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Tips for Growing Green Lawns

Is the Grass Always Greener on the Other Side?

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Whenever you looked at your neighbor's yard last summer, perhaps you couldn't help but think, "The grass is always greener on the other side." Well, don't despair. I have some tips for growing green lawns, including the proper use of lawn fertilizers, that will make it easy for you to gain some respect for your own grass.

Of course, assuming that it is only green grass -- and grass of good pedigree -- that you wish to see carpeting your yard in emerald splendor, weed control is necessarily a part of any collection of tips for growing green lawns. Most homeowners intent on having green lawns will tolerate nary a dandelion weed nor tuft of crabgrass, regardless of its greenery. Fortunately, applying lawn fertilizers and practicing weed control can be integrated into the same chore – if you play your cards right.

So why do some yards exhibit beautiful green lawns, while in others the greenery always seems to be losing out to encroaching brown spots – rather like a human head of hair succumbing to graying? In a nutshell, all else being the same, the secret of having a green lawn lies in providing sufficient nutrients, practicing effective lawn weed control and following the proper mowing regimen. Of course, the devil is in the details, into which we’ll delve on Page 3. But let me begin by elaborating on that ominous-sounding little clause, “all else being the same.” For it’s important to start out with an even playing field.

First of all, disabuse yourself of any notion you may have that grass is simply grass, and that’s all there is to it. In fact, there’s a lot more to it than that. People grow many different types of grasses in their lawns, and these grasses have different growing requirements. Many factors go into the selection of a type of grass for a particular lawn.

One of the overriding factors is your local climate. The so-called "warm-season" grasses are ideal for the southernmost states in the U.S., whereas "cool-season" grasses predominate in the North and in Canada. In between, for the Eastern U.S., lies the so-called "transition zone," comprised of zones 6-7. This is a problematic area for growing grass: too hot for some grasses, too cold for others.

Common cool-season grasses include:

  • Bentgrasses
  • Bluegrasses
  • Fescues
  • Ryegrasses

Among the common warm-season grasses are:

  • Bermudagrass
  • Buffalograss
  • Zoysiagrass
  • Centipedegrass
  • Bahiagrass
  • St. Augustinegrass

Note, too, that lawns are not always composed of just one type of grass, but rather of a mixture, to take advantage of the strengths of each type.

The following are examples of other factors that go into your selection of grass type, in addition to local climate (these examples pertain to lawns in the Northern zone and in the transition zone):

  • Shady areas are notorious obstacles to having green lawns. Among cool-season grasses, fine fescues are the most tolerant of shade.

  • Lawn areas with heavy foot traffic require a tough grass. A mix of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye will fill the bill here.

  • Some regions are more prone to drought than others. The new, improved strains of tall fescue are not only drought-tolerant, but they also blend in with Kentucky bluegrass better than do older strains.

But in addition to grass-type selection, there are other factors to consider to ensure that you start with a level playing field as you strive to unseat your neighbor for "green lawn" bragging rights. These factors will be explored on Page 2....

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