The Lawn Ranger Rides Again

— Written By Al Hight and last updated by
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lawn-mower free image

Whether you have a faithful sidekick or not, it’s time for the “lawn ranger” to get busy. During these hot times when the grass is really growing, it’s important to saddle up that lawn mower often and keep the blades sharp. This month is also the right time to fertilize Bermuda, zoysia, and St. Augustine if you’re following N.C. State University’s recommendations.

When it comes to mowing remember the old rule- of-thumb of never removing more than 1/3 of the leaf area at one time. For example, if you’re maintaining St. Augustine grass at two inches, mow whenever the grass reaches three inches tall. Buy an extra blade for your mower and have it sharp and ready when the other one loses its edge. You’ll know you need to change blades when the grass blades look ragged and torn rather than cleanly cut.

Take a cue from the golf course folks and mow your lawn in different directions to reduce wear patterns. This is especially important if you use a heavy riding mower. The golf course guys – in addition to reducing the wear and tear in one place – are looking for the pretty stripes as the mower pushes the grass blades in one direction or the other. You won’t get much of a stripe effect on most of our lawn grasses, but you will avoid the wear and the boredom of mowing the same way each time.


August is the right time to add nitrogen to keep your lawn green and healthy for the rest of the season.

St. Augustine and zoysia need about ½ pound of actual nitrogen for each 1000 square feet. Consider using a centipede fertilizer like 5-5-15 at 10 pounds per 1000 square feet. It’s fairly easy to apply 10 pounds of material evenly. If you attempt to apply that same ½ pound of nitrogen with a fertilizer that’s 30% nitrogen, you’ll only need 1.67 pounds of material. Even though I’ve applied lots of fertilizer in my time, I can’t consistently apply that little bit of fertilizer evenly over those 1000 square feet. Most folks end up applying too much and over-stimulating the grass.

Bermuda grasses – especially the hybrids – should receive one pound of actual nitrogen this month. 16-4-8 at about six or seven pounds per 1000 square feet works pretty well.

Whatever fertilizer analysis you choose, make sure a portion of the nitrogen is slow-release. The cheapest fertilizers will have nothing but quick-release nitrogen. When it’s warm and wet, your nitrogen will be used up or leached within two weeks.

Once you’ve applied the fertilizer, sweep or blow the granules from paved surfaces like sidewalks and driveways. Fertilizers with iron will leave rusty spots everywhere if not removed. And, all of that nitrogen and phosphorus needs to stay on the lawn rather than ending up in surface waters to stimulate algal blooms.

wedding lawn bermuda

Celebration Bermuda

TifGrand Bermuda

TifGrand Bermuda

We have redone the wedding lawn turf and the picnic area this summer. The wedding lawn now has Celebration Bermuda which we hope will hold up better under the traffic and overseeding than the Crowne zoysia it replaces. The picnic area had St. Augustine but the foot traffic took it out. We installed TifGrand Bermuda which is touted to have some shade tolerance.

The turf demonstration plots have also been renovated. We have some selections that aren’t commonly used in southeastern North Carolina including Discovery and NorthBridge Bermuda and Geo and Greg Norman zoysia. The Discovery is especially dark green and dwarf and looks fantastic. The question is, “Can we keep it that way?”

The garden is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. The offices are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.