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June 27, 2018

$30 investment will improve your lawn

Photo/Steve Hall
Master Gardener Kath Gilman collects sample for soil testing.
By Kath Gilman
Master Gardener

It’s the beginning of summer and with all the rain, it seems the grass just keeps growing. Most lawn improvement is scheduled for fall; so, why should I get a soil test now?

Well, so you can be ready to give your lawn exactly what it needs to grow lush and green for years to come.

Does your lawn need lime? What type (and how much) fertilizer is best? These are questions that can be answered from a soil test and customized report from the Master Gardener “Green” Grass Program.

While some believe the best way to a beautiful lawn is adding more fertilizer, chemicals and water, there are often underlying problems that need to be addressed first. The best long-term strategy to improve your lawn is building healthy turf, because healthy turf will naturally out-compete most weeds, allowing desirable grasses to flourish.

In 2017, Bill Eaton of Warrenton wanted to improve his yard’s turf. He had participated in the “Green” Grass program in 2014 and wanted to verify that the actions he took following the recommendations had made an improvement. He contacted the Virginia Cooperative Extension office and signed up for the “Green” Grass program again. A pair of Master Gardeners went to his home and confirmed the turf area and took another soil sample.

Based on the soil test results, the Master Gardeners provided Mr. Eaton with an updated lawn care and management report specifically customized for his lawn. Each fall he follows the plan’s recommendations to aerate, lime, and over seed.

“I am so glad to have specific information to follow,” Mr. Eaton said.

How do you find out how to be environmentally-responsible and have a great lawn? Follow some best practices:

• Know lawn area — Only apply enough fertilizer to cover the area of your lawn. All of the lot is not lawn.

• pH of 6.2 to 6.5 — Many lawns are greatly improved by adding lime to raise the pH of our local clay soils.

• Mow high — Most tuff grass is cut too short and do best when mowed at 3 inches or more.

• Fertilize in fall — Most grasses should be fertilized in the autumn in this part of the county.

• Recycle grass clippings — It is like a little dose of fertilizer for your lawn.

Using these steps will improve your lawn. And, improvement is something that happens over time. These practices will ensure the lawn will become thicker and greener, and the weeds will become smaller and fewer.

Master Gardeners can help you improve the health of your lawn. The Fauquier County Master Gardeners, the Virginia Cooperative Extension and the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District have joined forces to offer local homeowners a special turf management program called “Green” Grass that promotes healthy lawns and protects our local streams and lakes from toxic run-off. Part of the Virginia Healthy Lawns initiative, the program costs $30. To participate, homeowners can sign-up for the program online at A pair of Master Gardener volunteers will come to your home and measure your turf area and take a soil sample for testing. Based on your soil test results, they will also provide you with a lawn care and fertilizer plan that has been customized for your lawn.

Last year, 71 residents took advantage of the program, which is open from April to September.
Member comments
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Wayne Spellman · June 27, 2018 at 11:44 pm
I participated in this program in 2016. I am in my third year of the 3 year proposal and my yard has not looked this good in 40 years. More homeowners need to take advantage of this program as the investment in time and money is minimal compared to the results that are achieved by following the Master Gardener recommendations.
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