This podcast was originally published in May 2012.
Doug Soldat, Assistant Professor
Department of Soil Science
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
3:07 – Total time
0:14 – Sharp blade, deck height key to a good lawn
0:49 – Lawn fertilizer tips
1:09 – Kinds of fertilizer
1:29 – Weed control on lawns
1:50 – Advantages of a healthy lawn
2:11 – How to find more information
2:34 – Economic value of turf business
2:58 – Lead out
Sevie Kenyon: Doug, what are the keys to maintaining a good lawn?
Doug Soldat: Okay, so the first thing… so if you’re only going to do one thing to your lawn, it should be mow high, with a sharp blade. Mowing is a stress. If you mow with a dull blade, you’re tearing those leaves and creating wounds. If you’re mowing with a sharp blade, it’s a very clean wound that can heal quickly. You mow every week, or even more often, that accumulative wounding really adds up. So, the most important thing is mow three inches or higher with a very sharp blade and that can produce really dramatic differences, if you’re not doing that already.
Sevie Kenyon: What would be the next step after mower height and a sharp blade?
Doug Soldat: Yeah, the next thing I would do is fertilize at least twice a year: around Memorial Day and then again at Labor Day. Fertilizing two times a year, maybe a third in July–with a slow release fertilizer–will bring your lawn onto the next level.
Sevie Kenyon: What kind of fertilizers are available for people to manage their lawns?
Doug Soldat: Wisconsin has a lot of really good, organic fertilizers that are byproducts of our agricultural industry. You want to put down a fertilizer that contains at least thirty percent slow release nitrogen, which will feed the plant over a six to eight week period.
Sevie Kenyon: Mowing, fertilizing… what’s next in good lawn care?
Doug Soldat: So, weed control is the next one. Weeds usually come in when the lawn isn’t surviving very well. It tends to be in either a shaded area and so we have a lot of shade usually can out-compete the grass. Compacted soils usually are not well suited for grasses, so then the weeds will come in in spots like that as well.
Sevie Kenyon: What are the advantages of a healthy lawn?
Doug Soldat: Healthy lawns are important for many reasons. They can actually reduce the amount of run-off that is leaving your site and encourage water infiltration. They’re more safe and have a softer surface for athletes to play on or children to run on. They have been shown to increase property values.
Sevie Kenyon: If people are interested in more information about lawn care, what should they do?
Doug Soldat: So, University of Wisconsin has actually been a leader in researching organic and alternative methods to lawn care and we’ve just sort of compiled those recommendations into a new publication. If you go to Google or a search engine type in http://learningstore.uwex.edu/ it will take you there and there’s a section for lawn and garden publications that you can check out.
Sevie Kenyon: Doug, can you give us a sense of the size and the scale of the turf grass business here in the state?
Doug Soldat: The amount of area covered, turf grass is one of the major crops of Wisconsin with over one million acres of turf grass and of course we have a very big industry that goes along with maintaining and servicing those areas; nearly a billion dollars that were contributed to the State’s economy and over thirty thousand jobs.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Doug Soldat, Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin and I’m Sevie Kenyon.