“What are we going to do about the lawn?”

Do you often find yourself asking this same question? A common question when your lawn doesn’t look nearly as beautiful as a PGA golf course. But should it?

Many people find lawns aesthetically pleasing and they also provide a play area for children and pets and other recreational activities. But what many folks don’t realize is that lawns are not naturally occurring. They came into being in the 17th century as a social area for the aristocratic classes to symbolize their wealth and status. It really wasn’t until after World War II, with a boom in suburban housing, that the obsession with lawns for everyone came into being. So they do require a bit more care than a naturalized landscape.

Caring for your lawn should also mean being knowledgeable about how your lawn care and maintenance can impact the environment. Know the difference between good practices that lead to a healthy lawn and avoid over watering, over fertilizing and other common mistakes.

Some quick tips

  • Know your soil. You’ll save time and money with a simple, inexpensive soil test and may avoid using unnecessary fertilizers and amendments. See The Secret is in the Soil.
  • Grow the right grass for your soil, climate and other conditions. Consider the amount of sun or shade your lawn receives as well as average rainfall. Check with your local cooperative extension for the best grass choices for your state. Also see Turfgrass Choices for a good explanation of the most common turfgrasses.
  • Know if your lawn is primarily cool season or warm season turfgrass. Cool season grasses do better in northern climates and warm season grasses do best in southern climates and they have their differences in cultural practices as well, mainly watering needs.
  • Mow grass high (2 ½ to 4 inches) and leave the clippings. See Healthy Virginia Lawns – Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program and Grasscycling: Let the Clippings Fall Where They May.

  • When necessary, water deeply but not frequently. Most grasses can go long periods without water and go dormant to survive a drought. See VCE Summer Lawn Management: Watering the Lawn.
  • Prevent thatch, or a build up of excessive organic debris (clippings). Did you know that over fertilizing can cause thatch problems? Fertilize only when necessary and not on a schedule. There is an overemphasis on spring lawn feeding or fertilizing. Research shows the best time to apply fertilizers is in the fall.
  • Occasionally aerate your lawn to improve your soil and don’t roll your home lawn. Lawn rolling is primarily used for establishing a new lawn or for sports fields and golf courses.

The best tip I have is to have realistic expectations for your home lawn and take a practical, balanced approach to creating a healthy lawn instead of trying to seek perfection.

Now get outside and mow and enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass! It makes me happy!

Tracy Blevins, Plants Map

More Resources for Lawn Care