Turfgrass Maintenance

Mowing Lawn
Mowing Lawn

A lawn that is properly mowed, fertilized, and watered has far fewer problems. A well-kept lawn remains dense, attractive, and adds numerous benefits to your life.

The First Mowing

Wait at least a week to mow your newly installed turfgrass lawn. Mow new turfgrass sod diagonally to avoid seams. Cut the grass about 2-3 inches high to promote a healthy, weed-free, water-conserving lawn. Keep mower blades sharp. A dull mower blade will tear the top of your grass, turning the tips yellow and making it harder to regrow.

The Benefits of Clippings

Instead of bagging lawn clippings, mulch them and leave them on your lawn. Clippings are 90 percent water and 10 percent organic material! This is essentially another form of watering and fertilizing. You won’t have to apply as much water or fertilizer if you leave your clippings behind.

Mowing Direction

Each time you mow your lawn, mow in a different direction than the time before. This allows proper growth by cutting the grass blades at different angles, and promotes a uniform appearance. It also will help prevent soil compaction.

Mowing Height

Is your lawn shorter than your carpet? Mowing your lawn at such a short length may hurt the grass, wastes water, and will produce more green waste. Low mower blades can scalp your turfgrass. This is detrimental to the overall health of your lawn. Mowing more than 1/3 of the height of your lawn at one time can send the turfgrass into shock. In this scenario, your turfgrass will focus its energy on blade regrowth rather than on extending its roots.

By raising your mower height, you are promoting lawn health. This practice reduces evaporation by shading the soil bed and reducing the lawn’s overall water need. It also gives your lawn a softer feel.

During periods of drought, cut lawns to a height of 2-3 inches, and remove no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade height per mowing. This encourages a deeper root system. Lower the mower height the last few times you mow in late Fall to reduce snow mold problems in the Winter.


Reel Mowers

Hand-pushed reel mowers are effective for small lawns. The simplicity that a reel mower provides makes it ideal for small yards. A reel mower costs less and generates less noise. However, for larger areas, the extra physical effort a reel mower requires may become discouraging.

Walk-Behind Mowers

Walk-Behind rotary mowers come in two basic varieties: electric or gas-powered.

Electric mowers simple to maintain and operate because they do not require the maintenance and supplies of a gas mower. They are also quiet. Battery life limits the range of a rechargeable electric mower. Like the reel mower, electric mowers may not be suited for large lawns. However, an electric mower can be adequate for a medium-sized lawn’s needs. Electric mowers continue to improve, so a little research may divulge the perfect product for your needs.

Gas-powered mowers represent a higher level in mowing convenience. Self-propelled mowers use a portion of the engine’s power to make the wheels spin, while push mowers do not. When cutting larger expanses of turfgrass, or when mowing on a slope or hillside, a self-propelled mower can make the task of mowing the lawn less time-consuming. Gas-powered mowers have the capacity to mulch the grass clippings, delivering organic material that is rich in nutrients and moisture back to your landscape. In response to environmental concerns, gas-powered mowers also continue to improve. Research before you purchase a mower is encouraged.

All varieties of walk-behind mowers offer aerobic exercise and the chance to spend some time out of doors. Mowing your lawn can be a meditative and refreshing experience.

Riding Mower

Riding lawnmowers and lawn tractors with mower attachments offer an easier way to cut very large grass areas. While most reel and walk-behind mowers cut a path 18 to 22 inches wide, a riding lawnmower’s deck cuts a path that can be 48 inches wide or more. Lawn tractors and riding lawnmowers are much more expensive to purchase and maintain than walk-behind mowers.


Plants generally need some fertilization to stay healthy. However, over-fertilizing can become a serious problem so it’s important to understand the needs of your lawn. Furthermore, the combination of over-watering and over-fertilizing can be dangerous for plants, animals, and humans. Excess fertilizer and water increases the likelihood of harmful chemicals running off into streams or seeping into groundwater. It also over-stimulates plant growth, making your lawn more susceptible to dry conditions. Chanshare Farms recommends that you fertilize as sparingly as you can. Remember, fertilizers are salts and plants don’t like much salt. Appropriate fertilization is just enough to encourage healthy plant life. Lawns need some fertilizer, but prudence is recommended. As mentioned before, leaving clippings on the lawn rather than bagging them reduces green waste and can eliminate one application of fertilizer each year.

Fertilizing Tips

If you aren’t sure how to begin fertilization routine, 4 applications throughout the year (around Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Halloween) is a great place to start. We suggest that you apply fertilizer with approximately 1 pound of available nitrogen (N) per 1000 square feet per application.

-Keep good records of treatment and results

-No fertilizer is needed during the dormant season (November to March)

-Do not apply fertilizer at temperatures higher than 85 degrees F (32* C)

-When fertilizing during the summer season, apply fertilizer in the morning

-Mixing pesticides with organic and chemical fertilizers can cause harmful chemical reactions and may cause serious damage. Read and follow directions carefully.

The Three Main Ingredients of Fertilizer

Nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) are the three major nutrients lawns need and represented in the three numbers on the fertilizer bag. Each of these nutrients plays a role in sustaining your lawn. Percent nitrogen (by weight) is always the first of the 3 numbers, followed by phosphorous and potassium. For example, a 24-6-12 fertilizer contains 24 percent nitrogen, 6 percent phosphorous, and 12 percent potassium. In most cases, a rate of no more than 1 pound nitrogen per 1000 square feet is suggested for each fertilizer application.

Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for grass. It gives grass its vibrant color and helps the blades grow straight and strong. Be aware that too much nitrogen can cause excessive top growth and can build an excessive thatch layer. For example, a 24-6-12 fertilizer contains 24 percent nitrogen. In most cases, a rate of 1 pound nitrogen per 1000 square feet is suggested for each fertilizer application. If high percentage nitrogen fertilizers are used, then less actual fertilizer is needed. Urea based fertilizers (16-16-8) contain 50 percent quick release and 50 percent slow release. This product slows “flash” growth and encourages minimal fertilizer application.

Phosphorous is essential for root growth and is especially important early on in your lawn’s development.

Potassium assists in better water uptake and helps the grass build thicker cell walls. This strengthens your lawn so that it can withstand various stresses such as drought, heat, cold and disease.

When to Apply

Late fall (Halloween) is a key time for fertilizing lawns in cool season environments, regardless of what type of maintenance program the lawn falls under. This is the most important fertilization of the year! Research has shown benefits of late fall fertilizer applications after grass growth has about stopped but the lawn is not yet dormant. Roots continue to grow after winter sets in. Spring applications are suggested for late May. In most cases, avoid fertilizing in the hot weather months. The schedule following this paragraph outlines fertilizations based on how many applications are to be made annually and the desired lawn quality. Use controlled-release, nitrogen based fertilizers in May, July, September, and late October.

The total amount of nitrogen should be spread over the application schedule. Be careful not to over fertilize in the Spring to minimize rapid flush growth.

Specialized fertilizer can be used in the following ways and at different times of year to address specific lawn care issues. Chanshare Farms has best results with 16-16-8 fertilizer.

-Winterizer fertilizers are typically high in potassium, and although advertised for Fall application can be applied in the spring as well. Potassium helps increase lawn cold tolerance and disease resistance.

-Weed & Feed products contain a broadleaf weed killer for weeds such as dandelions (Fall application) others contain a preemergence herbicide to control crabgrass (Spring application).

-It is recommended that two pounds of nitrogen and 2 pounds of phosphate per 1000 square feet be tilled into the top 4 inches prior to turf installation.

Other Care Practices


Adequate aeration is very important for lawn health. Your turfgrass needs air, nutrients, and water. Heavy lawn traffic will compact the soil restricting your lawn’s access to these things. Aerating is the process of using a tool to poke holes two to four inches deep and .5 inches in diameter in the lawn. Poking these holes allows air, nutrients, and water to penetrate the root zone. It also allows the microbial action needed to convert organic material such as mulched lawn clippings into nutrients.

Before aerating, be sure the soil is moist down to at least four inches. Soil that is too wet will cause a muddy mess, but soil that is too dry will make the job much more difficult and less effective. Also, it is good practice to aerate your lawn in more than one direction.

Manual aerating tools that remove 2 to 4 plugs at a time are available. However, for anything larger than the smallest lawns renting a power aerator or hiring a professional lawn care specialist to aerate for you are the best options.

Removing Excess Thatch

Thatch is the buildup of root material on top of the soil at the base of turfgrass plants. If the layer of thatch is deeper than ½ inch, the thatch can interfere with effective watering as well as air and fertilizer penetration. Over-watering and not watering deeply enough are the two main causes of excess thatch. Aerating removes some of the thatch, but sometimes aerating alone is not enough to solve the problem. Power thatch removers, usually called power rakes, are available to remove most of the excess thatch. A power rake can cause damage to the crown of the turfgrass plant, so be careful. Some experts suggest that power raking be done only when renovating a lawn. You can always contact a professional lawn care specialist to perform the service for you. A metal gardening rake is an excellent tool for removing thatch. Hand raking takes more time, but is very effective and gives you the added benefit of exercise.