Guide to Best Management Practices for Turf Grass

Keeping tufgrass healthy and flourishing requires more than just watering! There’s many different tools, practices, and management strategies to consider with turf health. Follow our guide for some best management practices for turf and lawns.


Improperly cut grass will see a decline in overall turf quality. Make sure to follow the “1/3 Rule” by never removing more than 1/3 of the grass blade height during a single mowing. Mowing more than that will stress out grass and cause shock and a decrease in root growth. If you find turf has grown particularly tall, it is best practice to raise your mowing height for the initial cut and then come back a few days later and reduce the height again until you get it back to your regular mowing height. Make sure you have sharp mower blades too, which will reduce the risk of stress and disease to the grass.


Aeration and dethatching are both great tools that can assist you in achieving great turf health. Aeration will open up the soil surface and improve the air exchange between your soil and the atmosphere, which allows the rootzone to breath. It will also reduce water runoff and improve fertilizer use, resulting in a thicker and healthier lawn. Aeration is best done when the grass is actively growing, which would be mid-spring for warm season turf and spring or fall for cool season turf. Aerating in early fall will give your turf plenty of time to recover.

Dethatching involves removing the debris from decaying plant material. A thin layer of thatch approximately a half inch is adequate, and actually helps to maintain soil moisture and temperature. When thatch is thicker than a half inch, it can be difficult for water to penetrate through that thick layer of debris. Grass clippings are mostly water and decompose quickly, returning nutrients to the soil, so they do not count as thatch.

Pest Management

Environmental conditions such as time of year and rainfall can clue you in to what kind of pests to watch out for. Pests use different means of feeding on plant tissue, they can be described as chewing vs. piercing/sucking. Many this can help us to diagnose what pest we might be dealing with based on how and what part of the plant tissue that the pest is attacking. Popular culprits you may see are: Grubs/Beetles, Caterpillars (Armyworms, Cutworms, Sod webworms), Cinch Bugs.

Healthy turf is generally more pest resistant. Make sure your turf is in as good shape as possible, and scout for different common problem insects before determining if a mitigation strategy is needed.


A soil test is recommended to determine your soil pH and the nutrient availability. This will provide you with guidance on how much nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and micronutrients you will need to deliver to your turf. For warm season grasses fertilizer applications will typically take place April through September, and for cool season ideal times are early spring, summer, and fall.


The amount of irrigation needed takes into consideration soil type and evaporation rates, which are affected by temperature, humidity and wind. Different soil types dry down at different rates (sandy soils will require more water then soil with higher clay content). We recommend performing an audit on your irrigation system to determine how much water you are delivering and the uniformity of the system. This can be done by getting several shallow containers, such as for cat food or tuna fish, and placing them measured distance apart from each other and running your irrigation system. Based on your audit results you can then make adjustments on runtime and the distribution of water.

Watering deeply is a crucial step in the development of a deep root system because a deep root system will make for a more resilient and durable stand of turf. This turf will be able to tolerate environmental stress factors much better than shallow-rooted turf. If you find that you can’t quite get that irrigation system dialed in, or you want better uptake on the fertilizer that you have applied, or you just want to reduce your watering requirements, Hydretain can help. Apply in either liquid or granular form; both will get you the desired results.

These five areas of turf management are not separate, but interrelated. Mowing turf to the appropriate height will result in healthier grass with higher tolerance to pest, and managing thatch levels will result in better nutrition and moisture for the soil. Keep all of these factors in mind as you look to creating a healthier environment for turfgrass.