Marion Barnes, Senior County Extension Agent, Clemson University
The home lawn is a source of pride to many homeowners and is usually the result of a lot of hard work and effort on their part. If we were to design the “perfect lawn” what would be some of the components; no weeds, no insects, no disease, no armadillos, no ground moles, no fertilizer, no watering, no mowing, green 365 days a year. Unfortunately, the “perfect lawn” does not exist.
There is no substitute for grass as a recreational surface. The benefits of a healthy lawn go beyond the obvious. A healthy, vigorously growing lawn helps the environment by stabilizing soil and reducing runoff, reducing dust, air pollution and heat. Surveys indicate that a well maintained and attractive lawn can add value to your property. The key to a great looking lawn is a healthy, disease free turf.
Whether you are establishing a new lawn or maintaining an existing one the following management practices can help you achieve a healthy, vigorous turf.
5. Thatch buildup and removal. Thatch is a dense collection of living and dead grass stems and roots lying between the soil surface and green leaves in established lawns. As a grass plant grows, the older sloughed-off plant matter (stolons, roots, rhizomes and stems) is often slow to decompose and begin to accumulate at the soil surface forming a thatch layer. Excess thatch reduces water infiltration, promotes shallow-rooted turf and encourages insect and disease problems. Thatch buildup varies from lawn to lawn and contrary to what many homeowners may think grass clippings from mowing do not contribute to thatch buildup. However, once a thatch layer has developed, grass clippings can further speeds its formation. A thatch layer up to one half thick may actually benefit lawns by helping to retain moisture and stabilizing soil temperatures. If the thatch layer exceed one half inch in thickness you may need to consider dethatching your lawn. To prevent thatch buildup, apply the proper amounts of nutrients. Excess nitrogen can lead to thatch accumulation. Mow your lawn at the proper height and mow regularly.
For more information on managing your home lawn checkout the following factsheets at the Clemson Home and Garden Information Center: HGIC 1203 Lawn Establishment, HGIC 1201 Fertilizing Lawns, HGIC 2360 Controlling Thatch in Lawns, and HGIC 2310 Managing Weeds in Warm Season Lawns.