The best height to keep grass for our area is 2-1/2 to 3 inches high. Mow when the grass grows out ½ to ¾ inch.
- BONUS: CLICK HERE for Purdue Extension’s free publication on Mowing, Thatching, Aerifying, and Rolling Turf …
2. Fertilizing (and Liming)
The first rule of fertilizing is to read the label of the product you are using. Two more important factors to consider when fertilizing your lawn are HOW MUCH and WHEN to apply.
Experts recommend an ANNUAL TOTAL 2-4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet throughout each growing season for most established full-sun lawns (Kentucky bluegrass; Kentucky bluegrass mixed with perennial ryegrass and/or fine fescue) in Michiana. Ideally, your annual total of nitrogen should be split into 2-5 applications, with each single application of nitrogen being about 1 pound per 1,000 sq. ft. For established shade lawns, about half as much nitrogen is suggested.
On the flipside, how often you fertilize affects not only lawn appearance, but also its maintenance level. The more often you fertilize, the more you’ll have to mow, for instance.
About applying lime … Red Hen Turf Farm does NOT recommend that you blindly follow this annual ritual unless you have done a recent soil test that indicates you need to adjust your soil pH. While lot of so-called “experts” recommend lime (especially in the fall) as a way of adjusting the pH of your soil to make it less acidic, we don’t agree with this advice. The idea behind liming your lawn is that you are trying to raise the soil pH near neutral to increase the availability of most plant nutrients. While proper soil pH is necessary to achieve a healthy, attractive lawn, most Indiana soils under turfgrass do not need liming.
THE BOTTOM LINE: At Red Hen Turf Farm, we feel that the reality is that every single lawn has its own unique needs, so we recommend that you do a soil test every 3 years. If you use our soil testing procedures, we’ll provide you with a kit that you’ll mail to a certified lab. The cost is $25 for a single sample, and $10 for each additional sample. The results are sent to us and we will translate them into layman’s terms, using this
information as an important piece of the puzzle for us to create a Customized Fertilizer Program, designed just for you.
- BONUS: Learn how Red Hen Turf Farm can help you get your soil tested AND help design YOUR Customized Fertilizer Program by CLICKING HERE … And, Yes, we do sell Fertilizer and Spyker Spreaders. Here’s our 2017 Price List.
Very few people who have an “automatic” sprinkler system water turf properly. Most end up over-watering! You should water when the soil is dry to a depth of 4 inches and then water long enough to wet the soil 4 inches deep. Looking at the soil is the best way to tell how moist it is. Invest in a soil probe! Avoid watering in the late afternoon or early evening.
- BONUS: Check out Purdue Extension’s free publication, “Irrigation Practices for Homelawns” by CLICKING HERE
There is no grass that likes shade. Turf is poor in shade for two reasons:
- One is lack of quality and quantity of sunlight present and
- The other is reduced air movement that keeps sun or wind from drying wet leaves.
Lessen shade and increase air flow for better grass. You can have either healthy grass or shade, not both…
- BONUS: Learn more about trying to grow Grass in Shade via our website by CLICKING HERE
Most people are caught up in the hype of killing every grub. The truth is that most grubs do VERY LITTLE HARM, and it’s completely normal to have SOME grubs in your lawn … in fact, all lawns have grubs! It takes 5 or more per square foot to cause problems. Protect the environment and save some $$ by eliminating or reduce the size of preventative applications. If you are sure you have “grub problem,” there are a number of pesticides with varying efficacy depending on when you apply them. For example, we currently carry a combination fertilizer / grub control product – 15-0-3 PLUS IMI (“PLUS IMI” means that the 15-0-3 fertilizer has an added chemical called “Imidacloprid,” a widely used and powerful insecticide that can also affect non-targeted beneficial insects.) We carry the 15-0-3 as well as a granular insecticide without a fertilizer “built in” called Dylox 6.2.
- BONUS: CLICK HERE to read our previous blog post on the topic of Grubs … especially if you think you might have a true “grub problem”, including the times of the year that are most effective for treating the affected area.
The primary diet of moles is earthworms, not grubs! Old fashioned traps and gell baits that mimic worms are the only things that work. Tomcat mole killer is a brand that Purdue Extension recommends.
Thatch is the dark cocoa brown material that is below the green and above the soil. It is created by the death of old plant parts that are below the mowing height. Clippings do not produce thatch!
How much thatch is ok? Up to ½ inch of thatch is ideal and greater amounts are bad. Increasing levels of thatch are caused by over applications of fertilizer and water.Multiple passes (8 or more) with a core aerifier in September for a 2 or more years along with management changes can reduce thatch.
8. Dog spots
Pick up the feces and for urine, dump some water on the spot if you observe the act. Re-seed or sod as there is no resistant grass for this area. Despite what you may have heard, we, along with Dr. Steve Thompson, DVM, Director of Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital Wellness Clinic, do not recommend changing your dog’s diet without consulting your own vet first. It is either dogs or turf!
- BONUS: Read Dr. Thompson’s article, “Dog-Gone-It Lawn Problems!” by CLICKING HERE
9. Weed control
The best way to prevent weeds is to have thick turf that is mowed high and not over-watered. Grass will out-compete most weeds. By the way … moss is not an invading weed. Moss likes shade and tends to occur where turf is then (and thin turf usually ALSO accompanies shade conditions). You can’t fight Mother Nature, so the reality is that you will usually need to just live with the moss, or even give up on grass and install ornamental beds with shade loving plants. Another option is to cut down the trees to allow the grass to thrive, and you can read our website link on “Grass in Shade” to learn more.
The best crabgrass preventer is to mow high and manage the turf so it is thick. TV adds scare people into applying outrageous amounts of herbicides that may not not needed! If you continually have a crabgrass problem, make a first application of a preventative herbicide in mid-April/early May, and a second application in late June. Red Hen’s 15-0-3 + Cavalcade is a good crabgrass preventer choice.
Lawns that are mowed, watered, and fertilized properly have the fewest diseases. Disease outbreaks are the result of a combination of factors occurring at the same time. These factors include the presence of the pathogen, the status and vulnerability of the turf, and certain prevailing environmental conditions. A prolonged period of hot, humid weather can cause occasional non-fatal outbreaks. The genetics of your grass play an important role in disease control. For example, newer varieties of Kentucky bluegrass (such as the ones that Red Hen Turf Farm uses in our 100% Kentucky bluegrass sod) have greater overall resistance compared to fescues, ryegrasses and old bluegrass varieties.
To effectively control a lawn disease, first you need to accurately diagnose the problem – BUT lawn diseases are hard to identify because the pathogens are typically microscopic. Diagnosing lawn diseases is both an ART and a SCIENCE that requires a systematic approach. What we are able to observe is usually the RESULT of an infection, and not the pathogens themselves. In other words, if you are seeing patches of discoloration in your lawn, you could be seeing the RESULT of a lawn disease caused by a microscopic pathogen. Another challenge to diagnosing the problem is TIME – if you can recognize the initial stages of the outbreak, this will greatly increase the likelihood that you can treat it and your lawn will recover.
If you decide to start applying chemicals to your lawn without first confirming what the disease is, this can be expensive decision and can actually cause more problems. If you think you are seeing signs of disease in your lawn, we would recommend limiting yourself to scientific research-based resources. Specifically, for this part of mid-west Indiana, we endorse the following:
- Purdue Extension’s Turf Pathology webpage at this LINK: https://ag.purdue.edu/btny/Extension/pages/turfpathology.aspx
- Michigan State University Extension’s Turf Diseases website at this LINK: http://www.msuturfdiseases.net/
- Michigan State University Extension’s Turf Disease I.D. Tool website at this LINK: http://www.msuturfdiseases.net/id-tool/
12. Finding Reliable Answers
As we have already touched on, we feel that Googling random website or following word-of-mouth advice are not reliable ways of getting lawn care information. Everyday, we talk to customers that have been following certain lawn practices their entire lives … and so often it turns out they were mis-informed.
There are so many “urban myths” out there, especially when it comes to the 11 topics discussed above. If you’re ready to make sure that the information you know is based on science and research, you’d be best off limiting your resources to:
- Purdue Extension / Department of Agronomy (up-to-date, research-based information, specific to our geographical location) – Online at www.agry.purdue.edu/turf
- Michigan State University Extension (up-to-date, research-based information, specific to our geographical location) – Online at www.msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/home_lawns
- Red Hen Turf Farm’s website (our info is derived from Purdue / MSU Extension and other reliable sources, including decades of experience) – Online at www.redhenturf.com
- Red Hen Turf Farm’s Customer Service Crew, especially Turf Operations Manager, Jeremy Cooper … our contact info is below!
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Red Hen Turf Farm – The Best Turf on Earth! We grow & sell KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS SOD HARVESTED FARM-FRESH ON DEMAND in Northern Indiana, along with GRASS SEED, FERTILIZER, WEED CONTROL PRODUCTS & MORE to homeowners, landscapers, contractors, garden centers alike
Originally posted 6/6/14 and Updated 5/12/17