Lawn Thoughts for the Week

Andrea Burns
Special to the Globe

While the recent rains are a welcomed sight for area farmers, most homeowners are wondering what they will have to do to contain the jungle their yard might become before it dries out.  What do you do when the lawn cannot be cut because of constant rain?  

The best thing to do is to set your mower as high as possible and bring it down in steps. It is always best never to take more than one third of the grass blade off at one time. If more is taken, the plant reacts by using stored energy reserves to quickly send up new growth. This reduces the amount of energy available for the plant to deal with stress or damage done by insects or disease.  

However, sometimes it is just not possible to keep the "one-third rule."

In such cases, cut as high as possible even though it may mean you are cutting off more than one third of the blade. Bring the height down gradually by cutting more often and at progressively lower heights until you reach the target height.  

If you have a warm-season lawn grasses such as Bermuda grass, buffalograss, and zoysiagrass. These species all thrive in warmer summer weather, so this is the time they respond best to fertilization. The most important nutrient is nitrogen (N), and these three species need it in varying amounts. 

Bermuda grass requires the most nitrogen. High-quality bermuda stands need about 4 lbs. nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. during the season (low maintenance areas can get by on 2 lbs.). Apply this as four separate applications, about 4 weeks apart, of 1 lb. N per 1,000 sq. ft. starting in early May.

It is already too late for the May application, but the June application is just around the corner. The nitrogen can come from either a quick- or slow-release source. Therefore, any lawn fertilizer will work. Plan the last application for no later than August 15. This helps ensure the Bermuda grass is not overstimulated, making it susceptible to winterkill. 

Zoysiagrass grows more slowly than Bermuda grass and is prone to develop thatch.  Consequently, it does not need as much nitrogen. In fact, too much is worse than too little. One and one-half to 2 pounds N per 1,000 sq. ft. during the season is sufficient. Split the total in two and apply once in early June and again around mid-July. Slow-release nitrogen is preferable but quick-release is acceptable. Slow-release nitrogen is sometimes listed as "slowly available" or "water insoluble." 

Buffalograss requires the least nitrogen of all lawn species commonly grown in Kansas. It will survive and persist with no supplemental nitrogen, but giving it one lb. N per 1,000 sq. ft. will improve color and density.

This application should be made in early June. For a little darker color, fertilize it as described for zoysiagrass in the previous paragraph, but do not apply more than a total of 2 lb. N per 1,000 sq. ft. in one season.

As with zoysia, slow-release nitrogen is preferable, but fast-release is also OK. As for all turf grasses, phosphorus and potassium are best applied according to soil test results because many soils already have adequate amounts of these nutrients for turfgrass growth. If you need to apply phosphorus or potassium, it is best to core aerate beforehand to ensure the nutrients reach the roots. 

Now that you have your lawn “honey do list” for the rest of the month, take a day or two off.  You deserve it!

For more information on home lawn care, contact the Ford County Extension Office at 620-227-4542.