By Charlyn Fargo
The perfect lawn can seem to be as elusive as the Chicago Cubs’ dream of winning the World Series. There’s the weather to contend with, hungry insects to battle and uncertainty as to just how much fertilizer to apply.
Don Michaels, certified turf specialist with Conserv FS Inc., in northeastern Illinois, has devoted his 33-year career to learning how to grow great grass and to sharing his expertise with clients, including Roger Baird, head groundskeeper for the Chicago Cubs.
Michaels says, “It’s so awesome to walk on to Wrigley Field when it’s in perfect condition.”
Here are his tips for having a baseball field-quality lawn:
1. Mow timely.
Rather than mowing once a week and taking 3-4 inches off, he recommends mowing twice a week.
“You don’t want to cut more than a third of the leaf blade at one time,” Michaels says. “If you mow more often, it causes a Kentucky bluegrass lawn to become more dense, so it naturally crowds out weeds.”
2. Water early in the morning.
Michaels says the best times to water are from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., so that less water is lost to evaporation.
“The worst time to water is in the evening,” he says. “Those wet and damp, hot humid nights are a good growing ground for disease. I’d rather see a good, deep watering one time a week.”
In a dry period, he recommends letting the grass go dormant, even if it loses its green color.
“If it stays hot and dry for 30 days, then give one deep soaking water to keep the roots alive,” Michaels explains. “The worst thing to do is a light, frequent watering because it keeps the roots near the surface.”
3. Fertilize on a holiday schedule.
Michaels recommends fertilizing grass that grows in sunny areas around these four holidays – Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. It’s nitrogen that gives grass the best green color. Fertilize grass in shady areas only one time – in the late fall.
“If you over-fertilize shaded grass, it won’t hold up,” says Michaels.