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A healthy, thriving lawn provides many benefits: it helps to keep air temperatures cooler in the summertime; like other plants, grass draws carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and gives off oxygen; and turf is an ideal outdoor carpet for recreation and entertaining.
Growing a natural, low-maintenance lawn - one that you can feel good about and that won't take over your life - is easier than you may think.
The key to natural lawn care is to choose the right kind of grass and to provide a healthy soil environment.
Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescues are the primary lawn species for use in Central Illinois. Kentucky bluegrass is by far the most popular species used in home lawns in Illinois, due to high quality appearance, hardiness, and recovery ability. Kentucky bluegrass prefers full sun, although a few cultivars have tolerance to light shade. Fine fescues require less maintenance and many adapt to shade. Perennial ryegrass offers quick establishment and good wear tolerance. Perennial ryegrass is not suggested to be used alone as a lawn grass; but as part of a lawn seed mixture.
We at Casey's generally recommend a mix. A blend of the three grasses allows the strength of one to cover the weakness of another. Fine fescue germinates more rapidly than bluegrass so it acts as a nurse grass - shading and protecting the bluegrass seedlings until they get established. Some areas may be shadier, so the bluegrass won't do as well there, but the other two will take over.
Expert advice on all of your lawn questions and problems are answered by our trained staff. Pre-emergent crabgrass control, post-emergent weed control, slow release fertilizers, quick green-up fertilizers, grub and insect control, we have the products and the knowledge to get you the lawn you always wanted!
Keep your mower blade sharp: A dull blade injures your lawn by tearing blades of grass, and it can pull out tender new growth. One very common mistake is mowing lawns too short. For most lawns, a mowing height around 3 inches is best for summer. The first and last mowing of the year should be at a height of about 2 inches; avoid scalping in spring and allowing the grass to remain excessively high at the end of fall.
An important decision to make before summer is to either water lawns consistently as needed throughout the season, or let lawns go dormant as conditions turn warm and dry. Do not rotate back and forth. In other words, don't let the grass turn totally brown, apply enough water to green it up, and then let the grass go dormant again. Breaking dormancy actually drains large amounts of food reserves from the plant. In general, water deeply or not at all. Shallow watering promotes shallow rooting and weak growth.
If you decide to water a general rule is to apply 1 inch of water per week to your lawn. This should be enough (in this area) to keep your lawn looking good without wasting a lot of water.
Proper maintenance of a lawn will go a long ways towards controlling weeds, insects and disease. The number one way to prevent weeds is to over-seed your lawn every spring. When there is a multitude of grass seedlings, they crowd out weeds. If you choose to use chemical means to get rid of weeds, there are some general guidelines. Avoid windy days, as these materials can damage many landscape and garden plants if they drift, avoid hot days (over 80-85 degrees F), try to maintain adequate soil moisture, but no rain for 24 hours after application. Don't mow for few days before and after application and use caution on newly seeded areas. Weed killers are also available to manage annual weeds. Pre-emergent crabgrass control prevents annual crabgrass from emerging. Timing of application is very important, as the weed killer should be applied before the crabgrass emerges from the soil.
Fusarium roseum is characterized by a "frog-eye" pattern or a ring of diseased grass with seemingly healthy grass in the center. Fusarium spores germinate in warm, humid spring weather. and send out threads which form a "cobwebby" mycelium at the crown of the plant. When temperatures rise to the 70's infected plants begin to rot and die. Fusarium can continue active growth until cool weather and then go dormant. It survives the winter in soil and reappears in the exact spot the following year. Conditions encouraging Fusarium include: excessive thatch, excessive summer fertilazation and improper watering. If these conditions are corrected, disease damage may be decreased.
Fairy rings are arcs or continuous circles formed by bands of turfgrass that are faster growing or darker green than grasses on either side. A characteristic of fairy ring is the presence of toadstools or mushrooms in the infected area.
Fairy ring is caused by fungi which grow in decaying matter below the surface of the soil. The dense mass of white mycelium formed by the fungi traps the movement of air and gasses and prevents the penetration of water. Nitrogen becomes available to the infected area in excessive amounts. Eventually the combination of excessive nitrogen and toxins produced by the fungus cause the infected area to die. Although there is no ‘magical cure’ for fairy ring, its damage can be minimized by watering the infected area with Safer's Soap. The soap helps water penetrate into the ring.
Bluegrasses, ryegrasses and certain bermuda grasses are especially susceptible to rust. In the early stages of development, lesions are viewed as yellow orange flecks on the surface of the blades. If the infestation is severe the leaves turn yellow, progressing from the tip to the sheath.
In the overall view, turf takes on a rusty appearance. When walking through turf with rust, orange-red dust comes off on shoes.
Rust is most common in July and August. The best control is a good preventive fungicide program coupled with proper fertilization.
Turf that enters the winter with rust may be very susceptible to winter-kill.
White grubs are one phase in the life cycle of various beetles. The grub does damage by chewing and feeding on grass roots. This allows turf to be rolled back like a carpet, and damaging grubs are easily exposed. White grubs destroy turf from late spring through early fall.
Bird scavenging, raccoon and skunk digging, and mole burrowing are often signs that your lawn may contain a high white grub population. These critters can often cause more damage than the grubs!
Sod webworms are the larvae stage of the lawn moth's life cycle. Sod webworms damage the turf by chewing the blades. Foliage may be almost completely striped off in patches and these areas have a yellowish-brown appearance similar to drought damage. All grasses are vulnerable to attack but blue and bent grasses are susceptible to the greatest injury.