Tech Lawn and Garden: Basic Lawn Care Tips
Georgia Tech's main campus, with 400 acres and more than 15,000 trees, has a team of landscape professionals maintaining its beauty year-round. Tech Lawn and Garden taps into the knowledge of lawn and garden experts in Landscape Services, showing how they do what they do and sharing tips you can use at home.
Basic Lawn Care Tips
By Ricky Walton, interim turf manager, Landscape Services in Infrastructure and Sustainability
Maintaining a healthy lawn requires a fair amount of work. But consistently following a few guidelines — for watering, fertilizing, aerating, and mowing — can make the work easier while producing great results.
Start by knowing what type of grass you have and treating it accordingly. Bermuda, zoysia, and fescue are the three main types of grasses found on Georgia Tech’s campus and in most residential areas in the South.
Bermuda and zoysia are sun-loving or warm-season grasses, requiring six to eight hours of sunlight daily to thrive. Fescue, a cool-season grass, is a better option for yards with lots of shade. Fescue only needs four to six hours of sunlight.
Water, of course, is needed for a healthy lawn. The best time to water your grass is morning, ideally between 6 and 9 a.m. before the temperature starts rising. This helps the water to soak into the ground and reach the roots of the grass instead of evaporating. Grass needs at least one inch of water per week when it is growing.
When fertilizing warm-season grasses like Bermuda and zoysia, wait until the soil temperature is at least 60 to 65 degrees and the grass is at least 50% green. You can begin fertilizing in May and repeat it monthly through August. Don’t fertilize the grass in September because it slowly starts going dormant in the fall, and you should just let it “sleep.”
Georgia soil is compacted. Aerating the soil helps to break up the soil, which helps air, water, and fertilizer to reach the root zone, ensuring that the ground is breathable. You can use a manual lawn aerator to service a small area, or use an aerating machine for a large lawn.
When mowing, make sure the blade is sharp because a dull blade tears the grass, leaving a jagged tip which can create an entry point for disease. It’s also important to alternate the mowing pattern or direction every time you mow. Changing the direction helps to prevent ruts from forming in your lawn. Begin by mowing around the perimeter of the area, overlapping the wheels as you go. The next time you mow, choose a different direction. It’s much healthier for your grass and it will help the grass stand up straight and healthy.
Warm-season grasses should be mowed to a height between 1 and 2.5 inches, while cool-season grasses should be 3 to 4 inches in height. It’s important to mow frequently enough that you never cut more than one-third of an inch from the grass blade. Removing more than that stresses the grass, making it susceptible to insects and disease.
It's a good idea to periodically test the soil, via the University of Georgia Extension Service, to see if any nutrients are needed.
To get your soil tested in Georgia, contact your local county extension office to acquire soil bags and get information on submitting samples.
Video: Steven Gagliano
Editing: Stacy Braukman