Lawn Care For Dummies book cover

Lawn Care For Dummies

Authors:
Lance Walheim ,
Published: February 12, 1998

Overview

Only one thing is standing between you and a fabulous lawn: It's called Lawn Care For Dummies. If you want a spiffy and well-coifed lawn (and not the overgrown, unruly one that people comment on when they pass by your house), you'll find everything you need to know to help you make your lawn the most dazzling spectacle on the block.

Let authors Lance Walheim and the gardening experts at the National Gardening Association treat you and your yard to a megadose of lawn care information. In Lawn Care For Dummies, Walheim and the NGA give you the dirt on all the essentials, including how to
* Design a low-maintenance or a high-maintenance lawn
* Evaluate the pros and cons of planting a lawn from seed or starting one from sod
* Discover how often you need to water your lawn without under-watering it or waterlogging it
* Choose a mower that's right for your grass type
* Deal effectively with wicked weeds and pesky insects
* Create alternative lawns, such as ground cover plants, decks, and patios
Lawn Care For Dummies also features a beautiful color insert with photos illustrating the various types of lawns found in yards across the world.
Only one thing is standing between you and a fabulous lawn: It's called Lawn Care For Dummies. If you want a spiffy and well-coifed lawn (and not the overgrown, unruly one that people comment on when they pass by your house), you'll find everything you need to know to help you make your lawn the most dazzling spectacle on the block.

Let authors Lance Walheim and the gardening experts at the National Gardening Association treat you and your yard to a megadose of lawn care information. In Lawn Care For Dummies, Walheim and the NGA give you the dirt on all the essentials, including how
to
* Design a low-maintenance or a high-maintenance lawn
* Evaluate the pros and cons of planting a lawn from seed or starting one from sod
* Discover how often you need to water your lawn without under-watering it or waterlogging it
* Choose a mower that's right for your grass type
* Deal effectively with wicked weeds and pesky insects
* Create alternative lawns, such as ground cover plants, decks, and patios
Lawn Care For Dummies also features a beautiful color insert with photos illustrating the various types of lawns found in yards across the world.

Articles From The Book

44 results

Lawn Care Articles

Choosing a Warm-Season Grass

If you live in a warm climate, you should choose from among these commonly used warm-season grasses: Bahia grass, common and hybrid Bermuda grass, centipede grass, St. Augustine grass, and zoysia grass. Whether you live in Florida or California, chances are that your lawn has one or a combination of these grasses growing in it:

  • Bahia grass: Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) is a tough, coarse grass that roots deeply and extensively. This grass sends out runners that can help stabilize erosion-prone soil. Bahia grass is low-growing and forms a tough, open turf that resists thatch. Bahia grass has excellent wearability, but gets a high-maintenance rating in the mowing department. You need to mow frequently with sharp blades.

    Bahia grasses are shade-tolerant, moderately drought-tolerant, and do well in sandy or infertile soils of the southern coastal plains of the United States. These grasses stay green longer than most of the warm-season grasses over the winter months.

  • Bermuda grasses: You can choose from two Bermuda grasses:

    • Common Bermuda grass: Common Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is a medium green, medium- to fine-textured turf. The grass roots deeply and spreads quickly, making it heat- and drought-tolerant. The rapid spreading can cause a problem of invasion into unwanted areas if not kept in check. This turf has excellent wearability, however, it doesn’t do well in shade and turns brown in winter until daytime temperatures reach a consistent 60 degrees F. Common Bermuda grass grows well in poor soils.

    • Hybrid Bermuda grass: The hybrid Bermuda grasses (Cynodon dactylon crossed with C. transvaalensis) are softer, denser, greener, and more finely textured than the common Bermuda grasses. Hybrid Bermuda grass is heat-loving, fast-growing, drought-tolerant, and very durable, making it a good choice for high-traffic lawns. The hybrid types are more disease- and pest-resistant than common Bermuda grass, but thatch buildup can become a problem.

  • Centipede grass: Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides) is a medium- to fine-textured, light green grass that spreads by creeping stolons. This grass has shallow roots, making it only moderately tolerant to drought, slow to fill in as a lawn, and slow to recover from wear and tear. Centipede grass is not a high-traffic-area grass. However its good resistance to disease and pests make it a good, low-maintenance lawn grass. It’s one of the first of the warm-season grasses to turn brown in hot, dry weather and to go dormant with the arrival of winter. This grass tolerates moderate shade, but doesn’t tolerate the salt from sea spray. Centipede grass can turn yellow in alkaline soils that lack iron, but greens up with applications of iron sulphate or iron chelate.

  • St. Augustine grass: St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is a fast-growing, deep-rooted, coarse to medium-textured grass with broad, dark green leaves. The grass spreads rapidly by surface runners that form a thick, dense turf, giving this grass an A for wearability.

  • This grass is quite popular in southern climates, from Florida to California, because of its tolerance to heat, sun, shade, and salt. St. Augustine grass can grow in most soils, but prefers well-fertilized, well-drained, alkaline soil.

  • St. Augustine grass is susceptible to brown patch, mole crickets, sod webworm, chinch bugs, and a virus called St. Augustine Decline (SAD, for short).

  • Zoysia grass: Zoysia grasses are fine- to medium-textured, dark green, and moderately deep rooted. The blades are wiry, making them the least comfortable lawn for barefooted traffic. You generally plant zoysias by plugs, which may take two seasons to fill in your lawn space. However, when the plugs spread out and the space gets covered, you end up with a fairly low-maintenance lawn that can withstand high traffic.

    When properly cared for, zoysias are fairly pest- and disease-resistant when compared to other warm-season grasses. However, brown patch, dollar spot, armyworms, billbugs, and sod webworms can occasionally create problems if you slack off on maintenance. Ditto thatch.

  • The Native Grasses: North America’s native American grasses are growing in popularity among more environmentally conscious lawn lovers because of their lack of demands on precious resources and labor. For the most part, native grasses need little water once established, very little fertilizer, and a haircut only a few times a year. The two most popular warm-season native grasses are blue grama and buffalo grass:

    • Blue grama: Although this grass goes dormant, it tolerates extreme heat and cold and does well in the arid regions of the Central Plains. Blue grama is very drought-tolerant and offers moderate wearability, but is slow to recover from wear damage.

    • Buffalo grass: Buffalo grass is drought-tolerant once established and becomes even more so if mowed infrequently and high. This grass thrives in areas that receive only 10 to 15 inches of rain a year, but will go brown if allowed to go completely dry. More lawnlike in appearance than other natives, buffalo grass is becoming quite popular in drought-prone regions. However, it’s expensive to plant, whether by seed, sod, or plug.

Lawn Care Articles

Choosing Between Portable Sprinklers or In-Ground Irrigation Systems

Choosing an irrigation system is about convenience, efficiency, and water conservation. Deciding on portable sprinklers or an in-ground irrigation system basically comes down to cost versus time and convenience.

Portable sprinklers aren’t necessarily the most efficient system to use to water your grass. You know — hooking up the oscillating or impulse sprinklers, dragging the hose all over the lawn, watching the clock, and trying to remember when you should move the sprinkler to a different part of the lawn. Because your lawn should be watered in the morning, are you willing to get up in predawn hours to start the process? Then there’s the question of how you’re going to drag that sprinkler over your new lawn. You’ll turn that nice smooth ground into the lunar surface.

Portable sprinklers also can be difficult to adjust and point so that the lawn gets evenly watered without wetting the sidewalk or street. The goal isn’t to turn the street gutters into rivers. Portable sprinklers water areas unevenly, and a lot of the water gets lost to evaporation as the sprinklers throw the water up into the air to fling it far and wide.

The secret to getting a great looking lawn while conserving precious water is to evenly moisten the root zone without filling the street gutters. Even if you have the best lawn soil in the world, soil can absorb water only at a certain rate. If you deliver water faster than the soil can absorb it, you get runoff — a big waste.

Permanent, in-ground irrigation systems usually send up light misty sprays of water that you can aim carefully. The soil absorbs water slowly over a longer period of time. You get more bang for your buck because you use less water to get a better-looking lawn.

Don’t forget! Your time is valuable, too. With an automatic timer controller installed on your irrigation system, you can water your lawn well and wisely even when you aren’t home. You can even install moisture-sensoring devices that withhold watering during times when rainfall is doing an adequate job.

The only drawback to an in-ground irrigation system is that it can be rather expensive — more expensive if you hire a professional to install it and less expensive if you do it yourself. But a permanent in-ground system, properly installed and maintained, is an asset for you and your home’s value, just like a new bathroom or a sun porch.

If you need to water your lawn and you can afford it, an in-ground irrigation system is the best choice for you. You may save a little money on your water bill, and you can definitely increase the value of your real estate. In addition, your lawn will look lovely.

Naturally, if you live in an area where summer rainfall is plentiful and you need to water your lawn only a couple times during dry spells, a permanent irrigation system may not make sense. The same is true if you have a small lawn.

Lawn Care Articles

Connecting a Lawn Irrigation System to a Home Water Supply

Connecting your lawn irrigation system to the plumbing system in your house is one of the final steps of installation. The water for your lawn irrigation system has to come from somewhere, so you need to hook your system to the house water supply.

Tapping into the water supply is one part of the installation that you should really get help on from a professional installer or plumber. Making a mistake with your plumbing system can be expensive when you have to call in the professionals to fix it.

First, turn off the main water supply to the house unless you want to have a huge gigantic gusher of a mess. The kids may like it, but you won’t.

The following list shows three ways to tap into the water supply:

  • Tap the outside faucet. Unscrew the outside faucet and install a 1-inch galvanized or copper tee fitting facing down. Screw the faucet back on to the tee. Below the tee, install a shutoff valve and then run pipe to the manifold and your irrigation system. This is probably the least complicated junction.

  • Tapping the main line. Cut a section out of your main line and install a compression tee fitting. Run the pipe a few inches away and install a shutoff valve. Then run pipe to your manifold.

  • Tapping the basement water meter. Just past the water meter, cut into the line and install a compression tee. From there, run a short line and install a shutoff valve. Run pipe up to the trench level outside and drill a hole through the basement wall. Run pipe out to the manifold.

The manifold is a grouping of control valves that connects the water source to the system and controls the flow of water to each circuit. Following your manufacturer’s instructions, attach the various pipes to the control valves at the manifold by using pipe tape (white tape that you wrap around the treads to prevent the connection from leaking). Attach the pipes carefully — not so tight that you damage the threads and cause the pipes to leak.

After you have the entire irrigation system attached to the manifold and the main water line, you’re heading down the stretch to the finish line.

  1. Attach the risers.

    Cut the pipe at each spot where a riser is to go and install a tee fitting. Install the riser, making sure that the sprinkler head will be at or just above soil level. If you’ll be planting sod, the heads need to be an inch or so higher than soil level to accommodate the thickness of the sod. A number of flexible or adjustable risers make this connection easy.

  2. Flush the system.

    To do so, turn on the main water line and then the irrigation system and flush out the pipes for a few minutes. Sprinkler heads can clog very easily, and you want to eliminate all dirt in the lines. Turn off the water.

  3. Bring on the sprinkler heads.

    Screw the sprinkler heads on to the risers, making sure that they’re adjusted correctly and pointing in the right directions.

  4. Install a controller or timing device (optional).

    If you’re going to install a controller or timing device, now is the time. This electrical device should be in a protected place not far from your power source. A heated garage or basement is good. Be sure to run the electrical wires to connect the controller to the manifold in a waterproof pipe. The controller should be buried to protect it from rain and freezing weather.

  5. Test your system.

    If all the pipes and fittings are not leaking, you can backfill the trenches. If you installed the system in an existing lawn, replant the open soil with seed or sod. Otherwise, you’re ready to do some final leveling and plant your new lawn.