At roughly 63,000 square miles of real estate nationwide, lawns are America's largest irrigated crop, outstripping irrigated corn by more than 3-to-1. Lush, weed-free lawns are the ideal, and the object of much toil, frustration and fertilization.
But achieving that verdant nirvana needn't involve hours of work. A few simple steps can get you the field of green you want without all the hassle and elbow grease.
Following are some lawn-care dos and don'ts from the experts at our 175,000-square-foot Florida test site:
¢ Fertilize at the right time of year. Poor timing with fertilizer can make any lawn more susceptible to disease instead of feeding and fortifying it.
¢ Cut the right amount. It's often tempting to slice off too much lawn, especially if you just returned from vacation and missed a week of mowing. But doing so weakens your lawn by removing too much of the lawn's leaf surface, which feeds it. We recommend you remove no more than one-third of the grass blade's height at once.
¢ Don't bag what you mow. Putting clippings into a bag wastes a valuable resource. While green clippings are mostly water, they also contain lawn-feeding nitrogen. Letting clippings lie where they fall can reduce your lawn's fertilizer needs by roughly 33 percent as they decompose and release their nutrients back to the grass roots where they can be absorbed.
¢ Watch the water. Most lawn grasses require roughly 1 inch of water per week through the growing season, including rainfall. Be sure to irrigate if you see signs of drought. Too little water encourages crabgrass and other weeds that favor dry soil. Too much water, meanwhile, invites mold and other diseases that thrive in moisture.
¢ Don't mow wet grass. And once you're done watering - or once the rain subsides - wait awhile before cutting. Mowing wet grass compromises even the best mulching or side-discharging mower by leaving unsightly clumps and by sticking to the mower blades and deck.
¢ Water early in the day. You should always water your lawn in the morning, when there's less wind to blow the water around, less sunlight to evaporate it and more time for the lawn to dry before nightfall. And don't worry: You won't burn the grass.