How to Grow a Lawn or a Lawn Substitute

Growing and Maintenance of Grass Lawns

Grass planted on the good earth has a wholesome impact on our health and climate. One acre of grass close to your home has the cooling effect of a 140,000-pound air conditioner (that's equal to 70 tons!). That same grass gives out 2,400 gallons of water (48 barrels) each single summer day to be recycled in our atmosphere, holding our earth from becoming a desert. Likewise, grass acts as a blotter, absorbing noise, water, and smog. And grass plants are one of the best dust mops on earth, catching much of the falling debris found in millions of tons of pollutants expelled into the atmosphere every year.



Grass Lawns Are Healthy

Next time you get fed up with your lawn and threaten to substitute it using black top or synthetic turf, you should think twice:  Studies show that schools using synthetic turfs are plagued with a growing number of injuries to athletes. Injuries on artificial turf are more serious than those incurred on typical grass. Researchers surmise the higher rate of injury on synthetic turf is because it allows better traction—which leads to harder hitting in aggressive games.

Artificial grass heats up quickly under a hot sun, getting midday air temperatures up, for example, as high as 150 degrees in Alabama. Tests at Michigan State proved that live grass reduced September temperatures 15 degrees.

Artificial lawn aren't cheap to maintain. Actually, natural grass maintenance costs are lower than artificial turf. At Purdue University's football field, annual resodding costs $8,133-$48,960, including labor and materials. Artificial turf makers claim the same area would cost from $13,720-$39,220.

Besides, see what real grass does: 1) Freshens air. 2) Filters out dust and dirt. 3) Controls erosion. 4) Reduces glare. 5) Cools your home. Of the total amount of sun heat striking the surface of a lawn, 5 percent is reflected, 5 percent is absorbed, and 50 percent is eliminated by the lawn's cooling process. 6) Grass aids in deadening sound. 7) Grass is all-important to song and game birds and small animals.


Preparing Soil for a Lawn

Grass seed is easy to please. It would grow in almost any soil. But growing grass and getting an attractive lawn are not entirely the same thing. To grow a great lawn, meaning one with dense, healthy, turf, you need fairly good soil. Grass will grow at its best in soil which is neither too loose nor too tight, just porous enough to take in water easily.

In most circumstances you can improve the existing soil a lot less compared to importing costly topsoil. As a matter of fact, tests show that the cost of building up the present soil is typically only one-third that of buying topsoil. Fertilizer, good seed, and adequate organic matter help a lawn to help itself. Grass started from an enriched subsoil will, at the end of two or three years, have enough humus from its own root growth and clippings to nurse itself along, with the help of yearly feedings, for you and succeeding generations to enjoy. The only period you have to buy extra soil is when you prefer to raise the level of the lawn or when the existing soil is no more than pure gumbo, very poor quality to serve as a good seed bed.

Spread 50 to 60 pounds of a balanced fertilizer evenly over each 1,000 square feet of lawn area or, if you utilize manure or compost, spread 2 or 3 cubic feet over each 1,000 square feet of lawn and mix it with the soil. If you prefer, you can employ peat moss (about 3 bales for each 1,000 square feet of lawn).

This mixing will strengthen the sand or loosen the clay, whichever is needed. There is no need to make soil analysis because you can hardly overdo this process. (Don't add sand to clay since this will only pack the clay even tighter.)

If you use peat moss, or if you already have suitable soil, make sure to add plant food or a complete fertilizer. Every soil must be fed before planting. "Complete" fertilizer or plant food means it holds all three of the chemical substances your lawn will need:

Nitrogen, which gives your lawn its robust dark-green color and promotes leaf and stem growth.

Phosphorus, which hastens root growth and helps plants make a fast start.

Potassium, which helps plants withstand diseases and encourages a luxuriant condition.

Now you have soil aimed to play host to a fine, healthy turf. It's neither heavy nor sandy, nor so hard that it may crack when it dries and leave open spaces. You are now ready to rake the soil evenly and loosely. When raking, don't attempt to remove each little stone. A light rolling will take care of them. Grass roots grow under these and find protection there from the sun. Still, if you have purchased topsoil, it must be free of stones because you paid for soil, not stones.

The nest step is to start seeding, but keep in mind: it takes a well planned lawn to reach its peak the second and third years after planting. Don't expect an ideal carpet of grass the first year. After the first year, you will still have a few bad spots. These can be adjusted simply by loosening the soil and dispersing on some grass seed.