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Turf care

Adequate care — mowing, watering, fertilizing and weed contro — directly influences appearance of a turf. But the main result of turf care, which does not appear at once, is keeping grass strong, which makes it more difficult for weeds, mosses and some diseases to develop.


Select a type of turf care

Mowing

No other work on turf care takes as much time as mowing. However mowing is the most important operation of those fulfilled by a gardener. That's why they say that nothing spoils a turf as much as improper mowing. Thus we mu must be very serious about it: we must mow grass regularly and never cut it too short.

Turfs are mowed not jus to cut the grown grass. If mowing is done correctly a very beautiful and dense grass cover develops. The key to proper mowing is in keeping the grass tall enough for roots to get adequate amount of nutrients and short enough for a turf to look well. The height of grass should remain constant all season. In addition proper mowing helps controlling many weeds. Mowing also influences the composition of your turf.

The height of mowing can vary from 3 to 6 cm. A common turf is usually mowed to be about 5 cm high, and parterre turf — 3-4 cm. It is not recommended to increase or decrease the height of mowing characteristic for your turf. If the height is continuously suboptimum the grass can compact, which can cause its death, and if it's too high, weeds may develop.

It is not recommended to mow wet turf, because such mowing is the most damaging for any turf. Mowing with a trimmer is not good for a turf either, and mowing with a cylindrical mower is the most safe. With tips of the grass mowing takes away a lot of vigor, that's why it's a good idea to apply special fertilizer and water a turf after mowing.

Mowing of a turf starts in April or May and stops in October. In mid or late summer and also in early fall one mowing a week is usually enough. In early summer and in spring, when growth is the most intensive, two mowings a week are required.

For a turf to look neat its edges should be regularly trimmed. Grass trimmings must be taken away from a turf. The edges can be trimmed with special scissors or mechanical tools. Edge trimming can be avoided or minimized if a lawn is curbed.

Aeration (pricking)

Turfs are aired with special aerators and if a turf is small enough — with a usual pitchfork. Using these tools the upper layer of the soil is pricked to allow air and water movement to the roots. This stimulates formation of a dense sod. Aerators also destroys felt — a 3cm layer of compacted soil and dry stems, which is on the depth of about 8 cm in the soil. Turf is pricked in spring and summer to a small depth and in autumn, in September, it's better to prick a turf with a pitchfork to the whole depth of the tool (the distance between the rows of pricks must be about 15 cm).

Liming

Turfs rarely require liming. This practice is used only if turf grows on acid soils. When liming about 0.5 kg of specially ground lime or dolomitic meal is usually applied per 1 square meter. It is best to be done in October or November for better deacidification of the soil and every 2 or 3 years. Note that liming not only improves soil quality it can also do harm to a turf — there can appear some weeds, soil worms and fungus diseases.

Cleaning

Every turf requires regular cleaning. Dead leaves, mowed grass and different waste — all this pose a threat to a turf. If a lawn-mower doesn't have a grass-collector, every time after mowing a turf must be cleaned with a radial rake. It is done to avoid felt formation. But sometimes felt is useful: in dry periods mowed grass is deliberately left to decrease moisture loss due to evaporation. In other cases felt is harmful — it hinders air and water penetration to roots and causes development of diseases.

Mulching

Mulching is distributing loose organic material on turf surface. Mulching mixture usually consists of fertile mineral soil, sand and humus source. The purpose of mulching is to level the surface and develop fertile surface layer over time. This practice is very good for turfs because it improves water and air conditions, increases sod layer of a soil and enriches it with nutrients, stimulates development of new tillers, makes the surface level etc. Regular mulching makes a turf more draught resistant and tolerant to over wetting, besides, its appearance improves. Each type of soil requires a special mixture for mulching.

  • Mixture for clay soils consists of peat, loam (soil of good quality can be used) and sand in 1:2:4 ratio
  • Mixture for loam soils consists of peat, loam and sand in 1:4:2 ratio.
  • Mixture for sandy soils consists of peat, loam and sand in 2:4:1 ratio.

Mulching is done in September or October. One day prior to mulching a turf can be pricked with a pitchfork, which significantly increases the efficiency of mulching. Before mulching a turf must be thoroughly cleaned with a rake. The application rate is about 1.5 kg of a mixture per square meter. After that it should be distributed on the turf as uniformly as possible. A broom or upper side of a rake can be used for that. For larger lawns a special «corrector» may be made out of a board. The applied mixture mustn't excessively cover or press the grass under it. It should only cover the roots. Stems of the grass must be over the mixture. If too much mixture is applied, the turf, being covered with too thick layer of soil, can partially die and during the next season there will be bare patches. It is best to do mulching once in two years, but it should be taken into account that after mulching the turf in September it will look neat again only late in May of the next year.

Watering

Any turf requires additional watering. It is not possible to keep a turf looking well without watering. If during a month draught you didn't water your lawn, there will definitely appear bare patches. But it doesn't mean that in other conditions it is possible to do without watering. If a turf doesn't get enough moisture, weeds start gradually overcompete turf grasses.

The turf must be watered on average once and in dry period up to 2 times a week. Too frequent watering can do more harm than good. Slight wetting of a turf surface is also not good. Water must penetrate 10 cm into the soil.

To determine whether a turf needs watering it's enough just to walk on it: if the stamped grass doesn't rise at once, it's time to water. Another good indicator is a change of grass coloring. Dry grass has dull, greyish tint and if it is extremely dry — brown coloring. In this case abundant watering is urgently required. Watering can be performed with a watering-pot, if a lawn is very small, or using a garden hose or special sprinkler. The best time for watering is evening or morning.

Herbicide application

Herbicides are products which kill weeds without damaging (or with minimum damage) turf grasses. Different types of herbicides are widely used all over the world. There are two types of herbicides — selective and non-selective. Selective herbicides are more efficient, safe and thus more common. They don't kill some types of weeds. To control those weeds there are some non-selective herbicides available. The weeds a herbicide can efficiently control are listed in application guide.

Herbicides are available in powder and liquid form. Powder herbicide requires watering in two days after application and its action will be seen only in one or two weeks. Liquid herbicides work faster but for their application a garden sprayer, a breathing mask and gloves are required, also you have to protect all other plants adjacent to the lawn. Time for herbicide application: mid may to early august.

Many specialists recommend applying herbicides only with nitrogen fertilizers as this practice significantly increases the efficiency of application. When using this option fertilizer has to be applied one week earlier than powder herbicide; liquid herbicide can be mixed with liquid fertilizer, but if fertilizer is granular and herbicide is liquid, it must be applied only a week after fertilizer application.

Some gardeners, fearing to damage a lawn, avoid using chemicals. But this fear is groundless because any garden chemicals are safe if used according to the label.

Fertilizer application

As mentioned above, mowing weakens grass and depletes soil nutrients. Soil nitrogen is depleted faster than phosphorus and potassium. Turf on depleted soil is weak and unable to resist diseases and trampling. Root system of such grass is poorly developed and it gets unable to tolerate draught for long. To restore nutrient supply, fertilizers must be applied on regular basis. Regular fertilizer application will have a very positive effect on turf's state. If fertilizer is applied every week, positive effect will be seen in a month: the stand will become denser and sounder, small bare patches will disappear.

There are many special turf fertilizers available on the market, mainly in granulated form. When selecting a fertilizer one should consider its composition. If it's a complex turf fertilizer it must always contain nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

Such fertilizer must be applied from spring to early fall. In September and October when grass stops growing, nitrogen mustn't be applied because it stimulates growth. At that time it is best to apply special autumn fertilizer, which doesn't contain N

Nutrient Necessity to apply Result Source Best application time
NITROGEN – improves coloring and growth of grass HIGH
Nitrogen poll in the soil is depleted comparatively quickly. Must be applied at least once during a season
Grass stand becomes dense, green and fresh. Most part must be applied in spring and summer. In winter time intensive growth is not desirable so in autumn nitrogen content in fertilizer must be low. Spring or summer complex fertilizer for turfs (e.g. nitroammophos).
Ammonium sulfate
Dried blood
Spring and summer
PHOSPHORUS – makes root system stronger HIGH
Some phosphorous compounds must be applied every season
Makes root system strong. Due to this grass growth starts earlier in spring thus more water and nutrients is available for plants in summer and there's better tiller growth in autumn. Autumn complex fertilizer for turfs
Bone meal
Superphosphates
Spring or autumn
POTASSIUM – required for optimum growth MODERATE
Good to apply every season
Is not so vital as nitrogen, but makes grass stronger and more draught, disease and fade resistant. Spring or autumn complex fertilizer for turfs
Potassium sulfate
Spring or autumn

It should be mentioned that granulated fertilizer mustn't be applied in dry period. It's best to check with weather forecast and apply fertilizer before rain. If it hasn't been raining for a long time already, water a turf und wait till the grass is dry and then apply the fertilizer. There's one rule of thumb: during fertilization grass must be dry and the soil wet.