for establishing and maintaining a great lawn!
Get a Soil Test
Test sampling kits can be
obtained from your local
Virginia Cooperative Extension office. Soil samples are sent to VA
Tech labs for analysis. Test results show how much lime and what type
lawn needs. Cost is very minimal for the test.
Prepare the Soil
Follow the test results for lime
and fertilizer. Bring in additional soil if needed. A total of four to
six inches of topsoil is ideal. If starting a new lawn be sure use a
starter fertilizer. Starter fertilizers are high in phosphorus.
Phosphorus is the most important nutrient to emerging grass.
Once the grass has developed roots, nitrogen becomes more important.
Existing lawns that are to be overseeded should be aerated thoroughly prior
to seeding. Aeration provides holes for seed to be worked into,
improves drainage, and loosens the soil for easier root penetration.
Aeration is recommended for all lawns once a year. The preferred type
of aerator is a plug aerator (actually pulls small plug from the lawn 2 to 3
inches deep) and the best time to aerate is early fall.
Whether overseeding or starting a new
lawn, seed during early spring or fall. Cooler temperatures and
plentiful rain are sure to improve the odds for success.
Caroline County is included in the Cool-Humid region of the United States.
Cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and Tall Fescue are recommended
for this region. Seed with a drop seeder or equivalent to achieve
uniform coverage. If renovating an existing lawn, the best results can
be achieved by renting a slit-seeder.
Slit-seeders drop seed as it slices through the soil. A rear roller helps to
firm the soil over the seed. Then
cover with fine straw (straw is not necessary with a slit-seeder on existing
lawns). Straw provides warmth, holds moisture, and protects against
wind and rain erosion. Keep the soil moist at all times until
the grass is about 1 inch tall then water once a week (about an inch of
water per week will do).
Let grass grow
Tall fescues should never be cut less
than 3 1/2 inches tall whereas Kentucky bluegrass can be cut as low as
2 inches. For example, cut tall fescues when they reach 4 1/2 to 5
inches tall. Never cut more than a third of the grass blade at a time.
You want grass to use its energy developing itís root system, not regrowing
blades of grass. Typically, the taller you keep your grass the
stronger and more resilient it will be during the hard summer months.
Taller grass helps to prevent weed germination and insulates the soil during
high heat and drought. A good healthy stand of grass is natures
best prevention for erosion, produces more oxygen than trees, filters
pollutants from the air and rainwater, adds value to the property, and
provides a great recreational setting for the whole family.
Fertilizer and Irrigation
While fertilizers promote plant
growth, they also increase water consumption. Apply the minimum amount
of fertilizer needed. Fertilize less during rainy spring and summer
months and more during drier winter months to help prevent nitrogen runoff
and pollution of the Chesapeake Bay. Lawns need watering when walking
leaves footprints. Most lawns only need 1 inch of water per week.
Watering an inch all at one time ensures that roots grow deep. Program
irrigation systems to water early morning and link them to a weather program
if possible to prevent wasteful overwatering if it rains.
Landscaping for Energy Savings
Leafy trees like oaks and maples
provide cooling shade during summer months then shed their leaves in the
fall allowing warm sun rays to help heat your house. Properly placed
evergreens and shrubs around the foundation can serve to block cold winds
during the fall and winter months. Savings on heating and cooling cost
could be as much as 20%.
Landscaping for Water Quality
Planted mulch beds serve several
functions. Mulch helps conserve water by protecting underlying soils
from the sun. Mulch is a natural filter for sediment and nutrient
laden storm water. Mulch helps to prevent erosion and soil
compaction by armoring the soil from raindrops. Drought tolerant
shrubs and plantings help with nutrient uptake and soil stabilization.
Also, Rain Gardens are a great way to deal with areas that remain wet or
saturated for extended periods of time. The
Virginia Department of Forestry has produced very useful technical
guides explaining rain gardens and their design and use. Information
on native species of plants, trees, and shrubs can be found
Ask for Help
If you need more advice please
contact either Caroline County Department of Planning,
Environmental Services OR the local
Virginia Cooperative Extension office.
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