If you live in an apartment, you probably haven’t thought much about your lawn. However, once you become a new homeowner, your front yard may become more important to you. If you want your lawn to be picturesque, you’ll need to do some research on how to maintain it properly.
Grass develops flowers once the plant has several leaf blades. The flowers then cluster together, known as an inflorescence, and create grass seeds.
Table of Contents
- What Is Grass Seed and Where Does It Come From?
- Types of Grass
- How to Maintain Your Grass
- Related Questions
What Is Grass Seed and Where Does It Come From?
Understanding how your grass grows will help you maintain a healthy lawn. If you want to produce your own grass seed, this is essential.
Clusters of flowers known as inflorescence produce grass seeds. Once the grass has a sufficient number of blades, the flowers will begin to develop. Once the grass has reached the necessary size, the stem elongates and produces an inflorescence.
Grass flowers contain male and female reproductive organs together or in separate flowers. The flowers will develop seeds after fertilization with pollen from a genetically compatible grass flower.
For most grass species, seeds develop after the ovaries of the flower are fertilized with pollen. Pollen is transferred from male to female flowers by insects or the wind.
Some species of grass produce seed through the process, apomixis. During apomixis, seed production occurs when the release of pollen stimulates the ovary, but it isn’t fertilized. This results in a seed that produces a clone of the parent plant.
Rhizomes are underground stems that grow outward from the base of the plant. Grass can spread through rhizomes below the soil. New shoots of grass known as tillers grow upward from the rhizomes of the plant.
Each tiller that grows out from the grass will produce seed from its own inflorescence. Grass that grows in dry conditions is less likely to spread from rhizomes because of its lack of resources. You can limit the spread of rhizome-producing grass by regulating mowing.
Some grass species reproduce from lateral stems that grow above the soil, known as stolons. Several species of grass can spread through stolons and rhizomes. Grass species that produce stolons contribute to thatching in your lawn.
When grass species spread through rhizomes or stolons, they create a dense lawn. This is preferred if you want a healthy-looking lawn without planting more grass seed. Allowing your grass to grow taller and watering it regularly will encourage the grass to spread quicker.
Types of Grass
There are two main types of grass, warm-season grass, and cool-season grass. You should choose the grass seed that best matches your climate and your yard’s sun exposure. Your grass should also be able to stand up to the amount of foot traffic your lawn receives.
Warm-season grass is from the South and grows best in hot weather. It typically goes dormant and turns brown during the winter, so you should plant it in late spring. You may need to plant your grass 90 days before the last frost so that it survives the winter.
Cool-season grass is from the North, so it has rapid growth in the spring and fall. Cool-season grass turns brown in the summer during periods of high heat. The best time to plant this grass is in the late summer or early fall.
Bahia grass is a warm-season grass found in lawns from Florida to the Texas Gulf Coast. It’s a moderately aggressive grass and is best in yards where resilient turf grass is needed.
Bahiagrass has a high resistance to drought and a low need for water. Additionally, it has a coarse texture so that it can withstand high-traffic areas. This grass prefers full sun exposure to partial shade.
Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass that flourishes in full sunlight in warmer regions of the Southeast. This grass fills in quickly, so its aggressive growth helps resist weeds.
Bermuda grass has a high resistance to drought and a medium need for water. It has a fine to medium texture so that it can handle low to medium traffic areas.
Buffalo grass is a low-maintenance turf grass found in the Great Plains from Montana to Mexico. It has a high drought resistance, low need for water, and prefers full sun exposure. Buffalo grass has a fine texture but can handle high traffic areas.
Centipede grass is popular throughout the South because it is slow-growing and is low-maintenance. It grows well even in poor soil. Centipede grass has medium resistance to drought and a medium need for water.
Centipede grass has a coarse texture, grows best in low-traffic areas, and prefers full sun to partial shade.
Creeping Bentgrass is a soft, dense grass. It is commonly found on golf courses and putting greens. It requires a significant amount of maintenance.
Creeping Bentgrass has a low resistance to drought and a high need for water. It has a fine, carpet-like texture and can handle high-traffic levels like those on a golf course. This grass prefers full sun exposure to partial shade.
Fescue grass has many varieties that thrive in mild winters and warm summers. It has a high resistance to drought and a low need for water. This grass is coarse and grows best on medium traffic areas.
Fescue grass prefers full sun exposure to partial shade.
Kentucky bluegrass is lush, dense, and durable. This grass self-spreads and can withstand the cold. This grass is also resistant to disease.
Kentucky bluegrass has a medium drought resistance and a medium to high need for water. It has a fine to medium texture so that it can handle medium to high traffic levels. Kentucky bluegrass prefers full sun exposure to partial shade.
Perennial ryegrass is intolerant of extreme heat or extreme cold, so it’s commonly used for overseeding a warm-season lawn. Ryegrass has a low resistance to drought and a high need for water. It has a medium to coarse texture and grows best in medium to high traffic areas.
Ryegrass prefers full sun exposure to partial shade.
St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass grows quickly and can tolerate the heat and humidity of the South. It’s great for coastal lawns because it isn’t affected by salt.
St. Augustine grass has a low to medium resistance to drought and medium to high need for water. The grass has a coarse texture and can handle medium levels of traffic. It prefers full sun exposure to partial shade.
Zoysia grass spreads by stolons and rhizomes that create a dense lawn that can handle heavy foot traffic. This warm region grass has a medium to high resistance to drought and a medium need for water.
Zoysia grass has a fine to medium texture and prefers full sun exposure to partial shade.
How to Maintain Your Grass
If you want to maintain your grass properly, you will need to consider the eight major lawn maintenance components.
Watering the Grass
When it comes to maintenance, watering your grass is a given. The general rule of thumb is to water the grass heavily when it really needs it. Rather than watering lightly more frequently, watering heavily allows water to soak into the ground six to eight inches deep.
Watering recommendations vary based on the grass and soil type. Typically you should water until there is about an inch of water over the ground surface.
If you notice the grass is starting to dry out, water it immediately. If your grass doesn’t spring back after stepping on it, it needs water. The best time to water is early in the morning as it evaporates easier and will cool the lawn down.
Mowing the Grass
Mowing the grass reduces the work that the grass plant’s root system has to do. The more grass above the ground, the more water and nutrients it needs underground. It is easier for the roots to provide for the plant if the culm of grass is smaller.
Mowing the grass also encourages it to expand. When mowed, the plant has to grow new leaves to absorb sunlight. This helps to build a thicker lawn that is more resistant to weeds and disease.
Fertilizing the Grass
Fertilizing adds nutrients to the soil that in turn provides nutrients to the grass. If you mow your grass regularly, it will grow quickly and need more nutrients than an average plant. Soil provides the key nutrients, but it may need some help to feed your grass.
To fertilize your lawn, slowly spread slow-acting commercial fertilizer once or twice a year. Granular fertilizer releases nutrients gradually over several months, strengthening the plant’s root structure. This makes the grass more resilient to drought and weeds.
Weeding the lawn is an ongoing process, but it shouldn’t take as long once you’ve established a healthy lawn. The grass will usually crowd out most weeds themselves. If you notice more weeds popping up, it could be a sign that your grass is weaker than it should be.
If your grass is weak, your soil may be deficient, water-logged, or you’re cutting the grass too short. Weeds can always pop up on a healthy lawn, but it isn’t much to worry about; simply pull them. If you have a larger problem, spray the individual weeds with a low-toxicity weed killer, but not the whole lawn.
Pest control is like weed control in that you don’t have to worry about bugs if your lawn is healthy. Bugs typically make their home in your lawn, but they don’t damage the grass. If you find that some bugs are destroying your grass, you can treat the infestation by spraying insecticide.
Only use insecticides that are harmful to specific insects. Ants and spiders prey on lawn pests, so you will want to keep them alive.
Lawns become diseased when fungi begin feeding on the grass plants. Healthy grass can stand up to fungus, but it can sometimes develop disease. Fight fungi with a fungicide.
Aerating the Grass
When soil gets compacted from frequent foot traffic or mowing, oxygen can’t reach the microbes that break down organic matter. To keep the lawn healthy, you should aerate it periodically by opening up the compacted soil.
There are manual and power core-aerators available to remove narrow sections of soil and form shallow holes. Air, water, and organic material spread into the ground through the holes and revitalize the soil. It’s best to aerate every spring or fall if your lawn has heavy traffic.
Dethatching the Grass
Thatch consists of culms (grass stems) and crowns (the plant’s base) that have died naturally. The material then collects around the bottom of the grass plant.
A small amount of thatch helps conserve water in the soil by blocking evaporation. However, if heavy thatch builds up, air and water won’t be able to reach the soil. If you notice there’s too much thatch on your lawn, rake it up or use a power dethatcher.
When is the best time to mow the grass?
It is best to mow the grass during the growing season. Typically, you should never cut more than a third of the grass plant at once. If you do, the plant can lose its photosynthesizing ability too quickly. Cool-season grasses should be kept three inches high or taller. You should keep warm-season grasses at two to two and a half inches high.
You may want to vary mowing height depending upon the time of year it is. During the fall, winter, and spring, you can mow closer because temperatures are cool and water is more abundant. In the summer, try to let the grass grow longer so that the shade will help cool the soil.
Most lawn care experts recommend varying the way you mow by changing up the pattern. Try to push the mower north and south one week and east and west the following week. Sharpen your blades a couple of times a year to make sure you have a clean cut.
What is the most common lawn disease?
Brown Patch disease is the most common lawn disease caused by Rhizoctonia solani fungus. Turfgrasses are most susceptible such as perennial ryegrass, fescue, and bentgrasses. Kentucky bluegrass can also be vulnerable to Brown Patch disease during the mid to late summer.
You can identify Brown Patch disease from spotting on your leaf blades which eventually bleed together and turn the blade brown. Another sign of the disease is circular areas or brown, dead grass surrounded by a narrow and dark ring. The patches are typically irregular and large.