If you have purchased one of the many new homes in St.Louis, you know that this can come with some obstacles to overcome; fortunately, having the lawn your neighbors envy is something anyone can accomplish! Establishing and maintaining a thick, green, lush lawn does not take hours and hours of research and dedication every week. Using a holistic approach, the best way to accomplish this is to look at your lawn like you do your vehicle. Your lawn requires preventative care, such as fertilizing and aerating, just like your car needs oil changes. As with most things in life, there is more than a straightforward step to lawn maintenance.
The first step to having the best lawn in your neighborhood is to WATER WATER WATER. Newly laid sod requires hours of water every day for the first 2-3 weeks for the sod to properly take root into the soil. Most new homes in St. Louis receive sod that is a cool season grass, typically a blend of fescue grass. This type of grass is an excellent fit for our climate, as it does not require the high amount of water that other grasses need to survive in the heat of Summer, such as in Kentucky Bluegrass. It also retains a nice green color throughout the winter compared to some warm-season grasses like Zoysia, which turns an unappealing yellow in the year’s colder months. The best part about having a lawn that is fescue based is that if you decide at any time that you want to transition your turf into a different type of grass, it will allow you to do this without fighting against whatever seed you go with.
The next thing to consider, is when to mow the newly established lawn for the first time. A common phrase in the industry, is “not until you have to”. You want to give it as much time to grow as you possibly can. Another big rule of thumb concerning when to mow, is the 1/3 rule. Experts say that you should refrain from cutting off more than 1/3 of the current length of the lawn. Some people like to keep their grass around 3 inches, while others prefer it closer to 4 . Whichever you prefer is fine, just ensure that you mow the lawn whenever you need to, to take off approximately 1/3 of the total blade length.
Some people also might have questions like, can you mow the lawn after aerating or should you wait? You can find answers to these queries on multiple platforms online. However, to answer that question in simple terms, it might not be recommended because the weight of the lawn mower can compact the ground again.
Let’s discuss annual optional tasks. Newly laid sod will naturally have small gaps in-between the pieces, and you also may have small sections that do not perform as well as the rest of the lawn. A commonly performed remedy for this is to aerate and seed the lawn. Aerating is a process that is not only helpful with a glass of your favorite red wine, it also gives a lawn a huge boost in its ability to grown thick and lush grass. It does this by pulling out and dropping 2-3 inch plugs of soil that actually resemble a wine bottle cork, which mixes up the nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium that is naturally found in soil. If you choose to seed at the same time as you aerate, it also gives the seed a great place to fall into and germinate. Most experts recommend aerating once a year whether that be in the spring, summer or fall. If you plan on seeding as well, aerating at the same time as seeding is the preferred choice, with early fall being the best time to do so.
Last, but most certainly not least, is the process of fertilization. Fertilizing a lawn is important because it gives it the nutrients that it needs, ensures that the grass has the strength to stand tall during the heat of Summer, and helps to protect the lawn from weeds, grubs, and other harmful critters. You have the option to go with one of three different styles of fertilizing: Organic, Mineral(Chemical), or a mixture of the two. Homeowners that choose to go the organic route typically use a granular fertilizer called Milorganite, as well as everyone’s favorite-Cow Manure. The positive with going organic is that it is near impossible to ruin a lawn.
The negative is that it is a broader approach and does not leave you with many options when it comes to killing unwanted weeds in the lawn. The second route that many choose to go with, is to use mineral and chemical fertilizers. While this may seem more difficult and even scary to some, if done correctly, you will see much better results in your lawn with much less effort than those who go organic. The best place to start when fertilizing with mineral/chemical fert, is your local hardware store. Depending on the time of year, they will have their own brand of fertilizer as well as the well known “Scotts” brand, that will clearly be labeled “Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 Etc.”. You will of course need a fertilizer spreader to thrown down your fertilizer, and the best tip is for you to follow the instructions exactly as they are put!
As talked about earlier, establishing and maintaining a lawn should not be feared or view as an impossible task. If you take your time, follow the directives of more experienced individuals, and put in slightly more effort as the neighbor next door, you can expect to have your lawn looking like it should be on the cover of Home and Garden in no time!