Getting a beautiful green lawn is very satisfying. Here are some interesting facts about grass, lawns, common pests, and routine maintenance.
(from the Lansing State Journal, April 8, 1992)
Grass appears green because all of the colors in the rainbow are absorbed into the leaves of the grass except green.
To clip or not to clip, that is the question!
When you mow, return the grass clippings to the turf
whenever possible. Mulching mowers are specifically
designed to accommodate this procedure, but any
mower can return clippings to the lawn. Grass clippings
begin to break down quickly after mowing, releasing the
water and nutrients contained in the tissue. The nutrients
(particularly nitrogen) can be returned to the soil
and used by the lawn. Recycling nutrients will reduce
the total amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed by the turf
each growing season.
Returning clippings to the lawn will not harm the grass
plants or contribute to thatch buildup. Thatch is the
accumulation of dead and decomposing turf stems,
leaves and roots intermixed with live plant roots and
soil that occurs at the soil surface. It can be viewed by
cutting downward into the lawn, peeling the sod back
and examining the cut piece from the side. A thatch
layer of approximately 1/2 inch is beneficial because it
acts as a buffer at the soil surface and protects the
plants from extreme weather. Thatch that builds up
over 1 inch, however, can inhibit water and air movement
and weakens the turf stand. If you have a thatch
layer of 1 inch or more, you may want to consider a
core cultivation of your lawn to alleviate the thatchproblem. Excessive grass clippings left in piles on the lawn surface
will smother and severely injure the turf. Simply
spread them out over a larger area using a rake or the
mower, use them as mulch in gardens or landscape
beds, or put them in your compost pile. If excessive
clippings are a routine problem on your lawn, try mowing
more frequently and raise the mowing height.
Mowing heights of 2.5 to 3.5 inches are recommended
for most lawns.
Need to keep your lawn looking beautiful but have some sort of lawn pest problem? Here are a few lawn pests you might be dealing with.
Adult billbugs are dull gray to black or brown beetles
with a snout or bill. The larvae are white,
humpbacked grubs with a yellow to brown head.
Symptoms are irregular patches of dead grass, especially
near sidewalks or curbs. The dead grass pulls out easily
and has hollow stems. The larvae are present under the
grass and brown sawdust-like frass is present in the root
zone. The adults can be found in the grass near the dead
Larval controls should be applied in June. Use pesticides
labeled for use on grubs. Only heavily infested lawns
should be given pesticide applications.
The adults are small, black bugs 3/16 inch long
with white wings. The larvae are smaller than adults,
wingless, brick red in color with a white band on the back.
It is the feeding of the larvae in late July that is most
damaging. The injury is irregular shaped yellow patches, 2
to 3 feet in diameter, which turn brown and die out.
Non-grass plants may survive in the affected area. The
insects keep moving out from the infested area so are most
likely to be found at the edges of the spots.
Chinch bugs are usually not serious on well watered
lawns so watering properly will help control them. Severe
infestations will require applications of pesticides.
The larval stage causes the damage. The larvae are
grayish brown to dirty white and have 4 parallel rows of
dark brown spots on the abdomen. The adults are grayish
tan moths that fly in a zig-zag pattern in the evening.
The symptoms are brown patches where the grass blades
are missing and not simply dead. The larvae can be found
in silk-lined tubes they have made in the thatch layer.
White grubs are the larval stage of one of several
beetles. The most common white grub seen in the soil is
the C shaped larvae of the May or June beetle. European
Chafer larvae have become a serious a problem in lawns.
These larvae feed on the grass roots and when numerous can
cause dead areas in the lawn.
Symptoms are dead areas in the lawn. The grass in the
affected area can sometimes be easily pulled out. Roll
back a section of sod to see how many grubs are under the
lawn. If many grubs are found, controls may be necessary.
Frequent irrigation may help infested lawns cope with grub
Information summarized from the following Michigan State
University Extension publications.
- E-2496 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-Hairy Chinch Bug
- E-2497 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-Bluegrass Billbug
- E-2498 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-Sod Webworm
- E-2499 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-White Grubs
- E-2500 Turf Tips for the Homeowner-European Chafer