Cincinnati Rules Croquet

How to Care for Your Course (Lawn Care Guide)
The secret to a beautiful lawn is actually pretty simple: Water, Fertilizer, Seed Selection and Mowing. The background for this page and all other grass photos were taken using Bad Thad's very own lawn!

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Water - Lawn grasses are VERY thirsty by nature. Lawns should be watered a small amount daily. I know this contradicts what most "experts" tell you. They say you should thoroughly soak your lawn to have an effective watering. Well, Bah Humbug, grass only has roots about 1"-3" deep. The most important soil layer is the first 1". Soaking the lawn will saturate the soil for several inches, which can encourage mold and fungus. The lawn should only be thoroughly soaked about once every 2-3 weeks or weekly during drought. In between, daily surface watering is the best way to go.

When: The best time to water is right at sunrise. In areas prone to mold and fungus, early watering reduces the chance your lawn will suffer from these problems. However, I rarely water at this time (I stay up too late working on computer stuff!). Since I practice the surface watering technique, I water in the early evening about 3-4 hours before sunset. As long as you have no mold/fungus problems, this is a great time to water because it allows the lawn to soak up ALL applied water, with only modest evaporation. Early watering is susceptible to huge amounts of evaporation loss thanks to Mr. Sun.

How: Surface watering takes time. The best way is to manually spray the lawn with a hose and nozzle. This also insures complete coverage, whereas, sprinklers do not. Make one pass working on a section of about 20'x 20' in size. Water this area for approximately five minutes then move on. Once the entire lawn has been watered, repeat one more time. Using a hose and nozzle also permits you to concentrate on areas prone to excessive drying.

Fertilizer - Grass is VERY hungry! Use as much fertilizer as possible without burning the grass. The 4-step plans you see in stores are totally inadequate. To have a thick turf, you must fertilize with a solid fertilizer about once a month (less with Ultra Turf Builder). The absolutely best, longest lasting product is "Scott's Ultra Turf Builder". scotts.jpg (114265 bytes)This is a very fine grain material that will provide nutrients for about 6-8 weeks. It is difficult to find because it is mainly used in commercial applications such as golf courses.

All solid fertilizers should be supplemented with a liquid fertilizer during the summer months, when the turf is growing at its strongest. I prefer a hose end sprayer such as the "Miracle Grow - No Clog" filled with "Miracle Grow Lawn Fertilizer". This is a very weak fertilizer that should be lightly applied with a continuous sweeping motion over the entire lawn surface. If using Ultra Turf Builder, apply it after about 4 weeks of the Ultra application and about every 2 weeks thereafter. If using regular, whimpy solid fertilizer, apply liquid fertilizer weekly.

Other Supplements - Lawns lacking in iron can be pale green. Just once a year, add an iron supplement to the turf. I choose a product called "Ironite" and apply it in early May to help deepen color. In areas susceptable to acidity (depends on soil type and rainfall), it may be helpful to add a lime supplement in Fall to help raise soil pH. My soil is mostly clay and limestone with about 2-3" of top soil. I have found treatment with lime unnescessary for my conditions.

Seed Selection - This is the most difficult part of developing a beautiful, durable turf. There are a million varieties of grass and, depending on the climate where you live, some are better than others. I live in the mid-west so my recommendations are based on this climate. It is best to have a mixture of grasses which I define as "fine", "medium" and "course" textures. My lawn is a mixture of, in order of percentage, Kentucky Bluegrass, Creeping Red Fescue, and Kentucky 31. Note the turf density in the following close-up of Bad Thad's lawn (Almost as dense as golf-green bentgrass.):

Approching Bentgrass

Bluegrass is a very soft, fine grass with a beautiful, dark blue-green color. The seeds are very small which make it an excellent choice for over-seeding because the seeds tend to work their way into the turf. It tends to fill in any gaps between other varieties (such as Kentucky 31) because of its "fineness". Regardless of what others say, Bluegrass in NOT drought nor heat resistant. It tends to quickly wither under scorching conditions, requiring constant surface watering.

Creeping Red Fescue is a slightly "courser" grass (than Bluegrass) with a dark, green color. In my experience, it is better than Bluegrass with respect to "scorching" resistance.

Kentucky 31 (a.k.a Fescue 31) is a VERY course grass.

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It has fairly wide blades, is a lighter shade of green and tends to grow in clumps. Some people mistake it for the dreaded "crabgrass".   It does not like to be cut short (2" or less), doing so can cause it to brown. The advantage of K31 is "toughness". It is very resistant to EVERYTHING, drought, heat, cold, crushing, etc. The ideal grass if it weren't so ugly. To make it attractive, I over-seed the clumps, by hand,  with Bluegrass. K31 and Bluegrass co-exist nicely. The gaps and "thinness" of K31 get filled-in with Bluegrass.

Mowing - The "experts" have all kinds of things to say about mowing and, in my opinion, are generally full of B.S. If you want a thin, whimpy turf, follow their advise and mulch. My advise, "Bag Your Grass and Get Rid of It ". Don't mulch your grass, but DO use a mulching mower so anything that escapes the bag is very fine.  Thatch build-up chokes your turf and makes it thin, even if you aerate it. There is a ton of thatch generated by the natural cycle of grass growth. Adding to the natural thatch cuts off air to the roots and surface light, stunting new growth (tillers).

For Yard Golf, the turf height should be a maximum of 3" with the optimum around 1"-2".

The best "experts" rule-of-thumb I've seen anywhere is to cut no more than 1/3 the height of the grass off.  Cutting low for Yard Golf in the summer causes rapid loss of moisture. It is very important to surface water daily if you cut this low. If you are not playing Yard Golf, you should cut to a height of 4"- 5" during the summer to help maximize water retention and 3"- 4" during Spring and Fall to promote root growth.

Keep your mulching blade sharp! A dull blade "rips" the grass which increases moisture loss and causes the "cut" area to brown within a day or two...ugly!

Bad Thad's Schedule for Awesome Turf

This is a very, tough schedule...I warn you. But if you want a high turf density and beautiful appearance, it works wonders.

Just look at the background to this page. (355k version)

Month

What to Do

January Relax. All growth over the winter is concentrated in the roots.
February Apply solid fertilizer, use a little lower setting on the spreader than recommended.
March Early, apply solid fertilizer with pre-emergent herbicide at recommended level . "Scott's plus Haltz" works great. Note: Do not over-seed in spring if using a pre-emergent herbicide. The grass seeds won't germinate until about 3 months after application!
April Apply solid fertilizer a bit lower than recommended and an iron supplement (Ironite).
May Apply solid fertilizer with "weed control" at recommended level -or- a solid plus a liquid type hose end "weed killer". Apply in the morning on a sunny day so the killer is properly absorbed. Repeat weed treatment 1 week after initial treatment. Begin weekly supplements with "hose-end" type liquid fertilizer through August.
June Apply solid fertilizer at low level. If needed, apply weed killer.
July Apply solid fertilizer with "weed control" at a low level -or- solid plus a liquid type hose end "weed killer".
August Apply solid fertilizer with "weed control" at a low level -or- solid plus a liquid type hose end "weed killer".
September Apply solid fertilizer at a low level.
October Remove leaves and thatch from turf with a heavy metal rake. Don't worry about "damaging" the turf, it will recover. Apply solid fertilizer at a low level. Over-seed with Bluegrass and/or Red Fescue.
November Apply a "winterizer" type fertilizer at the recommended level and a lime supplement to help balance pH and degrade thatch. If thatch is a problem, aerate, but I don't recommend this each year.
December Relax. All growth over the winter is concentrated in the roots.

For ton's of info I intentionally left out, check out these links:

Yardcare.com

Doug's Lawn Care

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