Where the green grass grows

Local experts offer tips about how to keep lawns healthy

Your lawn can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Knowing when to water and how much can be the deciding factor in any lawn/owner relationship, said Colorado State University extension agent Bill Ekstrom.

The time of day that a lawn is watered is crucial, he said.

• Water about two times a week.

• Keep your grass between 2 to 3 inches tall.

• If your grass gets too tall, mow once at a higher level then again a couple of days later.

• Spot water dry patches of your lawn.

• Water between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

• Fertilize at least once in the fall.

• Pay attention to moisture amount to prevent over watering.

• Aerate your lawn to promote root strength.

Source: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Office

"I tell people to water in either the middle of the night or the middle of the day," Ekstrom said. "It's bad if the lawn is wet for more than 14 hours at a time."

Watering at night not only decreases the amount of water lost to evaporating, it also helps stop the spread of disease.

"(You are) washing a gluten-type material off the leaves, which decreases the chance of disease," Ekstrom said.

It isn't just the time of day, but also the frequency and amount of watering that is important.

When people ask Ekstrom how long they should water, he tells them a depth, not an amount of time.

"One inch per watering," Ekstrom said, "as long as there isn't a lot of run-off into the street."

Ekstrom added that watering 15 to 20 minutes every night is the worst thing to do.

"If trained correctly, lawns only need [to be watered] two times a week, three in the hottest conditions," Ekstrom said.

Jim Loughran of JL Lawn Service said measuring cups can collect sprinkler water to show how much a lawn is getting.

Loughran added that the length of the grass is also very important. Two-and-a-half inches is the ideal length.

"The goal is to get deeper roots," Loughran said.

Shorter roots lead to a less healthy-looking lawn, Ekstrom said. He added that cutting your lawn with sharp blades when it is dry is the best technique.

Aeration, which is pulling plugs of grass from a lawn, is a popular lawn service that should be considered for all lawns, Ekstrom said.

"Aeration is great, especially if they have a lot of foot traffic," he said, "or else water might not soak in."

Fertilizer is another tool used to keep lawns healthy.

Loughran said he fertilizes his lawn based on summer holidays: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, and then once in the fall.

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