As discussed last week, having a healthy lawn may provide both economic and environmental benefits. From potentially reducing utility costs and increasing property value, to minimizing injury risk and various forms of pollution, the benefits are hard to ignore. It is important to keep in mind however that such results are from healthy lawns; lawns, which have been maintained properly, and regularly over time.
Contrary to popular thought, a well-managed lawn does not involve excessive amounts of chemical applications. By combining cultural, physical and chemical methods of maintaining turf and not relying on one sole method, there can be reduced chemical applications.
This is the premise of “Integrated Pest Management” or IPM. This approach reduces chemical usage by considering all aspects of pest management.
This is very similar to how humans maintain health. Let’s say you have a cold. You might actually have an infection of some sort and need a chemical prescription. But the root problem lies in your weakened immune system, which would have resisted the infection in the first place. Life stress, poor nutrition and environmental factors all played a role in weakening your body’s ability to ward disease.
Apply that concept to lawn care.
The grass is thinning, weeds are everywhere and brown patch disease is spreading like crazy. Sure, applying a herbicide may kill the weeds temporarily. But if the lawn lacks nutrients, is not mown regularly, and is stressed because of excess moisture or drought conditions for example, then it will still be unable to fill in the bare areas and prevent new weeds from growing.
Just as with humans, pests and diseases of turf are best avoided by taking a preventative approach to address root issues, not just temporary symptoms. With this integrated method, chemicals are minimally utilized and often as a last resort.
Fertilizer is perhaps the most important chemical application for lawns. In addition to other cultural controls, there are several things you can do to adequately feed your lawn with minimal amounts of product.
To start, have your soil tested to determine pH. The pH of one’s soil greatly determines the availability of nutrients for plant growth. There are many occasions when essential nutrients are already present in the soil, but simply bound up in compounds that plants cannot utilize.
Altering the pH to the recommended level will loosen those nutrients to useable forms and result in a more appropriate and cost-effective fertilizer selection. Soil testing is offered through the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. In Franklin County, this service costs about $3 per sample.
After testing your soil, combine cultural practices such as proper mowing, fertilization, and adequate irrigation. Lawns should receive one inch of water once a week by natural or additional irrigation. These three practices together, if performed appropriately, will result in a thicker turf stand, which is the best defense against weeds.
Consider using the UK Turf Care Calendar for guidelines on the best level of maintenance for your lawn. This can be found online at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr55/agr55.pdf.
If you have any questions or comments, please share them with me at email@example.com or call the Franklin County Extension Service at 502-695-9035.