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Blackwelder column: Don't make these errors with your lawn

Fall is the best time to renovate or plant cool season fescue or fescue blend lawns. If it seems like an annual event, then you may be making mistakes many homeowners do with lawn maintenance. Listed below are mistakes that seem to haunt us all when we renovate our lawns.
– Basic misunderstanding about cool season turf growth habits. Fescue and fescue/bluegrass blends are cool season lawns that grow best in fall and winter and in early spring. One must understand growth habits of fescue and other cool season grasses to grow them correctly. Fescue grows poorly in hot weather.
– Improper measurements. It is impossible to determine how much seed, fertilizer or water to use if you don’t have a grasp of the size of the lawn area you’re trying to maintain. Most over-apply seed and under-apply fertilizer. Take a few minutes to measure your lawn.
– No soil sampling. Application of lime and fertilizers is a guess without a soil test. Most people guess when applying fertilizers, especially lime. Applying lime each year as a standard practice can raise the pH to unacceptable levels for fescue growth. Over-liming can be a serious problem. This is a free service provided by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture of which very few take advantage.
– Improper mowing practices. many homeowners often mow their lawns too close. Three and half inches is normal for fescue lawns. Some will mow fescue as close as 2 inches. A fescue lawn will do well mowed this close, especially during a hot, dry or even wet summer. Dull blades can make a beautiful lawn ugly and sharp blades can make a fair lawn look great. The majority of homeowners never sharpen their mower blades. Blades need to be sharpened about once or twice a month.- Inconsistent maintenance. Fescue lawns respond best to consistent maintenance in the spring and fall. If there is one aspect of lawn care that will make your lawn look best, it is consistent care, especially fertilization and weed control. Those who chose not to be consistent will have poor lawns.
– Water. One to two inches a week in most instances is sufficient for fescue lawns. Shallow watering or over-watering can be a problem. Watering at night aggravates fungal disease problems.
– Wrong seed. Many think if you blend annual ryegrass with fescue it helps establish fescue. Ryegrass is a fierce competitor with fescue and bluegrass and will weaken the stand. Never blend annual bluegrass with fescue or fescue/bluegrass blends. Contractor blends contain ryegrass. Read the label on these blends before sowing an unknown blend.
– Poor weed control. Most homeowners get confused trying to use herbicides for weed control. Homeowners need to focus more on why they have weeds rather than how to control them. A healthy lawn will have few weeds.
– Unreasonable expectations. It takes time for fescue to become established. It takes time for the lawns to become thick and healthy. Unseasonable or excess rain and insect and disease problems create a multitude of problems that take time and patience to overcome. Be patient and persistent with your maintenance program.
Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Call 704-216-8970.
http://www.rowanmastergardener.com
http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu
http://rowanhorticulture.blogspot.com/

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