Healthy Lawns: An Integrated Approach to Lawn Care

Bay Creek Neighborhood homeowners, and others who do lawn care, were recently treated to a presentation by Mindy Habecker, Natural Resources / Community Development Educator for Dane County UW Extension. This article is a summary of that presentation, entitled Healthy Lawns: An Integrated Approach to Lawn Care.

Some care and attention to your yard and lawn can increase the attractiveness and value of your home a great deal. The good news: it does not take a lot of work, or a lot of chemicals, to have a nice lawn and yard. Some forethought and planning is key.

Start by thinking about your lawn and how you use it. Ask all family members for their input and needs. If you have kids who like backyard sports, starting a prairie restoration may not go over well! Also, take into account that your needs will change—your toddler's sandbox or swing-set may not be wanted down the road. Try to think ahead before making long-term changes.

To pick appropriate species to plant, think about:

When planning non-turf areas, remember that beds of plants require less work than single plants scattered around the yard. Also remember the importance of ground cover or mulch in non-turf areas. Among their many benefits, they reduce soil runoff, which is a big cause of lake pollution and lake weeds. You may need to consider the pH of the mulch you choose and its effects on nearby plants. Check with garden store staff.

Landscaping with native plants is growing in popularity. Prairie plants are hardy and beautiful once established, but take a bit of work to get started (previous species must be removed completely). Prairie areas have virtually no run-off, because of the plants' dense root systems. They like dry sunny spots and need no fertilizer. In fact, they fare better without it. They do best when burned every 3-5 years. (Get a burn permit from the Fire Department and a license from the City Clerk first. Cheryl Peterson, City of Madison Fire Code Enforcement Officer, will take questions about permits for prairie burning at 261-9657.)

Keeping turf areas looking great

Fertilizing tips

Understanding weeds

Weeds are really the symptoms of poor turf management, such as over or under-fertilizing, or planting the wrong species for the site. Keeping your turf dense and healthy is the best weed control:

Turf Watering Tips

You should water only in the morning. Grass needs about one inch a week, so supplement what nature does not provide. However, during a true drought, don't water. Instead let your grass go dormant.

Planting new grass

August or September is the best time to plant new grass. Cover with mulch until about 1" tall. Water lightly daily until then as well.

One more tip to help our lake: leaves and grass clippings left in piles near the curb may run off into the lake when it rains. This pollutes the lake. Keep the storm sewer near your home free of plant debris and bag unwanted clippings and leaves for the city to take, or compost them yourself.

Call or email Mindy if you have any questions about integrated lawn care: or 224-3718

More Meeting Minutes

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