Jesse.Samples@AllenTate.com

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Lawn Maintenance Calendar

By Douglas Trattner

 

Regular lawn maintenance gives your home maximum curb appeal and preserves the value of your property.

 

A healthy, well-maintained lawn is more than just good-looking-it's a key to preserving the value of your home. Regular lawn maintenance enhances curb appeal, making your home-and neighborhood-attractive to passersby and potential buyers.

 

According to Su Chi Straka-Phillis, a residential real estate appraiser with Central Appraisal Services of Parma, Ohio, a well-kept lawn preserves a home's value.

Put off routine maintenance, and you risk devaluing your home. In fact, an unkempt lawn can be a warning sign to buyers of other potential home maintenance issues, explains Cecilia Sherrard, a real estate agent in Rocky River, Ohio. "The outside of the home is the first thing people see, and if it's not properly maintained, many will not be interested in scheduling a showing to see the inside."

 

Know your grass type

There are two main types of lawn grass: cool-season and warm-season. Homeowners living in the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest should grow cool-season grasses. As depicted on the Plant Heat-Zone Map (http://www.ahs.org/publications/heat_zone_map.htm) provided by the American Horticultural Society, the regions for cool-season grasses are approximately zones 1 through 7.

 

Cool-season grasses do most of their growing in spring and fall, often going dormant in the summer. Cool-season grasses include bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and St. Augustine grass.

 

Those living in the Southeast and Southwest (zones 8 through 12) will generally have warm-season grasses. Warm-season grasses thrive from late spring to early fall and go dormant in the winter. Varieties include tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass.

 

If you're unsure which zone applies to you, check your state extension service (http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/).

 

Mowing

 

Grass type: All

Maintenance schedule: Spring to fall

 

"The taller the grass, the deeper the roots, the fewer the weeds, and the more moisture the soil holds between watering," explains Richard Hentschel of the University of Illinois Extension (http://web.extension.illinois.edu/state/index.html). Hentschel recommends the mower blade height be permanently set to 3 inches.

 

In prime growing season (spring and fall for cool-season; summer for warm), homeowners should mow frequently enough so they're removing no more than one-third of the grass blade. If possible, resist the urge to mow the grass when wet, as the practice can spread diseases that affect lawns.

 

Mower blades should be sharpened monthly to ensure clean, sharp cuts. A dull blade tears the grass, leaving jagged edges that discolor the lawn and invite pathogens. Consider spending about $20 for a backup blade so that a sharp one is always on hand.

 

Watering

 

Grass type: All

Maintenance schedule: Spring to fall

 

Deep and infrequent watering is better for lawns than frequent sprinkles, which promote shallow root growth, says Hentschel. In general, lawns need about one inch of water per week to maintain green color and active growth.

 

Lawns that receive less than that will likely go into dormancy. To stay alive, dormant lawns should still receive at least 1 inch of water per month.

 

To check the output of a sprinkler, scatter some pie tins around the yard to see how much water collects in a specific length of time. Having a rain gauge ($5 to $20) will help you keep track of how much water the lawn receives naturally. Allowing a cool-season lawn to go dormant in the summer can save hundreds of gallons of water, depending on the size of your lawn.

 

Feeding

 

Grass type: Cool-season

Maintenance schedule: Early fall

 

Grass type: Warm-season

Maintenance schedule: Late spring

 

"It used to be common to fertilize a lawn three or four times per year," says Hentschel. "Now we suggest just once a year when it will do the most good." For cool-season grasses, that time is early fall, so the grass enters winter dormancy in a much healthier state.

 

For warm-season grasses, the best time to fertilize is late spring, just as the grass begins its most active growth. For best results, closely follow the application directions on the product. Cost is around $50 to $75 per application.

 

People interested in organic fertilizers have never had an easier time finding them at local garden centers. Homeowners who mow regularly with mulching mowers are encouraged to leave the clippings on the ground, where they'll decompose and recycle nutrients into the soil.

 

Weed-control herbicide application

 

Grass type: Cool-season

Maintenance schedule: Fall

 

Grass type: Warm-season

Maintenance schedule: Late winter

 

Homeowners should embrace the idea that an occasional weed is OK, says Hentschel. For minor weed invasions, removal by hand of the entire plant and roots is recommended. When the situation becomes impossible to contain by hand, it might be necessary to apply an herbicide.

 

For cool-season grasses, the best time to apply a weed killer is in fall, when both old and new weeds can be eliminated before winter. Warm-season grasses often benefit from a late-winter application of a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weeds from growing.

 

In place of weed and feed products, which are spread over the entire lawn, Hentschel prefers liquid-based herbicides that are applied only where needed. It's imperative to read and follow all directions on herbicide labels. Cost is around $15 to $45 per application.

 

Grub control

 

Grass type: Cool-season

Maintenance schedule: Early summer

 

Grass type: Warm-season

Maintenance schedule: Late summer

 

Grub worms, the larval stage of June, Japanese, and other beetles, feed on the tender root systems of lawns. Affected lawns exhibit browning and wilting patches.

 

To be certain that the culprits are grubs, Hentschel suggests that homeowners pull back the sod and look for white, C-shaped grubs. If they're present at a rate exceeding 10 per square foot, they should be treated with a chemical pesticide.

 

Milky spore is an environmentally friendly way to control some species of grubs. When using insecticides, read and follow all label directions and water the product into the soil immediately. Cost is around $50 to $75 per application.

 

Patching

 

Grass type: Cool-season

Maintenance schedule: Early fall

 

Grass type: Warm-season

Maintenance schedule: Early summer

 

The best time to patch bare or thin spots in a lawn is at the start of the grass's most favorable growing period. For cool-season grasses that means waiting until the hot, dry days of summer have given way to cooler fall temps.

 

Warm-season grasses thrive in summer, so it's best to sow seeds at the start of that season. Hentschel says to buy only high quality disease-resistant seed with good germination rates, which by law have to be listed on the label. Cost is anywhere from $20 to $75, depending on the size of the areas to be patched.

 

Cleanup

 

Grass type: All

Maintenance schedule: Spring to fall

 

Although small particles of grass are fine to leave on the lawn, large piles that exit a side-discharge mower should be removed. Fallen leaves, twigs, and debris should be raked up regularly. In climates where it snows, it's best to remove fall leaves before winter. A thick layer of wet leaves can smother a lawn if not immediately removed in early spring.

 

Douglas Trattner has covered home maintenance and improvement topics for HGTV.com, DIYNetworks, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. During the 10-year stewardship of his 1925 Colonial, he's upgraded the furnace, added insulation, replaced most appliances, and mowed his lawn every time but once.

 

Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS┬«  Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

 

Jesse Samples and Sarah Samples at Allen Tate Realtors in Charlotte, NC

www.CharlotteHomeExpert.com



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