Turf pathologist gives two easy tips for lawn care

One of the most common problems homeowners have with their lawns is that they do not know what kind of grass is in it.

“If it’s still light tan now, more than likely it’s zoysiagrass. If it’s green, it’s probably tall fescue with some Kentucky bluegrass,” said University of Missouri Extension turf pathologist Lee Miller.

Even if you do not know the exact species, do not dismay. There are two easy, inexpensive ways to improve lawns even when the grass content is unknown, Miller said.

First, mow correctly. Sharpen or change your blade now. In most cases, raise the mower height to as high as it will go, especially for yards with tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass.

“At taller heights, mowing as often as once a week may be necessary to keep up with growth in the flurry of spring,” Miller said.

Most homeowners mow their grass too short. Higher mower height allows better root growth and gives your grass a competitive edge. Most importantly, taller grass reduces the amount of sunlight that hits the ground. This thwarts weed growth.

“Mow high to make your turfgrass the trees of your lawn,” he said.

Second, irrigate judiciously. In this case, less is often more. Many homeowners who irrigate their lawns do so improperly.

“Irrigation timers are not ‘set it and forget it’ devices,” Miller said. “You’re not cooking turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Sprinklers should be adjusted according to precipitation events.”

A survey by Kansas State University showed that less than 83 percent of homeowners adjust their sprinkler time.

“In reality, deep and infrequent irrigation makes for deeper root systems. More importantly, turf diseases love overly irrigated lawns,” he said.

Miller suggests that homeowners water their lawns early in the morning, from 4 to 8 a.m.

“Watering at dusk lowers the disco ball,” he said. “Evening irrigation creates a wet leaf, and dew perpetuates it, keeping leaves wet for 12-13 hours or more.”

This gives disease all night to create havoc.

“Start off this spring by remembering to mow high and keep the water low,” he said.

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