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Dear Plan! Doctor: Please send
me info on establishing and main
taining a "healthy" lawn. I just re
cently purchased a new home and
want my yard to be well kept.
Dear Plant Doctor: I am a new
homeowner with a problem. My i
front and back yard are bare and I do
not know where to even start in es
tablishing a lawn. I read your arti
cles on establishing a "perfect lawn"
but can you send me information
about establishing and maintaining a c
Establishing And Maintaining
A Healthy Lawn
Southeastern North Carolina is in
a climactic transition zone for north
ern and southern plants?a kind of
Summer heat, humidity and sandy
soils make the culture of cool season
lawn grasses (e.g. tall fescue, Ken
tucky Hluegrass, red fescue, bent
grass. and others) extremely diffi
cult. Periodic winter freezes and the
occasional arctic blast will kill or se
verely injure many of the warm sea
son grasses (eg. bermudagrass, cen
tipedegrass, St August i negrass, car
petgrass. and bahiagrass).
In order to grow a "healthy" lawn,
you need to know where our lawn
grasses are coming from, so you will
know where you arc going.
None of the lawngrasses com
monly grown east of the Mississippi
arc native to North America. Most
originate from the great grasslands
(ie. steppes, veldt, or pampas) of Eu
rope, Asia, Africa or South America.
In their native habitat, grasses do
not grow in a pure stand. A square
yard of native grassland may contain
several dozen species of plants
which may include two or three
species of grass and IO-to-25-pIus
species of broadleaf plants, mosses
The temperate or tropical grass
lands do not produce large forested
areas on the 15 to 25 inches of annu
al rainfall (i.e. trees and grass do nat
urally occupy the same niche). Many
of the warm-season grasses were
thought to have evolved under heavy
grazing pressure from animals and
natural burning (from wiid fires).
In a modern world, monoculture
is the normal method to grow veg
etable, fruit and fiber crops. Mono
culture is the production system of
choice for most cultivated plants to
maximize uniformity, management
and labor efficiency, and harvest.
1 .awngrass monoculture has be
come the "norm" for home lawns
due to a variety of agronomic and
sociological reasons. Most people
consider a "perfect" lawn to be ab
solutely uniform in color (green),
texture (tine), and density (thick).
Most perfect lawns are probably
healthy, but a healthy lawn is not
The establishment of a healthy
lawn will depend on how well you
do your homework.
The 10 Steps To Establishing
A "Healthy" Lawn
1. Develop a healthy soil. Con
tact your N.C. Cooperative Exten
sion Service for information on soil
testing. This is free service in North
Carolina. Without modifying the
soil, you will have bare ground, na
tive plants, weeds, or a combination
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, Maintain A Healthy Lawn
??? lure adapted to your location. Warm centipcdegrass, carpctgrass, bahia
Tlir season grasses adapted for south- grass, or common bcrmudagrass).
?Jjjy eastern North C arolina include cen- 5. Plan a fertilization and mowing
rlANT V tipedegrass, carpctgrass, bermuda- program based upon N.C. Cooper
QATTQO M jfr JfpH grass, St. August i negrass. zoysia- ative Extension recommendations?
r J fi grass, and bahiagrass. and stick to it. Request a copy of
C. BRUCE * -iiaSV Choose a 'awn management "Carolina Lawns - ALi69" from
WILLIAMS J& scheme consistent with your life- your local N.C. Cooperative Extens
Extension Area . style. If you have the time and mon- ion agent.
ey to culture a fine lawn, then 6. Use slow-release forms of ni
choose a grass that will perform up trogen fertilizer. Use other fertilizer
to your expectations (hybrid ber- nutrients only in the proportions
mudagrass or zoysiagrass). If you needed for grass growth. Most warm
>f all three. like other leisure-time activities, season grasses do best with a 3-1-2
2. Set realistic goals. choose a grass that requires less or 4-1-2 nitrogen-phosphorus-potas
3. Choose a grass species or mix- maintenance (St. Augustincgrass, sium fertilizer ratio. Fertilizers like
In The Southeast
16-4-8. 15-5-10, or 12-4-8 arc ideal Most lawngrasscs do poorly in
for all warm-season grasses cxcepl heavy shade, water-inundated soils,
centipedegrass (where a 5-5-15 or 5- very acid soils, heavy foot-traffic, or
0-15 is appropriate). on the beach. Choose appropriate
7. Use IPM, or Integrated Pest groundcovers, ornamental grasses.
Management, strategies and practice or landscape materials for difficult
grasscycling. Controlling insects or to-maintain areas.
diseases often requires that you 9. Provide adequate water.
learn the proper time and method for 10. Ixarn everything you can
treating pests. This will require about all the plants in your yard, in
some effort and tolerance on your eluding your lawngrass.
part. Grasscycle?leave grass clip- You will become a better gardener
pings on your lawn or compost and develop a healthier landscape,
them. Send your gardening questions
8. Do not try to grow lawngrass and comments to the Plant Doctor,
where lawngrasses do not grow. P.O. Box 109, Bolivia A/C 2S422.
FEB. 23'MAR. 1, 1994
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