Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor®
Philadelphia Main Line Homes and Real Estate
Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties
Relocation Specialist
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Fax: (610) 658-0267
E-mail: jp4re@pahomes.com
Home page: www.pahomes.com

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Subject: Lessons in Lawn Care

Word from the Lawn Institute is that more than 31 million acres of grass cover the United States. Placed side by side, this greenery could carpet all the New England states combined. Amazingly, more than 60% of these 50,000 square miles of turf come from lawns like yours.

Homeowners have special reasons for wanting perfectly groomed lawns radiating from their properties: a great-looking landscape not only increases a homeís value by as much as 15%, it also boosts curb appeal.

What can you do to ensure that your lawn looks as good as a golf course?

* Sow the appropriate seed. You need to know what to plant and when to plant. Cool-season grasses, such as ryegrass, bluegrass and tall fescue, thrive in the northern states, whereas Bermudagrass and Saint Augustinegrass, warm-season plants, grow well in the south. Itís best to plant cool-season grasses in the early fall and to wait until spring to plant warm-season grasses.

* Feed the grass. Your lawn will love you for it. Fertilizer, or natureís Rogaine, contains special blends of nutrients to promote top growth. Experts recommend testing soil every three years to determine the correct formulation for a lawnís particular nutritional needs. Most nurseries or lawn care centers sell soil test kits. However, if none are available in your area, contact a private testing firm.

The most common elements found in fertilizer are nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. A lawn depends on nitrogen to make it greener, phosphorous for energy transfer systems and potassium for cell wall development. The form of nitrogen in the fertilizer determines when you apply it and how often. In general, itís best to fertilize cool grasses in the early spring and late fall, and warm grasses in the summer.

Too much of a good thing can be detrimental, and fertilizing the lawn is no exception. Over-fertilizing can lead to problems with thatch (a build-up of roots), insects and disease.

* Remember to water. How much watering you do depends on the type of soil in your yard, the location of the grass, and how often it rains. For instance, sandy soil is more porous than clay and requires more watering. And grass in a shady area, protected from the sunís heat, may require less water. As with fertilizing, over-watering can be more damaging than under-watering.

Whatís the best time of day to water? Soak the lawn in the early morning or in the evening, when it tends to be less windy and cooler during these hours. Avoid watering late at night. Grass tends to stay wet through the night, creating opportunity for disease, such as fungus, to develop.

Experts agree that for optimum benefits, water when the soil is dry 4-6 inches below the surface. Give the lawn a good soaking, say one to two inches of water, once a week. A healthy lawn, with a good root system, requires water to penetrate deep into the roots. Watering with occasional, short applications encourages the development of a shallow root system.

* Mow regularly. Before moving your mower one inch from the shed, make sure the blade is hair-splitting sharp. A sharp blade cuts evenly whereas a dull blade tears the plant, increasing the chance for insects and disease to take hold. Grass also tears if mowed when wet.

The optimum height for grass varies by type. In general, youíll want to cut no more than one-third of the height of the grass at one time. For instance, if the recommended height for your grass is 2 inches high, mow it when it reaches 3 inches. If the lawn is overgrown, take a couple of trips over the grass to reach the desired height. And mow newly seeded grass more frequently; it will fill in faster and thicker.

* Consider purchasing a mulching mower. Contrary to popular opinion, mulching, or grass-cycling, does not contribute to thatch. A mulching mower returns nutrients to the ground, completing the cycle. As an added benefit, it saves on landfill space.

* Let it breathe. When lawns get lots of activity, the soil becomes compacted after a time. Eventually, water and fertilizer donít penetrate well and puddling may occur. Resusitate the lawn by aerating it. You can open up the soil with a spading fork. A professional machine, which you can rent, bores into the dirt and removes a plug of soil the size and shape of geese droppings.

* Keep it clean. Dead leaves choke out air and light. Your lawn is a living organism. Keep it free of debris.

Each of these strategies supports a healthy root system. By properly tending your lawn, you may reap a harvest of benefits when itís time to sell your home.

"Real Service in Real Estate." For a personal consultation on buying or selling real estate, Janis Peterson, GRI, ABR, CSP Realtor® can be reached at (610) 642-3744, e-mail: jp4re@pahomes.com. Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors® is an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc.

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