Professional groundskeepers make it their business to know what grasses grow best in what climates, how to properly water and fertilize their green space, and what techniques best manage pests, but anyone who maintains a lawn can benefit from a lesson in turfgrass science. (Related: Turfgrass Science Grows Baseball Fields, Home Lawns)
A smart first step is to take advantage of the many publications and user-friendly tools on Purdue University’s Turfgrass Science website. These tools allow you to diagnose lawn problems, calculate correct amounts of seed and fertilizer, and even choose a grass for your lawn based on where you live, how much sun your yard gets and how much work you’re willing to do to maintain your lawn.
But turfgrass science is about a lot more than just a pretty lawn. It’s about creating an environmentally friendly one as well, and that means understanding the impact of fertilizers, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which are essential nutrients for turfgrasses but also potential water pollutants.
“The concerns about nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in the water supply are real,” says Cale Bigelow, associate professor of agronomy at Purdue University. “Homeowners should be careful not to over fertilize. But it’s just as bad not to fertilize at all, because your lawn will eventually lose density, leading to soil erosion and sediment issues, which create a host of other problems.” He suggests a responsible maintenance plan that includes fertilizing once or twice a year, in May and September, and applying carefully so that fertilizer particles end up in the grass and not on the cement, where they can be carried by rain directly into the storm water system.