Caring for your lawn can be a lot of work, and a properly maintained lawn is not only beautiful but functional. It will filter runoff, reduce erosion, and can reduce heat and glare. A healthy lawn is functional and if you follow the best management practices recommended by UF/IFAS. Proper mowing, irrigation application, and fertilizer and pesticide use will help you maintain a lawn that is healthy and looks great.
Why is proper mowing important?
Mowing is something many people don’t think twice about, but it is so important. Mow dry grass with sharp blades at the highest setting recommended for your type of grass. St. Augustinegrass can be mowed at 3 ½-4 inches (with dwarf types at 2-2 ½ inches), Zoysiagrass is mowed at 2 inches, and bahiagrass at 3-4 inches. These are the most common types of grass found in central Florida lawns.
Mowing high is directly related to deep roots, which are important for encouraging drought-tolerance.
Proper watering is key!
Proper watering is important to maintaining a healthy lawn. This means applying the correct amount of water each time you turn your sprinklers on—only ½ inch of water should be applied. Calibrating, or measuring, the water that comes out of your sprinkler will help you determine how long to run your sprinklers to get to ½ inch. Learn how to measure your sprinkler system water here: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/irrigation/calibrating-your-irrigation-system.html. Additionally, make sure you change your timeclock seasonally. You do not need to water routinely when the lawn is dormant in the winter nor do you need to when the summer rains start. In fact, too much water is NOT a good thing when it comes to a healthy lawn.
Pest and disease management
Speaking of overwatering, too much water can lead to pests and diseases. Did you know that proper maintenance (mowing, watering, fertilizing) leads to less pest problems? Additionally, make sure the pest is properly identified before any treatment action is taken. Brown spots in lawns can end up all looking alike, and proper identification is key to good lawn management.
What about fertilizer?
If fertilizer is needed, apply it mid-April in central Florida, and then again in early October. Remember that fertilizers are used to supply nutrients and encourage growth, so it is entirely possible that you do not need to apply it twice a year. If you do, select a fertilizer that is formulated for lawns, contains no phosphorous, and has nitrogen in a slow-release form. Stay away from weed-and-feed products as they may harm plants. Additionally, fertilizers and herbicides need to be applied at different times of the year to be effective.
Now that summer is approaching, refer to our blog post on summer lawn care here: http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/polkco/2018/07/05/managing-your-lawn-during-the-summer-5-steps-to-a-healthy-lawn/. Remember, a healthy lawn is a happy lawn!
Contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk. The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Give us a call, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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