Lush Lawns Under The Sun

Lawnmower on grass
Taking care of a lawn can be time-consuming and - when water is at a premium - expensive.

But it's worth the effort to keep your grass healthy for several reasons, according to garden designer P. Allen Smith. A nice lawn increases the curb appeal and property value of your home, absorbs pollution and provides a great place for kids to play.

Smith visits Saturday The Early Show to offer tips on cutting, watering and fertilizing. And, if you decide to give up your on grass all together, he will have suggestions for other ground covers that are cheaper and easier to maintain.

Each year, Americans mow over 25 million acres of grass - that's like a lawn the size of the state of Pennsylvania! And a lot of people are doing it incorrectly, says Smith.

At the height of summer, Smith suggests raising the blades of the mower and leaving the grass a little taller than usual. Of course, how often you need to mow depends on where you live and the weather.


Allowing your grass to grow taller has several benefits. Taller blades shade the roots, which keeps the grass from burning and keeps moisture from evaporating. As a result, you water less and save money.


How often - How often you water depends on the weather and where you live. In most parts of the country in August, it's going to be hot and dry. Your lawn will benefit from a couple of deep soakings a week. That may not sound like much, but watering for longer periods of time twice a week is better than watering lightly every day. By really soaking the grass, you are encouraging root growth, which makes for healthier grass. Healthy grass is more likely to stand up to dry conditions and, in turn, survive through the winter. Plan on giving your grass an inch to an inch and a half of water a week.

To get the most bang for your watering buck, you'll want to get an early start - early like 5 a.m. The water will be less likely to evaporate before being absorbed into the ground. Also, watering early allows the lawn to dry before nightfall, a time when certain types of fungus are most active. You should stop watering three to four weeks before the first frost.

What sprinkler to choose - There are two main types of sprinklers - one that softly moves from side to side like a fan and another that oscillates back and forth. Both effectively water the lawn. Smith recommends choosing the oscillating version if you're going to be watering a narrow space; the fan sprinkler, if watering a large square of grass.


How often - Throughout the season, you will be applying chemicals to your grass as needed to kill bugs and disease. It's also a good idea to fertilize your lawn once or twice during this active growing season. Don't fertilize more than that, Smith says, because the more you fertilize, the more grass you have to take care of! Fertilizing once or twice is enough to give your grass the nutrients it craves. If you're only going to fertilize once, late summer is the time to do it.

What fertilizer to choose - When choosing a fertilizer you want a blend that is low in nitrogen and high in potassium and phosphorous. They will encourage root growth and help prepare the lawn for winter. Smith recommends "Scott's Turf Builder," although there are several similar brands available. You'll definitely want to spread the fertilizer with a fertilizer spreader to ensure even application.

If you have a spot in your lawn where grass simply won't flourish or, you're tired of mowing, watering and fertilizing, consider ripping out the grass and putting a different groundcover in its place.

Smith, of course, would vote for filling the space with flowerbeds. However, if flowers still sound like too much work, there are a variety of low maintenance groundcovers you can plant instead.

As long as you give the plants proper growing conditions, i.e. sun or shade, all you'll need to do is water them. Here are the varieties featured on the show.

  • Aguga - grows in shade
  • Vinca Major - grows in shade / partial sun
  • Vinca Minor - grows in shade / partial sun
  • Mondo Grass - grows in sun and shade
  • Liriope - grows in shade
  • Winter Creeper - grows in sun