Improve Lawn Quality with Four Extension Publications

Publications offer tips to build, maintain and keep lawns healthy


AMES, Iowa – As temperatures warm and the calendar steadily marches forward, people across Iowa will soon find themselves working in their yards on a regular basis. With this work in mind, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has published four publications to serve as guides for residential yard work.

Sodding a New Lawn (HORT 3033) is authored by Nick Christians, university professor of horticulture, and Ryan Adams, lecturer and extension turfgrass specialist.

The quickest way to establish a new turf area around new construction or to repair damaged lawns is through sodding. Sodding provides immediate turf for lawns and is an excellent soil erosion control on slopes.

“One of the most important aspects of sodding is proper soil preparation,” Christians said. “This is often neglected by people who do their own sodding.”

The publication discusses the benefits of using sod, the importance of preparing the site where the sod is to be placed and sod installation. Tips for caring for sod after installation are also included in the publication.

Mowing Your Lawn (HORT 3047) is authored by Christians.

Mowing the lawn is one of the most common, and most time consuming, aspects of lawn care. The publication addresses frequently asked questions about mowing, including how often a lawn should be mowed, the correct mowing height, collection of grass clippings and lawnmower maintenance.

“Mowing is a critical cultural practice in the pursuit of a well-maintained lawn,” Christians said. “The publication covers proper mowing heights for various species and correct intervals for mowing Iowa lawns.”

Management and Control of Summer Patch (HORT 3049) is a publication by Adams.

Keeping a lawn free of disease and fungi is another critical component to its maintenance. Summer patch (Magnaporthe poae) is one of the most common disease to affect Iowa turfgrass. The disease produce 6-12 inch semicircle ‘frogeye’ spots on a lawn as the root system is unable to supply adequate water to the turf, causing the appearance of moisture stress.

After identifying signs and symptoms of fungi in a yard there are both chemical and cultural remedies for the problem. However, once the damage is noticed, there is very little that can be done to remedy the situation with fungicide application. In fact, only preventative treatments are recommended. Cultural control methods are generally more cost effective than chemical remedies. Summer patch is prevalent in compacted soils, so improving internal drainage through core aeration and deep-tine aeration is also helpful.

“Symptoms of summer patch can be easily confused with leaf and sheath spot, insect damage from grubs, or drought stress,” said Adams.

Organic Turfgrass Fertilization (HORT 3031) is a publication by Adams.

Increased environmental concerns have forced many people who grow turfgrass to reconsider using organic fertilizers. These fertilizers are made from plant and animal by-products and contain nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The publication provides information for the most common brand-name products.

“Organic fertilizers release small amounts of nitrogen over long periods,” Adams said. “University research from across the country has concluded that when applied correctly, organic and slow-release products will reduce environmental impact.”

The publication also discusses how nutrients are released from organic fertilizers, a process that depends on microbial degradation.

All publications are available through the Extension Store.