Some of the things we look at:
How much water does the lawn get and when? Usually one or two good soaks a week are preferred to numerous light sprinkles. This way the moisture travels down into the soil and encourages long roots. Once you establish a healthy turf with a deep root system and keep the mowing on the high side, you will need less water.
What’s the drainage like? This is very important. Water-logged soils tend to have lawns with undesirable weeds such as plaintain and ground ivy. Changing the grading or diverting water flow may be necessary.
What variety of grass is there? A diverse seed mix of proven winners is preferred. This way the lawn can tough it out when the weather does not cooperate. The dark green color and lush texture of bluegrass is great but it will not thrive without plenty of sun and water. Drought-tolerant fescues can tolerate summer heat and shade. Durable perennial rye grasses establish quickly and adapt to grow in either sun or shade.
How does the light and air circulate? Good grass needs a minimum of 4 hours of sun or very light shade. Thick canopies of large-leaved maples, for example, will need to be thinned out or limbed up. Stagnant air may encourage lawn disease. If there is insufficient light or circulation, suitable ground covers might be a better choice than turf.
How is the lawn mowed? Clean, sharp blades prevent tearing of the leaf surface and the spread of fungus. Rotating the direction of cut helps to prevent compaction of the soil. Longer grass allows for more photosynthesis and longer root growth.
Has the lawn been dethatched? Periodic dethatching and core aerating breaks up the thatch layer and allows air and water to penetrate for healthy growth. This is particularly important for bluegrass sods which have a thicker thatch layer.
What is the soil like? So often soils are compacted. Can traffic patterns change? Grass does not like to grow where people walk all the time. Is there enough organic matter? A topdressing of good quality compost in the fall coupled with mechanical aeration works wonders.
What nutrition has the lawn been given? A professional soil test will identify what nutrients are needed.
Not only are the major elements, such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium important, but so are minerals such as calcium and magnesium which play an important role in the proper functioning of the grass plant. Our New England soils tend to be acidic and need to be “sweetened” with the addition of lime so that nutrients become available to the grass plant.
Are there insects and diseases in the lawn? Insects and diseases are less problematic in healthy turf. Occasionally, populations of insects may cross a tolerable threshold and need to be treated. Overseeding with endophyte-enhanced grasses is one option. The alkaloids in these grasses are toxic to surface feeders such as chinch bug, billbugs and webworms. Oils from the Neem or Cedar tree are useful repellents. Controlling the thatch where these insects live is another strategy. There are also naturally occurring microbial products for insect control, such as Spinosad and Milky Spore. Beneficial nematodes can be applied for grub control. Diseases are best treated culturally, by adjusting the air circulation, watering patterns and the mowing regime.