“HOW On Earth” – Published in Pink Magazine – March 2012

Going and Growing Green

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”
Walt Whitman

Running barefoot through the grass was always a favorite childhood pleasure of mine. I couldn’t wait for the weather to warm up and the new, soft green growth to flourish. It was almost magical that first spring day that I could take my shoes off and feel the blades tickles my toes. The occasional bee sting, cut, and permanent green stained clothes did not deter me in the least for my lack of footwear. The smell of a freshly cut lawn also filled my senses. Skipping through sprinklers, picnics, a game of Frisbee, rolling down a hill, or simply watching the clouds go by, all were pastimes spent leisurely on the green carpet.


Everyone loves the look of a golf course and often times, we try to recreate that in our own yards. Golf course maintenance however is very time consuming and costly. There are four basic components that really can make a dramatic difference in creating a healthy lawn. Proper site, correct mowing procedures, appropriate fertilizing, and assessing water needs, are the keys to healthy turf.

Warm Season Grasses

Centipede St.Augustine Zoysia
Color Light Green Dark Green Dark Green
Texture Medium Course Fine
Maintenance Low Medium High
Water Requirements Low Medium Low
Heat Resistance Good Good Excellent
Cold Resistance Good Fair Excellent
Wear/ Traffic Tolerance Poor Fair Excellent
Partial Shade Tolerance Fair Good Fair
Drought Tolerance Fair Fair Fair
Salt Tolerance Poor Good Fair
Advantages -Responds to minimal care
-Slow growing
-Dark green color
-Coarse leaf blade
-Tolerant of salt
-Tolerant of partial shade
-Golf course appearance
-Slow growing
Disadvantages -Sensitive to salt
-Grows slowly
-Yellowish color
-Blades turn brown in    winter
-Iron deficiency in alkaline soils
-Pest prone
-Marginal cold hardiness
-Dormant brown winter color
-Thatch problems with improper care
-More costly to establish
-Dormant brown winter color

Compiled from The South Carolina Lawn Guide by Steve Dobbs

Centipede Grass


-Mowing grass high promotes deeper roots systems, which are better able to withstand environmental stresses.  This is even more important in times of stress, such as drought

-Only trim 1/3 of blade length at a time

-Keep mower blades sharp

-A great idea is to measure the actual length of the leaf blade just after mowing to compare with the settings on your mower

-Mowing too closely encourages weed growth

-Mowing Height

–Centipede: 2”-3”
–St. Augustine: 2”-3”
–Zoysia: 2”-3”


-Start with a soil test to determine the needs of the soil for your turf

-Fertilize when the lawn completely greens up

-Don’t fertilize in times of stress (such as drought)

-Over fertilizing can stress your turf grasses.

-Two approaches may be taken to fertilizing, organic and synthetic Organic Approach Disadvantages

-Synthetic Approach

–Fertilizers come in a combination of nutrient options (example 10-10-10, 6-6-6, and 16-4-8)

–Fertilizers are offered in the form of fast release, slow release, or a combination of both


—Grass will green up faster
—Reasonably priced


–Requires more frequent applications
–May burn lawn more easily
–May increase problems with pest and disease
–May kill the microbial activity in the soil, resulting in compacted soil
–May lower the PH of the soil

-Organic Approach

–Use organic fertilizers such as alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, seaweed products, wood ash, or milorganite.


–Benefits soil, not just the turf grass
–Leaching of fertilizers into groundwater is less likely
–More even growth of turf grass
–Not as likely to burn turf grass
–They are typically low in analysis and require larger amounts of product application
–Slower to impact a plant if a deficiency is present
–Often objectionable odors that emanate from usage


–They are typically low in analysis and require larger amounts of product application
–Slower to impact a plant if a deficiency is present
–Often objectionable odors that emanate from usage


-Water deeply and infrequently for 20-30 minutes, check depth of saturation to assure water has penetrated 1” deep to effectively irrigate root zone

–Temperatures of less than 50 degree, no need for irrigation
–Temperatures from 50-70 degrees, water once a week
–Temperatures from 70-85 degrees, water twice per week
–Temperatures from 85 degrees and up, water three times a week

-Water in the morning to ensure as little evaporation as possible
-Watering in the evening promotes disease