a free watering measuring cup.

Apply 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water, once per week in early morning (vs. mid-day or evening).
Avoid watering in the afternoon because a large percentage of the water is lost to evaporation. Avoid evening watering because the lawn will remain wet for 12 to 15 hours, until the following morning sun dries off the lawn. This prolonged wet period can increase fungal disease incidence.

With sandy soils apply 3/4 inch (2 cm) once every 5 days.
Sandy soils cannot retain as much water as clay loam soils, and require more frequent watering of smaller volumes.

Increase watering frequency during hot periods.
To maintain a lush lawn during the hot periods of the summer more frequent applications are required. Generally one application of water every 4 to 5 days is adequate. Sandy soils may require an application of water every 3 to 4 days.

Watering on Slopes
If you have lawn area on a slope, it is important to use a low volume water sprinkler or order to allow the water time to be absorbed by the lawn. If the water is applied too quickly much of the water will not be absorbed by the lawn and will run off down the slope. Soil aeration greatly enhances water pentration on slopes and is recommended as an annual service in these areas.

Watering Near Trees
Trees take up an enormous amount of water every day, pulling the soil moisture away from the surface via an extensive network of fiberous roots. Because of this, the surround grass is often the first to show signs of drought stress. It's important to remember that when watering grass around large trees that you need to increase the frequency of watering in order to prevent the grass from turning brown.

What is thatch? And what can I do about it? back to top

Thatch can be described as a tight and fibrous layer of living and dead matter, primarily roots of the grass, which develops between the plant and the soil. Many people think that grass clippings contribute to thatch, however grass clippings consist primarily of water and dry up and disintegrate. Thatch consists of woody plant material like roots, rhizomes and stolons that are slow to breakdown.

What Causes Thatch?
- Heavy fertilization can cause rapid thatch development. Nutri-Lawn's programs are designed to create healthy lawns and do to use excessive fertilizing. Excessive fertilizing can create a lush green lawn in a short period of time, but it leads to a variety of problems in the long term, including excessive thatch.

- Acidic soils, waterlogged soils or fungicide applications inhibit soil micoorganism activity. It is the microbes that biodegrade or breakdown the thatch layer, and if they are inhibited the thatch layer will accumulate.

- Excessive watering will encourage thatch development as well as shallow roots. Excessive watering saturates the soil and roots will not grow into a water saturated soil. The roots will grow on the surface of the soil and in the thatch layer, rather than deep into the soil. This creates a lawn that is susceptible to drought and root feeding insect damage.

- Some grass species are prone to excessive thatch development. Kentucky Bluegrass, Fine Fescues and Bentgrass tend to thatch up quickly. Perennial Ryegrass is not prone to thatch development because it is a bunch type grass that does not spread by rhizomes or stolons.

A thin layer of thatch of about 1.5 cm is beneficial because it acts like a mulch, buffering temperature extremes at the soil surface and helping to retain soil moisture. A thin thatch layer is also beneficial because it will inhibit weed seed germination and establishment.

When the thatch layer grows thicker than 1.5 cm it becomes detrimental to the health of the lawn. Excessive thatch inhibits the movement of water, nutrients and air into the soil, resulting in shallow roots and a lawn highly susceptible to drought and root feeding insect damage. Excessive thatch also makes it difficult to control root feeding insects. The thatch layer impedes the movement of pest controls into the soi, reducing the efficacy of the treatment. A thick thatch layer is the perfect environment for some insects. Chinch Bugs will flourish in a thick thatch layer and can cause extensive damage. Disease organisms reside in the thatch layer and when environmental conditions are conducive for the disease, an outbreak can occur.

What Can Be Done to Control Excessive Thatch
Annual soil core aeration is strongly recommended as the best method to manage thatch development in a lawn. Soil core aeration pulls plugs of soil and thatch out of the lawn, breaking up the thatch layer and allowing the roots to grow into the soil rather than on the surface. Organics Plus Topdressing applications help to mange thatch layer development by inoculating the thatch with billions of micro-organisms that will biodegrade and breakdown the thatch. Power Raking slices and cuts the thatch layer, enhancing the penetration of water, air and nutrients into the soil which leads to an increase in microbial activity and biodegradation of the thatch. Compost Teas or other microbial application innoculate the thatch with billions of microbes that biodegrade the thatch. Aerated compost teas that have been professionally brewed can have over a billion microorganisms per ml.

How do I fertilize my lawn? back to top

Choosing the best fertilizer
Always use granular fertilizer with a significant proportion of its nitrogen in slow-acting form (WIN, or water insoluble) to deliver basic nutrition to turfgrass. It provides steady, constant sustenance over an extended period, minimizing the time you spend fertilizing. Organic fertilizers whose nutrients are derived from plant and animal sources are always slow-acting. Liquid fertilizers, either granular or powders to be mixed in water, are almost always quick-acting. Because their nitrogen dissolves in water, it is absorbed so rapidly by grass plants that repeat fertilization is necessary many times over the season. The strong doses of nitrogen it delivers each time may stress grass and acidify the soil somewhat, irritating soil organisms. Store left over granular fertilizer in an airtight bag or container. If you have only a few pounds left, use it on other parts of your property. Slow-acting lawn fertilizer is suitable for planting beds and under shrubs, hedges, and trees. Sprinkle it lightly to get good coverage around the yard. The rain will soak it into the soil.

Choosing the best spreader
Spreading granular fertilizer by casting handfuls over the turf is appropriate and easy for small lawns (under 1000 square feet). However, it is very difficult to get a uniform application this way. Use either a drop or rotary (spinner or cyclone) spreader for large lawns. The drop spreader is cheaper, but the rotary spreader is more effective in getting uniform coverage. With the rotary action the throw pattern of the fertilizer "feathers" out along the edges so that the margins of each pass blend together uniformly. They are available in hand held (good for under 5000 square feet) models or on wheels. Never store leftover granular fertilizer in your spreader. Fertilizer absorbs moisture from the air and cakes up. Then it promotes deterioration from chemical reactions with the metal of the spreader. If your spreader is caked with fertilizer, clean it out thoroughly. Use water if necessary, but do not put any more fertilizer into the spreader until the interior is absolutely dry. Use some penetrating oil on the moving levers and parts periodically to keep them operating smoothly.

Fertilizing Techniques
When spreading granular lawn fertilizer there are two problems -- using too much fertilizer and missing spots that become embarrassingly obvious later when the rest of the lawn turns green. Mow the lawn first, so you can see the distribution pattern easier. All spreaders have numbered devices to control the flow of the granules from the spreader as you push it. They are sometimes difficult to use. When in doubt, adjust the setting by sight. Correctly dispersed, the density of fertilizer granules should resemble the decorative sugar sprinkles on a cookie. There is more bare space than granules. Test the dispersal rate of your spreader on bare soil or on a paved surface. When in doubt, spread less rather than more fertilizer. Drop Spreader on the left and Rotary Spreader on the right To avoid making obvious "fertilizer stripes" in the lawn with a drop spreader divide the fertilizer supply in half and set the spreader to apply at one half the recommended rate. Then cover the lawn twice, pacing the pattern of the second application perpendicular to the first one. While it is not necessary with a rotary spreader, the technique of spreading half, then the other half of the fertilizer in different directions is still a good idea. It takes more time, but the coverage is much more uniform.

Watering in fertilizer
It is not essential to water in slow-acting fertilizer, but it does not hurt. It insures that the fertilizer begins working right away. Otherwise, the next rain will soak it in. However, quick-acting granular fertilizer must be watered in immediately after spreading to prevent it from burning the grass plants. Watering also triggers the release of the nitrogen right away, since that type of fertilizer is water soluable.

Sources: Nutri-Lawn: Ecology Friendly Lawn Care ( , Yardener (

The Lewis Landscaping Green Guide provides our visitors with basic lawn and garden care tips. We base our information on frequently asked questions from our customers.

If you would like any other information added to our guide or require personal lawn and garden care assistance feel free to contact us.
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