How much do you really know about lawn care fundamentals?

John Miller

What is "overseeding"?

Overseeding is the application of fresh grass seed to an existing lawn. It can help fill in bare spots or increase the density of your lawn.

What are the three basics for a healthy lawn?

There are three main components to a lush lawn -- sun, water, and fertilizer. You can't control the sun, but your intelligent use of water and fertilizer can transform a brown or damaged lawn into a paradise.

What should you apply to your lawn to prevent weeds from getting a foothold in your grass?

A quality pre-emergent is a great way to stop weeds before they even start. Apply the pre-emergent early in the spring so that it has a chance to work its magic.

What happens if you do NOT keep your mower blades sharp?

You should routinely sharpen your mower's blades, otherwise, they tend to tear or shred the grass. You want a nice, clean cut, not only for a better look but also so that the grass will be healthier.

What's an advantage of fresh sod over grass seed, particularly for new lawns?

If you're developing a new lawn, there's no substitute for sod. It will take root quickly and become lush in no time. Grass seed, of course, takes weeks or months to really take hold in a new lawn.

How should you water your grass?

Water once a week, and give it a really good soaking to encourage deep roots. Frequent, light watering just creates thatch, unsightly grass with runners all over the lawn surface.

When should you water your grass?

Water your grass early in the morning. It will conserve water (as opposed to watering at high noon) and then your grass will steadily dry. If you water at night, moisture will linger on the blades, and that's a recipe for disease.

When is the best time of day to mow?

Mowing is hard on any plant, and you can reduce the stress on your grass by mowing in the evening. It will give your lawn a chance to recover before being exposed to the blazing noon sun.

If you see three or four dandelions in your lawn, what should you do?

A few dandelions aren't cause for panic. Just dig out the offenders, preferably before they go to seed and threaten to spread their evil all over the place.

If you live in a northern state, such as Minnesota, you'd be smart to plant which sort of grass?

For a successful lawn, you have to plant grasses best suited to your climate. Northern residents often find success with cool-season grasses that can thrive even after a brutal winter.

True or false, should you leave your grass clippings on the lawn?

Yes, definitely leave the clippings on the lawn. They are full of nutrients, and they can reduce your need for fertilizer, too. Of course, if your grass is three feet tall, you're going to have to dispose of the clippings, otherwise, they'll kill your lawn.

Why should you mow when the grass is dry?

When the grass is dry, your blades will slice better. And there's less chance that you'll spread a lawn disease all over the place, too.

Which of the following is a major ingredient in lawn fertilizer?

Nitrogen is always one of the biggest ingredients in fertilizer. It stimulates plant growth, sparks leaf development and helps the plant function better in many other ways, too.

Why does lawn grass sometimes go dormant during summer?

Drought may cause grasses to go dormant, even during the summer months. Don't try to fertilize dormant grass -- it can't absortb nutrients, anyway.

To keep your grass healthy, you should cut no more than _____ of the grass height when you mow.

Cut no more than a third of the total grass height. Chop more than that and you can adversely affect the health of the plants.

What is a consequence of cutting your grass too short?

If you cut your grass too short, it has a tendency to lose moisture too quickly. It's also more susceptible to diseases and weeds.

How should you water fresh grass seed?

Lightly water new grass seed once per day for about five to 10 minutes. Do it carefully -- you don't want to create runoff that carries the new seed away.

Every time you mow, you should _____.

Change the direction you mow. Doing so prevents the grass from laying down and causing lawn problems, and it also reduces soil compaction that occurs when you use the same route every single time.

You should fertilize your lawn at least ____ per year.

You don't have to get crazy with the fertilizer. But many experts say that twice per year, once in the spring and once in the fall, is the minimum for feeding a hungry lawn.

What's a major benefit to aerating your yard?

Lawns get compacted and aerating pokes holes in the surface so that nutrients can penetrate the ground and help your grasses grow. Aeration also improves oxygen circulation.

Why does dog urine tend to kill grass?

Dogs eat high-protein diets that result in urine with very high nitrogen levels. The result is grass that looks burned, just as when you dump too much nitrogen fertilizer in one spot.

How can you prevent your dog's urine from wrecking the look of your yard?

Dog urine can quickly spot an otherwise nice-looking lawn. Train your pup to use one part of the yard ... or create a rock or gravel feature for him to use for nature's business.

Once new grass seed is about half an inch tall, how much should you be watering it?

Young grass needs frequent watering to survive. Lightly water for about 15 minutes per day so that it can gain a foothold in your lawn.

True or false, should you only leave clippings on the lawn if you have a true mulching mower?

You don't need a mulching mower in order to leave clippings on the lawn. Any mower will do, so long as you don't cut more than one-third of the grass height when you mow.

If you're starting a new lawn, what's your first step?

It's not rocket science, and pH testing will give you a much better handle on the basic chemistry of your soil. You can pick up a pH testing kit at your local garden store and then start your lawn planning.

If you move to a new area, what's one of the best ways you can find out accurate information about the kinds of lawn care practices that are best in your neighborhood?

Go to a local nursery -- they are the experts in what works, and what doesn't work -- in your new neighborhood. They'll quickly offer you the most important tips that you need for a specific area.

If you have to re-seed cool-season grasses, when should you spread the seed?

It's not uncommon to have to re-seed grasses to fill in sparsely covered areas of a lawn. For cool-season grasses, re-seed in the fall; for warm-season grasses, re-seed in late spring.

True or false, if you cut your grass really short, will you have to mow less frequently?

It's one of the biggest misconceptions about mowing -- that if you cut the grass very short, you won't have to mow as often. But the grass simply regenerates itself too fast. You're better off cutting less length, and your grass will be much healthier.

What is "creeping charlie"?

Creeping charlie is an evergreen, perennial weed that's very hard to control once it gains a foothold in your yard. You can (hopefully) control it with a weed killer, but you have to apply it at the right time.

What happens if you apply pre-emergent at the same time as new grass seed?

Pre-emergent and new seed don't mix. If you apply both at the same time, your new grass seed won't sprout.

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About This Quiz

With summer in full swing, your lawn probably looks as good as it ever will. Or maybe it's brown and screaming for help. How much do you know about lawn care basics?

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