How do I take care of my lawn in Utah?
Utah’s climate can be challenging for lawn care due to its hot summers and cold winters. However, with proper lawn care practices, you can ensure that your lawn remains healthy year-round. As there is no one magic answer or secret lawn care sauce, I will touch on a few items that together create the ideal Utah cool season grass lawn.
Proper watering is essential for the health of your lawn. In Utah, it’s important to water your lawn deeply but as infrequently as possible. (I slightly cringe typing that because it is textbook, but years of experiments are proving that it is more theory than reality.) This encourages the roots of the grass to grow deeper and become more resilient to drought. If you water frequently but shallowly, it can lead to weak and unhealthy lawns. A good rule of thumb is to water your lawn deeply as needed, rather than frequently and shallowly. This principle will work better in the spring and fall, but in the summer when temperatures are over 85 degrees it is a myth and you simply need to water almost daily. Watering your lawn during the hottest part of the day can cause the water to evaporate quickly, leading to a lack of water for your lawn. The best time to water your lawn is in the morning or evening when the temperature is cooler. Cyclic watering can also increase the efficiency of your watering.
Utah lawns require a balanced fertilizer application to maintain their health. Fertilizer applications should be made throughout the season to ensure the lawn has the necessary nutrients to grow and stay healthy. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for a lawn, as it helps the grass grow lush and green. However, too much nitrogen can lead to excess growth, which can make your lawn more susceptible to disease and pests. Additionally, it’s important to choose a fertilizer with the right nutrient ratios for your lawn. Soil testing can help you determine which nutrients and at what quantities your lawn needs. We have yet to find a box store fertilizer that truly treats anywhere near the square footage that it claims. Most of a bag of fertilizer is cheap filler such as sand and as such it is very hard to over fertilize a lawn with box store granular fertilizer.
Proper mowing is crucial for a healthy lawn. When mowing your lawn, be sure to keep your mower blades sharp to avoid tearing the grass blades. Torn blades of grass can turn brown and make your lawn look unkempt. Cutting height is also important. Grass type, sun/shade amount, and use of turf should be factored into this decision. Contrary to popular talk, keeping grass super long is not the healthiest for the grass. We see more problems with fungi, weeds, and disease than any benefits of long grass. We recommend cutting shorter in the spring and fall and then allowing the grass to grow ¼-1/2 longer in longer in the summer but never longer than 3”. Additionally, it’s recommended to leave the grass clippings on the lawn, as they can provide nutrients to the soil as they decompose. (This is only good if your mower mulches and isn’t leaving visible grass behind, if it is you need to bag it.)
Weeds can quickly overtake a lawn, so it’s essential to control them. In Utah, you can use a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weeds from growing. Pre-emergent herbicides work by stopping the weed seeds as they germinate. However, pre-emergent herbicides only work on weeds that haven’t germinated yet. It’s also essential to pull weeds manually as soon as they appear to prevent them from spreading. When pulling weeds, be sure to remove the entire root to prevent regrowth. Chemicals can help but we recommend getting professional help should you need this service.
Utah lawns can benefit from aeration, which involves perforating the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the roots of the grass. Aeration helps to reduce soil compaction and improve drainage, which can promote healthy root growth. Lawn aeration can be done using a machine called a lawn aerator. Lawn aeration is most effective when done in the fall or spring when the grass is actively growing.
Pests can damage your lawn and make it look unsightly. The most common pests in Utah lawns include grubs, chinch bugs, and armyworms. Grubs are the larvae of beetles and feed on the roots of grass, leading to brown patches on your lawn and a non-existent root system. Chinch bugs are small insects that suck the sap from grass, causing yellow or brown patches to appear just as if the grass is dry because it cannot uptake water. Armyworms are caterpillars that can eat through grass blades, causing extensive damage to your lawn. To control these pests, it’s important to keep your lawn healthy and well-maintained. A healthy lawn is less susceptible to pest damage. If you notice signs of pest damage, such as brown patches or chewed grass blades, it’s important to act immediately.
Soil testing is an important part of lawn care in Utah. A soil test can help you determine the pH level of your soil and which nutrients your lawn needs. Utah’s soil is naturally alkaline, which can make it difficult for grass to grow. Soil testing can help you determine if you need to add amendments to your soil, such as sulfur or iron, to adjust the pH level. Soil testing can also help you determine if your lawn needs additional nutrients, such as phosphorus or potassium, or other micronutrients to grow and remain healthy.
Lawn care in Utah requires seasonal care. In the spring, it’s important to aerate and fertilize your lawn to promote new growth. Spring is also a good time to apply pre-emergent herbicides to prevent weed growth. During the summer, it’s important to water your lawn sufficiently. In the fall, it’s important to aerate your lawn to promote healthy root growth and apply fertilizer to help your lawn prepare for winter. In the winter, it’s important to keep your lawn clear of debris, such as leaves and branches, to prevent damage to the grass blades. If a winter is very dry, a good lawn watering could be of huge benefit to your lawn and its roots.
Utah’s hot and dry summers can make it difficult to maintain a lush green lawn. One solution is to plant drought-tolerant grasses that are better suited to the climate. Drought-tolerant grass varieties or blends require less water and maintenance than traditional grasses. These grasses also tend to be more resistant to pests and disease, making them a great choice for Utah lawns. Each year new breeds are being created, it’s fascinating!
For the lushest green lawn in the block, fertilizer and water must be on point!