Step 5: Maintaining a Healthy Lawn

Proper lawn maintenance is vital for the long-term health of your lawn. Appropriate mowing and watering practices must occur so your lawn will have a healthy root system, be more drought-tolerant and be able to resist pests and disease.

When Mowing

  • Never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade at any one time. Cutting too much of the leaf blade can stress your lawn. If your lawn is under any stress (shade, traffic, drought, etc.), raise the mowing height.
  • Mow at the highest height for your grass species. See chart for specific types. Mowing at lower heights can result in a shallow root system.
  • Keep your mower blades sharp. A dull blade tears the grass blades, making the grass unattractive and prone to insect or disease invasion.
  • Do not mow when lawn is wet. This is dangerous for you, tough on the mower and bad for the grass.
  • If you miss a weekly mowing, raise the mower height so you do not remove too much of the grass blade. Bring the height back down to the recommended level gradually over the next few weeks.
  • Keep grass clippings, vegetative material and vegetative debris away from storm drains, ditches, water bodies and roadways.
  • Leave grass clippings on the ground. They do not contribute to thatch, and they return nutrients and organic matter back to the lawn.

When Watering

  • Irrigate around sunrise or in the early morning hours. You want the leaf blades to dry out fully during the day.
  • Do not apply water to just wet the top of the soil; this will result in a shallow root system. Apply enough water to encourage deeper root growth.
  • In most parts of Florida, irrigate to apply ½–¾ inch of water. Heavier clay soils need only about ½ inch of water while sandy soils may need up to ¾ inch of water.

Irrigation System Tips

More lawns are damaged by improper irrigation practices than by any other practice. Take control of your automatic irrigation system using these tips:

  • Florida law requires that all irrigation systems have working rain sensors to override the system when enough rain has fallen. Check your rain sensor to see if it’s installed correctly and still working.
  • Sprinkler heads are easily misaligned or broken, which can lead to improper water application to your lawn and may waste water as runoff. Inspect your irrigation system regularly.
  • To find out how long you need to run your irrigation system, perform a catch-can test (see “Water-In Fertilizer” in Step 4). If applying these amounts causes runoff, reduce the amount of water applied. In some soils it may be necessary to first apply half the amount needed, let it percolate through the soil, and then apply the remaining water a short time later.
  • Turn your system to the “off” or “manual” position. Water only when leaf blades start to fold in half lengthwise or when footprints remain visible for a few minutes. Irrigate when about 30 percent of the lawn shows these signs, unless rain is forecast in the next 24 hours.

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