You and Your Lawn

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Every year millions of homeowners ask the same questions about their lawns. In most instances the books available to them are miniature encyclopedias that are very confusing and discouraging to the reader. Often it takes hours to find the answers to their problems.

In writing this book I brought together the basic principles and agronomic techniques used in lawn care, and I put this information in an easy-to-read question-and-answer style to help the homeowner understand how to develop a healthy, beautiful lawn. The result is a book you can just flip open to the chapter related to your problems and quickly scan the questions until you find those concerning your particular problems. The rest of the questions and their answers can be skipped over and read when you have more time to explore the secrets of having a beautiful lawn. By not having to read the entire book, you can spend as little as five to ten minutes finding the solution to your lawn problems.

Why not keep this guide near you on a laptop PC, where you can spend a few minutes scrolling through the sections of interest to you? As you do, remember to mark those questions and answers that are uppermost in your mind. This will help you find them quickly when you are ready to try a new lawn-care technique.

Modern times have turned your lawn into an outdoor living area, which means it needs tender loving care to be developed into a beautiful, living carpet for your outdoor pleasure. A rich, dark green, cushiony turf can reach the peak of perfection when it has the best care. You can develop a luxurious lawn without being a lawn-care expert. An attractive lawn can easily be yours if you understand how to manage your lawn-care program and then do everything at the correct time throughout the year.


How much do you think a well-groomed lawn is worth? Your answer to this question will vary, depending on your use of the lawn and your future plans for it. If you are planning on selling your home, then the appearance of your lawn becomes very important. As a rule, a nice lawn will increase the overall value of your property. Prospective buyers form a first impression of your home by the exterior, and this, of course, includes the lawn. If the lawn is unsightly and weed infested, selling the house will take longer than if your lawn is well kept and looks like a green velvety carpet. Often potential buyers will not even bother to look at a house if the outside appearance is unattractive. And, unfortunately, this can also be the case if you have a nice lawn but several neighbors around you have poorly maintained lawns.

Homeowners frequently would like a monetary value placed on their lawns, but it is difficult to attach a cash value to a living plant such as grass. Estimates I have read show a healthy, thick, luxurious lawn is worth 2 to 4 percent of the sales value of your home. If your house is worth $28,000, then your lawn value is between $560 and $1,120 (assuming it is in good shape).

But the real value of a nice lawn should be found not in the monetary value but rather in the pleasure you obtain from it with your family or your friends, whether it be for a barbecue or a game of badminton. How often have you dropped down in your patio chair in the evening after a hard day and reflected back on the day’s events? A few relaxing minutes spent in the pleasant atmosphere of your outdoor surroundings at home can be very refreshing and can make the evening’s chores more enjoyable.

Think of your lawn as a picture frame. Selecting the wrong frame for a painting can ruin its appearance: the same principle applies to your house and your lawn. A poor, weed-infested, yellowish, underfed lawn is very uncomplimentary, to your home. Your lawn should do for your house what a well-selected picture frame does for an exquisite painting. Both should compliment the subjects they are encompassing, and both should accentuate their beauty.


If you were to spend a few weeks talking with homeowners about their lawns, you would soon discover that homeowners can be divided into three distinct groups: the eager novice, the experienced lawnskeeper, and the lawn enthusiast. There are, of course, many cases where the homeowners’ attitudes toward their lawn place them in two or more of these groups.

Let’s take a quick glance at the individuals in the various groups and see where you fit. The term eager novice would usually apply to newlyweds living in their first home, or to someone who has just bought a new house. Usually these novices are young, and they attach much importance to the image they are presenting to neighbors and friends. They have been told that a beautiful, luxurious lawn will increase the value of their home, and they are therefore willing to spend the time and money on their lawn to protect their overall investment. In these first years of learning about lawns and their care, homeowners will buy many different products at random before they settle down to one or two brand names and follow their recommendations. It is at this point that the eager novices step into one of the two remaining groups.

If the step is into the experienced lawnskeeper group, then you can expect to see them spending less time on their lawns and enjoying them more. Those who fit into this group have spent several years experimenting with various lawn products and have met with success and failure in their attempts to have a luxurious lawn. They have used just about everything on the market and have concluded that none of the materials fully lives up to its claims.

What these homeowners really feel about lawn care is that it is something they are forced to do when they would rather be golfing, shopping, reading, or just loafing around the house. If given a set of easy-to-understand rules on how to take care of their lawns, they will follow them, provided a lot of hard, tedious work is not involved. These homeowners are not interested in becoming lawn- care experts, but they do realize the social pressures of producing at least a decent-looking lawn to keep the neighbors happy. If you were to meet some of these people at a party and the topic of lawn care were brought up, they would usually give you a blow-by-blow description of why your lawn is doing so poorly. A quick check of their lawn the next day would help you realize that you’re not the only person in town who would rather use spare time for golfing or shopping.

The other category the eager novice can step into after years of hard work and preparation is that of the lawn enthusiast. Every neighborhood has at least one person who falls into this group, and usually this person has the nicest lawn. Members of this group are labeled lawn enthusiasts, Green Thumb, or lawn fanatics. Everyone envies the success this group has in developing a velvety- green lawn. These people are usually well established in the community and have an income that allows them to be a little more particular in the maintenance of their lawns. A pleasant evening to them is working in the yard, enjoying the exercise and fresh air. After dark you will often find them curled up in a favorite chair, refreshment at hand, reading a garden catalogue or planning on when the next bag of fertilizer should be applied.

In discussing the different attitudes toward lawns, I have exaggerated some of the traits that occur in homeowners and their techniques in caring for their lawns. Almost everyone of us fits into each of the groups at various times during the years. Quite often we use the lawn as an excuse to get out of doing less enjoy able tasks.


A homeowner’s first thoughts about grass may bring on visions of a lawn where the children are able to romp and play. The farmer thinks about the important role grass plays in making his pasture land topnotch. Seldom do we give a second thought to how the grass plant might otherwise affect the world in which we live.

With today’s concern about environmental issues, it is nice to know that the plant kingdom is doing its share. This is especially true of the grass family.

Just how does a grass plant help the environment? You’ll be surprised as you read of the unique benefits that grass has to offer.

Air Purification

The green leaves of grass absorb, from the air, carbon dioxide, emitted by cars and factories, and sulfur dioxide, and convert them into pure oxygen. This is a natural purification process that occurs daily. An average-size lawn can easily release enough oxygen for a family of four each day.

Heat Reduction

Turf grasses and other plants act as a natural air conditioner by helping to control temperatures through transpiration; that is, evaporation of water from plant leaves. Lawn grasses will cause the temperature at ground level to be 20 to 30 degrees cooler than at adjacent paved areas.

Noise Control

Grasses, as well as shrubs, trees, and other ornamentals, will reduce undesirable noise levels by 20 to 30 percent. The deflection, absorption, and reduction of traffic and community sounds are bound to improve your living conditions.

Erosion Prevention

A healthy turf can absorb large quantities of water and can reduce runoffs, which can carry soil particles, debris, and chemicals into nearby streams, lakes, and reservoirs. A soil bank, regardless of the amount of slope, is more susceptible to erosion if it is bare than if it has a good sod cover.

Supports Wildlife

Grass serves as a natural source of food for the numerous animals found on the lawns of millions of homeowners. For example, birds find a wide variety of seeds and insects to feast upon among the grass blades.

Natural Filter

The fine dust particles floating around in the air are trapped among the grass blades, eventually getting mixed in with the soil.

This natural cleaning of the air makes life more enjoyable for millions of people every day.


How are lawn care and the energy crisis related? Many of the products used in maintaining a lawn are made from oil or oil by products. Probably the best example that really shows the impact of lawn care on oil consumption is the use of gasoline in lawn mowers.

Let’s assume the average homeowner mowing once a week uses at least 7 gallons of gasoline a year to keep his lawn looking nice. Now suppose 40 million homeowners use this same amount of gasoline for upkeep of their lawns. By simple mathematics you can readily see that 280 million gallons of gasoline are used each year. Although this may seem like a tremendous amount of gasoline, don’t be too quick to advocate giving this up as a means of con serving fuel. You could return to the manual push mower, but the overall effect would be rather insignificant. If you really want to conserve gasoline, the best way to do it is to observe the 55-mile- per-hour speed limit. If everyone would drive this limit, 7 to billion gallons of gasoline would be saved in a year.

Another area where lawn care and the energy crisis cross paths is in the use of pesticides (weed, disease, and insect killers); most are manufactured from petroleum. Discontinuing the use of pesticides just because they are made from oil is not justifiable. However, using them discreetly, with good judgment and with a little sense, will help accomplish the chore of controlling the pests around your yard, while reducing the amount of oil-based chemicals used. In this way you will be helping to protect our environment by decreasing chemical pollution.


When you are planning on spending all day Saturday working outside, you want the satisfaction of accomplishing your goals. Your time is valuable, and you prefer not to waste any of it in the yard or anywhere else, for that matter. This also holds true for the money you have invested in fertilizer, seed, weed-killers, and any other lawn-care products you bought at the garden center. To be sure that the time and money you are investing in your lawn on Saturday will return the dividends you expect, you should have an understanding of the plants you are working with and their needs. Grass plants have their own particular wants and desires and therefore do better when fed, mowed, watered, and debugged at specific times of the year.

As you read through the chapters of this book, becoming acquainted with grass, you will acquire an understanding for the need to follow Mother Nature’s own time-table for doing things. The proper scheduling of the different lawn-care techniques is really one of the keys to having a beautiful lawn.

In Chapter 11 you will find a month-by-month guide for achieving a beautiful lawn. You will notice that each month’s discussion is separated into two regions, North and South. Check the map at the beginning of Chapter 2 to determine which region you are living in. Thereafter you can follow either the North or South guide for maintaining your lawn and keeping in tune with nature. Following the month-by-month discussion and supplementing it with the information found in the other chapters will help you in your lawn-care endeavors. Add to this your own common knowledge of what works best for your lawn and you have the formula for developing an elegant lawn.

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