Human waste: How the grass gets greener

Q: I love the look of a lush, green lawn, but for some reason mine never quite makes the cut. How can I make my yard the envy of all my neighbors?

 A: The biggest concern this time of year is the weather. Due to the extreme temperatures and high humidity, funguses and diseases can invade. The most common fungus is Brown Patch, which, appropriately, shows up as brown patches in the lawn with an irregular circular shape, about 8-12 inches in diameter. You can treat it with a fungicide– Fungonil or Daconil both work.

Better yet, you can prevent disease a nutrient-enriched lawn. One big mistake people make is to fertilize their lawns in the spring. Don't do it! The high level of nitrogen leads to disease– including Brown Patch– and makes your lawn less drought-resistant.

For example, if a dog pees on your grass and it turns brown, it's because of the high nitrogen content in the urine. If you fertilize in the spring, the sun will react with the nitrogen and burn your lawn. Instead, fertilize in the fall– from September to December.

When the weather cools a bit, aerate and over-seed your lawn. The best seed for this area is tall fescue. At the same time, put down an organic compost topdressing. Bumpercrop is a good one, but the best is Rivanna Gold, which is created by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. It's human waste that's been treated, and it's the absolute best compost out there. We buy it wholesale. They have vast quantities of it. It's safe to handle and put down on your lawn. I swear by it.

It's also important to water and mow appropriately. Mow your grass once a week at a height of no less than three inches, and make sure your blades are sharp to give a crisp cut. If they're not, there will be jagged edges that will leave the lawn susceptible to infestations of insects. Current research shows it's best not to remove clippings– they're returning nutrients back into the soil. Only if it's gotten really long is it a good idea to rake or bag the clippings.

As for watering, your lawn really needs about three-quarters of an inch to an inch per week to make sure it doesn't go into dormancy. It's best for your lawn to receive that water in one or two deep soakings, rather than many light sprinkles.

In the end, a perfect lawn starts with the soil. If you have good soil, you can have the most beautiful, lush, green perfect lawn and make your neighbors envious.

Got a question for an expert? Call the Hook at 295-8700 x 236.

Corbin Snow, president of Snow's Garden Center