Most of us have a mind picture of what a healthy lawn should look like and feel like underneath our feet. The truth is, some of these images may not be accurate and attempting to create a lawn that lives up to the "ideal" can be counter productive or even disastrous to the overall health of the lawn! Here are some common misconceptions and the truth about having a healthy lawn:
Misconception: A healthy lawn is thick as carpet under your feet.
The truth: A lawn that is so thick your feet sink into it with every step probably has more foliage above the ground than the root system can continue to support and will probably, eventually die out in large sections. A healthy lawn, will not have "bald spots" but neither will it feel "cushy" when you walk across it. You should be able to feel the firmness of the ground with your feet when walking on a healthy lawn. When lawns become too thick they should be dethatched and or top dressed with sand to remove excess plant material above ground.
Perception: The darker green the grass is, the healthier it is.
The truth: Some varieties of turf grass are naturally darker in color than others. Centipede for example, normally has a light green or even a little yellow tinge to it. Adding frequent applications of fertilizer to change the color of your lawn to a dark green over stimulates most types of grass resulting in problems like thatch build up, disease, insect problems and an underdeveloped root system.
Perception: A healthy lawn is weed free.
The truth: In some areas of the country this may be possible. However, here in the Florida Panhandle we have a huge variety of undesirable plants that can invade perfectly healthy lawns. Fortunately, steps can be taken to control many types of these invasive weeds when necessary. A few weeds that pop up here and there over the course of the growing season doesn't mean your lawn is unhealthy or doomed to be taken over. In most cases, proper lawn management techniques such as using a proper cutting height, moderate irrigation and fertilization will give the lawn what it needs to out compete invasive weeds. If these management practices are followed and weed populations continue to increase, chemical control with pre and post emergence products would be recommended.