Lawn 101

Lawn 101

Although many a pundit in print and on TV claims to hold the secret to a beautiful lawn, the answer is quite simple and does not require expensive tools or chemicals.

Follow these straightforward tips and you should have a healthy green lawn that uses minimal water.

  1. Select the correct grass type

    Abandon the idea that you can have any grass species you want. The amount of sunlight determines your species. Ten hours or more of direct sunlight dictates Bermuda grass. Less than ten hours and you’re limited to zoysia and St. Augustine. If you have less than five hours of direct sunlight, then forget about a lawn. It’s not going to happen.

  2. Mow weekly

    Select at least one day a week as your mowing day and stick to it. Mowing weekly improves grass health and reduces weeds. Also, always mow high — 3 inches for St. Augustine, 2 inches for zoysia and 1 ½ inches for Bermuda grass.

  3. Compost and aerate

    This is the second most important activity you can do for your lawn. Of the two, composting is the most important and should be done twice a year. Aeration can be done once or even every other year. Both increase the soil’s ability to absorb water and oxygen, each crucial for strong root development. Strong roots means less need for nutrients and water.

  4. Leave the clippings on the lawn

    Grass is a “heavy feeder,” meaning it requires more nutrients than other plants. Leaving the clippings and adding compost in spring and fall eliminates the need for additional fertilizer most of the time. If the blades are not growing or are light green in color, then additional fertilizer may be needed. Apply only after April 15 and before November 1.

  5. Water

    Of course, I’m going encourage you to cut back on water. And by following all the aforementioned rules, you can dramatically reduce water usage to no more than once a week. The most important times of the year to water are spring and fall. Plants in South Texas are adapted to grow in spring and fall, not summer. Help them with their natural tendencies.


No need for complex chemicals or chants. Select, mow, compost and water are all it takes to maintain a healthy, green lawn.

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Mark Peterson

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Mark Peterson

Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you’re likely to find him hiking San Antonio’s wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.