(Family Features)--Growing a healthy, appealing lawn isn't about doing one thing right; it's about doing a combination of things right. Different aspects of lawn maintenance, whether it's watering, fertilizing or mowing, are interrelated. If you complete one task incorrectly - or skip it entirely - you may increase problems with insects, diseases and weeds.
To help you create a manicured and well-maintained lawn, BioAdvanced lawn and garden expert Lance Walheim recommends these steps:
Grow the right grass. Different grasses grow in different areas of the country. Warm-season grasses, including bahiagrass, Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass and zoysia, usually grow in warmer, more southerly regions. Cool-season grasses are typically grown in cooler, more northerly regions and include fescues, Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass.
Mow properly. Start by using a sharp mower blade that cuts grass cleanly, without tearing or shredding. Proper mowing height depends on grass type and time of year. Mow when the grass reaches one-third higher than the recommended mowing height. Set your mower at the upper end of the recommended height range during the hottest time of the year to encourage deeper roots. Vary your mowing pattern to avoid creating ruts in the lawn.
Avoid mowing when soil is wet or you can risk tearing up grass and soil. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to contribute organic matter to the soil and reduce fertilizer needs.
Water correctly. Provide adequate moisture to grass, especially during episodes of drought or high temperatures. Provide deep (6 - 8 inches), infrequent irrigation, allowing the lawn to partially dry out between watering cycles. This promotes healthy, deeper roots that can better withstand dry periods.
Fertilize. Before you start a fertilizer program, conduct a soil test so you know you're applying the correct blend of nutrients. In some parts of the country, soils may be acidic or alkaline and require additions of iron, magnesium or lime. Also, different types of grass need to be fertilized at different times of the year.
Scout for problems. Like any landscape planting, lawns can suffer from a variety of problems. Weeds, bare spots, insects and diseases can weaken and even destroy a healthy lawn if left untreated. Keep an eye out for problems in your lawn with these tips:
- Deal with weeds when you first see them because one weed can lead to more. Study the types of weed killers available and when to use each variety.
- When a bare spot appears, figure out the cause and deal with it. Open soil extends an invitation to weeds, so repair bare spots as quickly as possible.
- Be on the lookout for insects. Some of the signs of problems to look for are animals like skunks or raccoons digging up lawn areas or flocks of birds feeding on turf. This could be a sign of white grubs, a common lawn pest, which requires different methods of control depending on time of year.
Aerate and dethatch. Compacted soil doesn't allow air and water to reach grass roots, which can result in unhealthy grass. Aerating helps relieve soil compaction and reduces thatch.