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Correctly Caring for Cool Season Grasses


Grass is grass — right? Actually, there are two major categories of grass, and within those there are dozens of grass varieties, each ideal for unique combinations of drought tolerance, shade tolerance, traffic tolerance and soil composition. Different types of grass require different types of care. Thus, if you have recently moved from a warmer climate, like the American South or Southwest, to a cooler climate, like the North or Midwest, there’s a good chance you don’t know the right way to care for your lawn.

Cool-season grasses grow best in regions that experience true winters and that do not become overly hot in the summer. If you recently acquired a cool-season lawn, or if you are considering installing a new cool-season turf, read on for tips and tricks for efficient lawn care.

Cool-season grass is different from warm-season grass in a number of ways, but the most obvious one is when the grass grows. Cool-season varieties flourish in air temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheight (15.5 and 24 degrees Celsius) because this is typically when soil temperatures hover between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit (10 and 18.3 degrees Celsius). Generally, these temperatures occur in spring and fall, meaning if you have a cool-season lawn, you will be performing the vast majority of your mowing and care during these seasons.

Additionally, cool-season lawns tend to grow taller than warm-season lawns. While you are in charge of your lawn’s height, thanks to your lawn mower, you should pay attention to how well your lawn grows after it is cut. If your lawn seems to suffer or die when cut below three inches, you likely have a cool-season lawn. These varieties thrive when kept at lengths between three and four inches, which is much taller than the half-inch typical to warm-season grasses.

Even if you identify that your grass is a cool-season variety, you probably won’t be able to tell what kind of grass it is. Cool-season lawns include a wide range of grasses, to include tall fescue, fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and more. Each distinct type has more minute requirements of soil, water and sunlight, which you should know, so you can provide optimal care. I used a lawn service near me to identify my grass and help me better care for it into the future.

Fertilize Twice Per Year

Both warm-season and cool-season grasses should be fertilized at least once per year to ensure that the soil contains the right nutrients for growth. However, to ensure optimal growth, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of fertilizing twice per year: once in the fall and once in the spring.

Fertilizing in fall with a high-nitrogen blend will give your grass an extra burst of life during its second growing season of the year. If you are overseeding in the fall (to boost thickness or fill in bare patches) you might opt for a high-phosphorus blend, which will improve root growth and development, keeping the seedlings alive all winter long.

Fertilizing in the spring, just as your lawn is leaving winter dormancy, is a good way to encourage thick, green growth from the get-go. A slow-release fertilizer is ideal this time of year; you want your grass to have plenty to eat for the rest of spring, so you can enjoy its lush green look for longer.

Mow Twice Per Week

mow grass

During the high-growing seasons, fall and spring, you should be mowing often — twice a week at least. This is because you don’t want your grass to grow too high, outside its three-to-four-inch range. When this happens, you risk shocking your grass when you mow, causing patches to die or allowing diseases to take hold. Mowing often is an easy way to keep your lawn looking tidy and prevent making a major mowing mistake.

During the times of year when your lawn isn’t growing, you probably don’t need to mow at all. In winter especially, you should stow your mower, to prevent killing your lawn when it is dormant and can’t recover from a mow. In fact, when your lawn is dormant, you should treat it with greater respect, avoiding walking or parking on top of it or disturbing it in any way. Then, it will bounce back in the spring healthier than ever.

Water Judiciously

Cool-season lawns grow best in places that have cool, moist climates for much of the year, meaning that they often don’t need additional watering from sprinklers or hoses. Rain, mist and other sources of moisture often fill the 1.5 inches-per-week that grass needs to survive. However, if your hometown is undergoing some kind of drought, you might need to administer water to your lawn until rain returns. You can track how much water your lawn is receiving by understanding the flow rate of your sprinklers or hose or else by performing the tuna can test.

Cool-season grasses are gorgeous — but only when they are correctly cared for. If you can’t commit to caring for your cool-season lawn, you can always hire a professional who can.

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