Home Lawn Care: Questions & Answers

By: Gene R. Taylor II Ph.D.
Turfgrass Extension Specialist, Texas A&M University

What are the basics of home lawn care?

  • Mowing, fertilizer, and water!

How often should I mow?

  • At least once a week during growing season.
  • Use the 1/3 rule: never remove anymore than 1/3 of the leaf blade at any single mowing.

How high should I cut the grass?

  • That depends on the grass species!

Species Mowing Height

  • St. Augustinegrass: 2.5" (sun); 3.5" (shade)
  • Bermudagrass: 1-1.5"
  • Zoysiagrass (japonica): 1.5"; (matrella) 0.5-1"
  • Buffalograss 2.5-3"

What should I do if the grass does not get mowed over vacation?

  • Mow the grass as high as possible at first, then begin to gradually lower the mower to the correct height over several mowings.
  • Dont scalp it down in one cutting!

Which fertilizer is best for my lawn?

  • In general, fertilizers are all the same!
  • They allow us to supplement the nutritional needs of the grass to encourage growth and recovery!
  • Fertilizers supply nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and micro nutrients, only the concentration of the nutrients vary.

Fertilizer analysis what do the numbers mean?

  • The analysis (10-10-10) is the percent by weight of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in the bag.
  • Example: A 100 lb bag of 15-5-10 will contain 15 lbs of nitrogen (N), 5 lbs of phosphorous (P), and 10 lbs of potassium (K).

What is the difference between a 15-5-10 fertilizer and a 21-7-14?

  • In a 50 lb bag of __-__-__, you get ___ lbs of
Pounds of
Fertilizer N P K
15-5-10 7.5 2.5 5.0
21-7-14 10.5 3.5 10

How do I select a fertilizer? And how much will I need?

  • Select fertilizer according to the amount of nitrogen you will need to apply to your lawn.
  • We base our recommendations based on the number of pounds of nitrogen applied per 1000 square feet (sq ft) of turf.
  • Typically, we recommend applying no more than one pound of nitrogen per 1000 sq ft at any one time.

How much fertilizer will I need to put on my lawn?

  • Use the following formula:

Rate/Analysis x Area(sq ft)/1000 = Pounds of fertilizer needed

Rate Amount of N per 1000ft2 desired
Analysis Percentage of N in the fertilizer being used.
Area Square footage of the lawn

Example: Your lawn area equals 6000 sq ft, and you have a bag of 28-3-6 fertilizer. Your rate of nitrogen application is 1.0 lb/1000 sq ft

1.0/0.28 x 6000/1000 = 21.4 pounds of 28-3-6 fertilizer

How much fertilizer will my lawn need over the year?

  • That depends on the grass species, and the quality of lawn desired.

Pounds of nitrogen per 1000 sq ft per year

  • St. Augustinegrass: 4 - 6
  • Bermudagrass (common): 4 - 6; (hybrid) 5 - 8
  • Zoysiagrass: 4 - 6
  • Buffalograss: 3 5

How often should I fertilize?

  • Start at spring green up then every 6-8 weeks through September.
  • Hybrid Bermuda grass may require applications every 4-6 weeks.
  • A master gardener once told me she fertilized her lawn on all of the major holidays starting at Easter and ending on Labor Day. That is a great way to remember when to fertilize!

Organic vs. synthetic fertilizer?

  • As long as it meets the nutritional needs of the turf and you apply the fertilizer at the same rate, it should not matter, except when soil temperature is low (less than 55 degrees F).

Why should soil temperature matter?

  • Organic sources of nitrogen typically require microbial activity, moist conditions and warm temperatures to release the nitrogen. If the temps are low, then microbial activity will be reduced so the nitrogen will not be released. With synthetic fertilizers, nitrogen release is not dependent on microbial activity.

How much water does my lawn need?

  • Typically during the summer, 1 inch per week, applied in two applications spaced 3-4 days apart.
  • Spring and fall will require much less depending on rainfall.
  • In the winter, probably not at all.

When should I water?

  • The best time to water is in the early morning (4:00 6:00 am) when water pressure is highest and demand is low.

How do I know how much water my system puts out?

  • Place several small straight sided cans in the lawn and the run the system for 15 minutes. Then measure and record the depth of water in each can and determine the average depth. Multiply the depth by 4. Then you will know the rate of application. You must do this for all zones!

Example: You place 5 cans in the lawn and run a zone for 15 minutes, you get the following depths.

- .25", .3, .20, .25, .25 = 1.25"
- 1.25 / 5 = .25"
- You collected " (.25") in 15 minutes.
- .25" x 4 = 1.0 per hour is your application rate!

  • A simpler option would be to place a can in the lawn and run the system until you catch 1" of water! Then you will know how long it takes to apply 1" of water.

Where I live the soils are mostly clay, if I put out 1 inch of water on the lawn, most of it runs off! What can I do?

  • Set your controller to run multiple short cycles, with at least 1 hour between run times, that will add up to the amount you want to apply. This way you can apply the desired amount of water without losses to run off.

Where I live the soils are shallow, if I put 1 inch of water on the lawn, most of it runs off! What can I do?

  • On shallow soils, you can apply only a limited amount of water before the soil reaches field capacity. After that point water will move either through cracks in the bedrock or laterally off site. You will have to water more frequently with smaller volumes of water.

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