Lawn Care Resources

The Basics of Successful Lawn Care

Keeping your lawn beautiful year round will take a bit of maintenance and keep up. Whether your lawn is a warm season lawn, like bermuda grass, or a cool season lawn, such as fescue, there are steps throughout the seasons your will need to make sure you are keeping up with in order to have a plush green, weed free lawn for your Raleigh home. Dorsey Lawn & Landscape offers a few quick tips to keep your yards in the best shape.

“Well done is better than well said”
– Benjamin Franklin

John and Aaron were a pleasure to work with, we had Dorsey Landscaping Install Zenith Zoysia Sod last summer, their professionalism and desire to work with people is hands down better than any other landscaping company we have dealt with previously. They focus on the details and quality of work while making sure their customers are satisfied and informed through each step of the process. I will refer Dorsey Landscaping to everyone!

– Christine Sanders

Getting Started


The shorter a lawn is maintained, the more often it has to be mowed. Mow often enough (sometimes more than once  a week) so that no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade is removed at one time. Scalping, or removal of green leaf tissue  down to brown stemmy material, is a serious stress to turf.  

First Steps

Quality of Cut

Keep the mower blade sharp to prevent shredding, tearing, and bruising of leaf tissue. This can impact aesthetics  because of the “silvered” appearance of turf with shredded blade ends. It may also impact disease by allowing  entrance of disease organisms through the shredded tissue. In May and June when grasses are attempting to go to  seed, the “stemminess” that occurs with the seed stalk may also reduce the appearance of the grasses when cut and  may lead to a more raggedy cut. 


It is helpful to vary the cutting pattern, if possible, every few weeks. Constantly walking over the same path each  time leads to soil compaction. Varying the pattern also helps lift grasses that may be lying down. 

Clipping Removal

It is a good idea to leave the clippings on the lawn if they are not too long. They do not contribute appreciably to  thatch build-up. Clippings are high in nitrogen and decompose quickly to put nitrogen and other nutrients back in  the soil. A mulching mower recuts the grass as it circles inside the mower housing, so dropped clippings are finer  and decompose more quickly. 


The best time of day to water for reduced evaporation and decreased time of excess moisture remaining on the leaf blades is between 5:00 to 7:00AM, but the acceptable range is from midnight to about 9:00AM while grass blades are already wet from dew.  Because of increased disease potential, the worst times of day to water are late morning (9:00 AM to noon) and late  afternoon to early evening (5:00-7:00PM). Mid afternoon watering via a quick syringe can cool the grass crown and reduce summer  heat stress. Water anytime if the lawn is in water stress or if local restrictions regulate hours. Guttation fluid is a high nutrient secretion from the grass leaf that contains sugars that can feed pathogens. Early  morning watering removes guttation fluid from the leaf surface thus limiting this nutrient availability to disease  organisms.  

Lawns need about 1 inch on clay soils and 1½ inch on sandy soils of water per week, rain plus irrigation, to actively grow. Placing coffee cans or rain gauges in several locations, checking the time, and turning on the sprinkler, can measure irrigation amount. When 1 inch has been collected in most of the cans, check the time again. The elapsed time is how long it takes to apply one inch of water. Overwatering is more of a problem than underwatering. Too much water applied leads to a condition called waterlogging which results in a poorly developed root system and greater probability of diseases like necrotic ring spot, anthracnose, and summer patch.

Learn More About Watering


Fertilizers are needed to supply nutrients, especially nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Grasses grown, irrigation, clipping removal, and maintenance determine amount. Phosphorus (P205) and potassium (K20) Simply stated, nitrogen stimulates shoot growth, phosphorus stimulates root development, establishment rate, and energy utilization, and potassium imparts environmental stress tolerance and disease resistance. Most lawn fertilizers are high in nitrogen and contain an analysis such as 10-6-4, 29-3-4, etc. Fall fertilization may have a more even ratio for low maintenance turf (1:1:1 ratio, such as 17-16-18) or N levels of 2 times the K level, (4:1:2 ratio, such as 24-6-12), which improves fall rooting, disease resistance, and winter hardiness.

The numbers on a fertilizer bag refer to the percentage of actual nutrients. For example, 10-6-4 contains 10% actual N, 6% P in the form of phosphoric acid or P2O5, and 4% K in the form of potash or K2O. Sometimes sulfur (S) or iron (Fe) are added and a percentage given.


Limestone (calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate) is essential for most NC soils to raise pH or make soil less  acidic. Dolomitic (high magnesium) or calcitic types are available. Limestone is a source of the nutrients calcium  and magnesium. Raises pH (soil acidity) in ½ point increments to the preferred levels of 6.0 to 6.5 (7 is neutral.  Below 7 is acidic. Above 7 is alkaline.) 


Nitrogen may be available quickly or release slowly. A fertilizer containing slow-release N (water insoluble or  WIN) is generally best for turfgrass. Not only does it make N more slowly available to the roots so there isn’t a rapid  flush of growth, but also it is less likely to burn grass blades or roots and leach into groundwater. Nitrogen is applied  by pounds of actual nitrogen per thousand square feet (lb. actual N/1000 sq. ft.)  

Fertilizers are available with organic sources of N, (including Milorganite composted sewage sludge, aged cow  manure, and brands that use feather meal, and other organic N). Some synthetics like SCU (sulfur coated urea) are  not organic, but release slowly. Naturally organic N is almost never over 10%. 

Quickly available N (water soluble or WSN) may be desirable for turf establishment or for turf that is in extremely  poor condition and needs a fast push in cool, not hot, weather. Ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, and urea are  examples. 

We tend to avoid heavy nitrogen applications in spring unless the turf is in extremely  poor condition. When N is needed in spring, 2 half-rate applications about 6 weeks apart will assist plant health  without stimulating excessive growth. Heavy N applications may stimulate disease development and cause the  blades to grow so fast that carbohydrate reserves in the roots are exhausted. 


Weeds like dandelions are invasive and will choke out grass and other plants if you let them. With the right weed control program, undesirable weeds can be targeted, killing them while not harming your lawn or desirable plants.  With the right fertilization and weed control program, you can have a golf course-quality lawn and thriving garden.

First Steps


Pre-Emergent herbicides work by preventing seedling establishment, not by killing weeds or seedlings, for this a selective post emergent herbicide would need to be used. Timing of Pre-Emergent applications is critical and depends on life cycles of the target weeds. Pre-Emergent herbicides create a protective barrier in the soil to prevent weed germination through the canopy; this is done by inhibiting the growth of the root, the shoot, or both. The herbicide must be watered into the soil via rainfall or irrigation and be present prior to germination to be effective. Pre-Emergent herbicides are present in the soil for a while, continuously preventing weed growth. 

This is termed — residual. Over time the herbicides are degraded by soil microbes, this makes re application necessary before the concentration of the herbicide drops below the critical level required to control weeds. Most pre-emergent herbicides will last between 8 and 12 weeks. Therefore, at Dorsey Landscaping we have 3 pre-emergent applications built into our Tur Management Program (Spring, Mid-Summer, Fall) to provide maximum protection for your Turf against the germination of weeds.

 **For all new clients, our first application will always be a pre-emergent herbicide, we do this to ensure we begin the process of protecting your turf against invasive weeds, as this is the most critical component in achieving optimal turf health. Following the first pre-emergent application… The applications will follow our Normal Turf Management schedule based on your type of turfgrass as shown in our Turf Management Program PDF.

 **The effects of pre-emergent applications are not immediately seen following the application, this application works behind the scenes (in the soil) providing protection against any new weed germination. Optimal protection against weed germination is achieved following one year of proper turf management (the life cycle of all weeds throughout different seasons of the year). However, discontinuing, or missing pre-emergent applications in subsequent years will cause a gap in the protective barrier allowing weeds to germinate once again.

​Learn More About Pre-Emergent Herbicides



These are small nymph and adult insects that suck the juices out of desirable grasses and can be especially bad in  dry, hot years. Not found in the shade. Chemical controls are usually applied in early June and late August.


This is larva of the lawn moth, a whitish miller moth with a long snout attracted to porch lights in summer. It flutters  out of the lawn when it is mowed. The adult lays eggs in the grass. After hatching larvae build silken nests in the  thatch layer or at the crown to hide during the day. They feed on grass stems and blades at night.  


Disease can be caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Fungi cause most diseases in turf. On the home grounds, the  effects of most diseases can be diminished by cultural means, such as supplying turf with proper nutrients and obtaining and maintaining optimal  pH levels. Watering and fertilizing correctly, removing thatch, maintaining pH between 6.0 and 6.5, mowing at  the proper height and frequency.

Problem Solving


Thatch is a buildup of dead roots and stems. Grass clippings do not contribute appreciably to thatch build-up.  Overfertilizing, growing grasses that tend to produce thatch (such as zoysia, bluegrass and creeping red fescue), and  using fungicides will contribute to thatch. A layer up to 1/2″ thick between the crown of the plants and the soil is  acceptable. Any layer over 1/2 inch should be removed via verticutting, aeration or using a stiff metal spring rake to rake out and remove that from the turf canopy. 


Compacted soil has had the air and water spaces between soil particles eliminated, so that roots have a hard time  growing. Rain on heavy soil over the years, pedestrian traffic, and lack of organic matter all contribute to the problem. To alleviate the problem aeration is recommended, which removes 3 inch inch cores.

Encouraging earthworms in the soil helps relieve soil compaction. Using organic fertilizers, topdressing with thin  layers of sifted compost, reducing pesticide use, and leaving grass clippings on the lawn will also contribute to an  increase in earthworm populations. Earthworms aerate soil by coming to the surface to get organic matter, then  carrying it back down through their tunnels. 


  • Improper chemical: Each chemical has a purpose and a target. If the wrong chemical is used, phytotoxicity or  plant damage may occur.

  •  Improper timing: Most chemicals have a period of time when they are most likely to be effective. Using a  chemical when it will not work, such as an insect control when the damage is seen, but the insect is no longer  present or controllable, is an example. Grub damage from spring feeding may show up in June, but that is not an  effective time to apply most controls. Applying chemicals when the lawn is in heat or drought stress may cause  damage unrelated to the insect or disease. 

  •  Improper application: Overlaps, misses, and spills can cause interesting patterns of damage or death of entire  lawn areas.  


Extended drought, excess rain, cover by sheet ice, heat stress, sudden high or low temperature fluctuations, and hail  can cause damage to lawns. 

Top Raleigh Lawn Care Services
Top Raleigh Lawn Care Services