Most people like to see a healthy-looking, lush green lawn when they view their home from the street. The question is: How realistic is it to expect a lawn to maintain that ideal look as seasonal temperatures and moisture levels fluctuate from spring to mid-summer to early autumn?
Certainly, you can force it to conform to an ideal always green monoculture, or you can take a more practical approach to lawn care and avoid wasting resources or engaging in environmentally harmful practices.
For those who prefer a kinder, gentler approach to support healthy turf, you will find that high-end lawn care services are worth the investment. The better companies will typically practice a science-based approach which is proactive and conservative. It minimizes the need for chemical treatments, excess water usage, and other interventions by setting realistic expectations that are in harmony with the natural seasonal cycles.
Five ways a science-based landscape company supports a healthy lawn responsibly
1 Climate Zone & Site Conditions
There are several hundred different varieties of fescue (a cool-season grass) that do well in the Northern Virginia climate. Some are deep green, some are more drought-resistant than others, and some are ideal for heavy use areas. The turf industry is constantly innovating, offering new varieties and mixes to improve disease resistance and hardiness for different climate zones and site conditions.
Choosing the appropriate turfgrass for your site is critical to the development of a resilient lawn that requires few if any chemical treatments. It’s also essential to choose the right type of grass for its intended use on your property. If, for example, you regularly use a portion of your lawn for sports, games, or other activities, you’ll want to use a hardy and sturdy turf that can handle the intensity.
Your landscape company will make sure to use a premium seed mixture because the mix of a dozen or so grass varieties is what makes your lawn more versatile and able to adapt to changing conditions. Also, when your landscape company puts down new seed in the fall each year, they should be adding new grass varieties based on their observation of how the lawn has performed that year.
2 Mowing: Precision Technique & Consistency
A science-based landscape company will ensure that your lawn isn’t brutalized when being mowed, but is instead well taken care of for an aesthetically pleasing result. That means:
- Sharp Mower Blades: Dull blades rip the grass and cause bruising, which can turn the clipped edges of the grass brown.
- Cutting at the Right Height: The crown of your grass is close to the soil. If it’s cut too short, moisture will evaporate too quickly, the lawn will brown if temperatures rise, and weeds will invade.
3 Periodic Soil Analysis
What you see on the surface of your lawn isn’t all there is. The composition of your soil is critical to a healthy lawn. Periodic soil analysis can help you determine what amendments are required to stimulate root growth. Adjusting to get the correct pH balance ensures that your roots absorb nutrients for a beautiful green and growing lawn. Soil testing can also reveal if you have the right amount of organic matter. You want a rich loamy soil that retains moisture and resists compaction.
4 Irrigation: Not Too Much – Just Enough
Watering too frequently is the biggest source of problems with lawns. If the roots don’t have time to dry out in between waterings, they can develop fungus. If the soil around the roots is constantly moist, the roots don’t have the incentive to dig down deep to find moisture. A shallow root system caused by too much water develops a lawn that is weak and overly dependent on irrigation.
Your lawn care company needs to be on it, monitoring seasonal changes and regularly adjusting the irrigation system for your lawn to deliver the right amount of moisture and at the right times. A practical approach to irrigation reduces water waste while improving lawn health:
Schedule irrigation less frequently but for a longer duration. By using more water less often, moisture penetrates deeper into the soil and stimulates root development.
Allow the surface soil to dry out between waterings because the lawn won’t develop any degree of drought resistance if it becomes overly dependent on irrigation.
Avoid night watering because it increases the risk of fungus growth especially during the hot, humid nights of mid-summer.
5 Accept That Grass Can’t Grow Everywhere
Grasses are one of the most abundant and hardy plant species on the planet. Different varieties are adapted to nearly every sort of ecosystem: hot, frigid, wet, dry, at high altitudes, and below sea level. Ideally, grass would grow and thrive wherever you want. But that’s not the case. There are some environments where grass struggles to grow, no matter which variety you use. A science-based approach to lawn care will acknowledge these limitations and work with them.
Let’s say there’s a portion of your yard that is always in the shade. Since almost all lawn grass varieties need at least three hours of direct sun per day, you’ll need other options. Some lawngrasses don’t do well in low wet spots, or if it can handle the wet, it requires full sun.
In these situations planting sedges, shade-loving perennials, or creeping ground covers make attractive low maintenance lawn grass alternatives.
The responsible way to achieve a lush healthy-looking lawn is to seek out a landscape maintenance company that has the necessary depth and breadth of knowledge required to provide you a full range of practical lawn care options. Although you may have to invest a bit more, the results will be worth it if you work with a company that is up to date on industry best practices and fully understands the science that underlies lawn grass varieties, soil composition, irrigation, mowing techniques, and climate influences on the appearance and long-term health of your lawn.
If you’ve been thinking about investing in a landscape design project, our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.