WANT A BETTER LAWN?
Grass needs light, fertilizer, water and mowing at the correct level. Sounds easy enough.
But, what about trees in the landscape? They not only rob the lawn of water and fertilizer but also block out the light. You can help the situation by trimming trees up, that is, remove the lowest limbs. Removing limbs up to ten or fifteen feet from the ground will allow grass and ground-covers to get enough light to thrive.
Heavy traffic areas may require grass as tough as Bermuda grass. Playground areas are especially prone to wear spots and deterioration.
Fertilizer for lawns and grass are heavy on the nitrogen - the first of the three numbers on the fertilizer bag. Too much fertilizer is bad for the plants and for the environment so under-fertilize if you are unsure.
Watering should be done less often and more thoroughly. Avoid sprinkling since it encourages the roots to grow at the surface of the soil instead of at a deeper level.
Mowing should be done when it would cut no more than one-third of the grass height. Click to see a fact sheet on grass heights by variety.
Consider planting ground covers and low growing plants around trees, sidewalks and driveways where it is difficult to maintain grass growth as the summer heats up. They survive the heat of summer with less water than an expanse of lawn and do not have to be mowed.
One plant that will do well in shade around tree roots is Tovara Virginiana (Persicaria).
Others that work well in various shady situations include: Ivy, Creeping Phlox, Sedum, Vinca, Ferns, Hostas. Bugle Weed (Ajuga), Wild Ginger (Asarum), Coral Bells (Heuchera), Impatiens, Snakeroot (Cimicifuga), Bugloss (Brunnera), Bellflower (Campanula), Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum), and many others.
For larger plantings consider beds with Azaleas, Clethera, Hydrangea, Dogwood, Lindera (Spicebush), Viburnums and Witchazel (Hamamelis).
Use lawn between shade beds and sunny flower beds but reduce the amount of lawn wherever possible. Lawns require all of the above care plus mowing and use natural resources without much payoff.