| Your Lawn
Lawns can vary in many ways, and each lawn has it's own
special care requirements. Use this page to find out more about:
Although all grass is green, there are many different
varieties of turf that will grow in Utah. These types can be placed in two
main categories: Cool season and Warm season turf.
Cool Season Turf
Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is the most common type of
grass used in Utah. Cool season grasses characteristically endure cooler
weather better than other types of grass. For instance, a Kentucky bluegrass
lawn will stay green later in the season when temperatures begin to cool
off. However, cool season grasses do not tolerate the heat of summer very
well. If left to their own devices, cool season grasses will go dormant
during the hottest months of the year.
Warm Season Turf
Warm season turfs are most common in Southern Utah. These grasses include
Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactlyon) and Zoysiagrass (Zoysia japonica). These
grasses can tolerate the extremely warm temperatures common in Southern
Utah. Because these grasses are heat tolerant, they will not go dormant
in the summer. However, because they are heat-loving grasses, warm season
turfs have little tolerance for cold weather. A warm season grass will
normally go dormant when temperatures begin to chill considerably.
One beneficial aspect of warm season grasses is that they generally
use less water than cool season species.
Although Bermudagrass is a popular grass for Southern Utah, it is listed
as a noxious weed in Utah, and is only allowed to be planted in Washington
There are several good alternatives to the standard warm and cool season
turfs found in utah. These include:
- Tall Fescues
Buffalograss (Buchloë dactyloides). Is a warm season turf that can
be planted in any area in Utah, and it has many positive attributes. For
instance, its color is a rich gray/blue that compliments many landscape
plants. It does not grow very tall, making mowing completely optional. When
it goes to seed, a quaint little bell-shaped seed head hangs from many of
the stalks, making a decorative statement in your landscape.
One drawback to Buffalograss - its not very cold tolerant. It takes
longer in the spring to green up, and is among the first plants to go dormant
in the fall. However, the dormant color of the Buffalograss is a uniform
gold color- not the brown, dead looking color of dormant Kentucky bluegrass.
Other alternative turfgrasses of note are the cool season turf-type Tall
Fescues. This type of grass uses notably less water than conventional
Kentucky bluegrass, and can tolerate as much wear. The texture of the
grass is somewhat more course than other lawns, but the actual difference
Of course, another alternative turf is no turf at all! Using
a low water use groundcover such as Wooly Thyme (Thymus psuedolanuginosdus)
with its beautiful color and fragrance or Trailing Fleabane (Erigeron
flagellaris) with its delicate white flowers is a great way to save water
and keep your landscape green.
Extension Bulletin "Turfgrass Cultivars for Utah"
There are many different types of soil in Utah, ranging
from almost pure sand to hard packed clay. Understanding what type of
soil YOU have is essential in scheduling a proper irrigation program.
Here are some simple options you can use to determine your soil type:
Make an Educated Guess
- Make an Educated Guess; or
- Conduct a "Feel Test" or
- Send a Soil Sample to be Analyzed
By using a soil probe or even a simple screwdriver and making some simple
observations, you can assess the soil in your landscape and make an educated
guess. Use one of these tools to get a sample of the soil in your landscape,
and ask yourself the following questions:
Cant decide? If you must make a guess, try to err on the side of a
clay soil. Most plants respond well to watering methods designed for clay
- Ask Yourself: Does my soil drain water easily, or does it puddle?
If your soil tends to puddle water easily, its probably more on
the clay side of the soil spectrum.
- Ask Yourself: Does my soil feel gritty or relatively smooth?
If your soil is gritty, its probably leaning toward the sandy
side of the spectrum.
Conducting a "Feel Test"
1. Place approximately 2 tablespoons of soil in your hand. Add water
and mix until the soil feels like wet putty.
Does the soil remain in a ball when you squeeze it in your palm?
NO = Your soil type is SAND
YES = Continue with test
2. Place the ball of soil between your thumb and forefinger. Gently push
the soil with your thumb, squeezing it upward into a ribbon shape. Try
to make the ribbon as uniform as possible. Let the soil continue to form
a ribbon until it breaks.
Does the soil ribbon break before it is 1 inch long?
NO = Proceed to next question
YES = Does the soil feel gritty?
YES = Your soil type is SANDY LOAM
NO = Your soil type is LOAM or SILT LOAM
Does the soil ribbon break between 1 and 2 inches long?
NO = Proceed to next question
YES = Does the soil feel gritty?
YES = Your soil type is SANDY CLAY LOAM
NO = Your soil type is CLAY LOAM or SILTY CLAY
Does the soil ribbon get longer than 2 inches without seeming to break?
YES = Does the soil feel gritty?
YES = Your soil type is SANDY CLAY
NO = Your soil type is CLAY
Get it Analyzed!
If the feel test doesnt work out for you, you can also contact
Utah State Universitys Soil Analysis Lab. If you send the lab a
sample of your soil, they will determine the soil texture and even do
a small nutrient analysis for you for a small fee! You can find more information
at their website:
Universitys Soil Analysis Lab
Plants require water based on what is called "evapotranspiration".
Evapotranspiration, or ET, is the total amount of water lost to the air
through natural plant processes (called "transpiration") and
through evaporation from the soil. This water loss changes throughout
the year, following a bell-curve pattern.
ET = Soil Water Loss + Plant Water Loss
ET takes into account several climatic factors, including but not limited
to temperature, wind speed, humidity and precipitation.
Calculating a watering schedule involves incorporating ET, plant water
requirements, soil type, microclimates, system uniformity, precipitation
rate, and other landscape characteristics.
To help you get started in calculating an efficient schedule for your
landscape, please follow one of these links:
Level 1 - Monthly Watering Guide
Level 2 - Customized Watering
Did you know that most lawn problems are a direct
result of over watering? Maintaining your lawn properly will help you
save time, money and water!
Is your lawn shorter than your carpet? Mowing your lawn at such a short
length hurts the grass, wastes water and produces more green waste.
By raising your lawn mower height another ½ to 1 inch, you are
promoting the conservation of water in grass. Grass will shade itself
as it grows longer, reducing its overall water need. This, in turn, reduces
the growth rate of the grass meaning less frequent mowing! Experts recommend
cutting grass to a total length of 3 inches, and removing no more than
one-third of the leaf blade per mowing.
Ever heard the expression "What doesnt kill you only makes
you stronger"? In order to make your grass heartier, try stressing
it out! By going an extra day without water here and there, you are promoting
deeper root growth. The deeper the roots are allowed to penetrate the
soil, the better overall health of your lawn. Roots will only grow as
far as they need to in order to get water. If you are always giving them
water up near the surface of the lawn, the plants have no incentive to
grow deeper. You can easily check your rooting depth by using a soil probe
Try waiting as long as possible in the spring before watering your grass.
The longer you wait, the healthier your lawn will be in the summer months.
And dont worry. Its virtually impossible to kill your lawn.
The lawn may turn brown in areas, but it is just the plant going DORMANT,
not dying. Adding water will make that spot spring back to life!
Fertilizing your lawn encourages healthy plant growth. In this case,
however, MORE IS NOT BETTER! Fertilize sparingly, as you can actually
over stimulate plant growth, making the lawn more susceptible to dry conditions
and disease. Additionally, the more fertilizer applied to a lawn increases
the likelihood of harmful chemicals running off into streams or seeping
into groundwater. The combination of over-watering and over-fertilizing
can be dangerous to plants and humans!
What Causes Brown Spots?
Brown spots can be caused by a number of factors. Lack of water is the
most common, followed by disease. Because Utahs climate is so arid,
there arent that many disease problems in our lawns. The number
one culprit of brown spots in your lawn is lack of water.
There are a number of reasons one area on your lawn may not be getting
enough water. You may have sprinkler heads that are not functioning properly.
Poor uniformity in your irrigation system can cause one area to get less
water than the rest of the zone.
Check for broken sprinkler heads, heads that are misaligned (a good
indicator is a wet sidewalk or street), or obstructions such as trees,
shrubs or landscape rocks.
If there are several brown spots within one zone, you may have an overall
design problem. Fixing a design problem is costly and labor intensive.
If you must replace your system, please consult with a professional irrigation
designer. However, if the system seemed to work at one point, you most
likely have poor pressure in your system. Call an irrigation professional
to help you correct this problem.
For a monthly maintenance check, print the following checklist of things
to look for in your irrigation system. Print this list, turn on your zones,
and mark the problems on the sheet. This way, you will have a record of
system maintenance problems!
Coping with Brown Spots
No matter how much maintenance you do on your sprinkler system, no ones
irrigation system is perfect. It is impossible to design a sprinkler system
that is 100% efficient. Dont feel so bad.
After getting the system as uniform as possible, you may still have
At this point, you have three choices:
- Over-water your lawn, thereby wasting a valuable resource,
- Hand-water the brown spots when needed, increasing your maintenance
- Plant something else there that doesn't need as much water.
There are a number of things that you can do to prepare
your lawn for the winter and to ensure that it comes back strong in the
fall. The cool night temperatures we are currently experiencing are probably
already strengthening your lawn after the hot and dry summer. You may
be noticing improved grass color and density. Now is the perfect time
to enhance the grass's recovery with a few simple steps.
After the summer, it is likely that your lawn needs some supplemental
fertilization. Nitrogen will be needed in the largest quantity and you
should apply 1 pound of slow-release nitrogen fertilizer per thousand
square feet of lawn. This will help the lawn to recover from summer stresses
and will further improve grass color and density.
As the cooler weather intensifies, you will also be able to stop irrigating
your lawn. It's easy to forget that changes in the program of your irrigation
controller are necessary at this time of the year. The grass does not
need as much irrigation as it did during the heat of the summer and it's
the perfect opportunity for conservation. A great deal of water can be
wasted in the fall because irrigation controllers are not adjusted for
the cooler temperatures.
it gets even cooler and winter is just around the corner, you will notice
that your lawn is growing much more slowly. At some point, you will perform
your last mowing of the growing season. This is a critical time in the
life and health of your lawn. Hopefully you have been mowing at a height
of 2 1/2 -3 1/2 inches to promote root growth and stress tolerance. This
is a good practice, but not a good one to follow with your final mowing
of the season. This last mowing should be much shorter, from 1 to 1 1/2
inches. Mowing at this shorter height will not leave long grass blades
over the winter that can lay over and increase humidity beneath snow cover.
If the grass blades are very long, and there is lengthy snow cover, a
disease called snow mold may occur.
After your final mowing is also the best time to apply your last fertilization
of the growing season. Once again, nitrogen is of primary concern. Following
your last mowing, you'll want to apply 1 pound of quick-release nitrogen
fertilizer per thousand square feet of lawn. It's important that the nitrogen
source be quick-release so that the grass can take it up before going
dormant due to cold. This is probably the most critical fertilization
of the entire growing season and should not be missed! Research has shown
that this late fall fertilization provides the most benefit and drought
tolerance to the lawn the FOLLOWING summer.
These simple steps will ensure that your lawn makes it not only through
the winter, but into next summer healthy and stronger.