a closeup blade of grass from root to tip
Photo: Gusto Images/Science Photo Library
Anatomy of grass
Each 1,000 square feet of healthy lawn contains about a million plants.

Blade
Makes food from sunlight. Cut off no more than one-third at a time.

Sheath
Protects and supports the base of the blade.

Roots
Gather nutrients and water from the soil. Help them grow deeper by leaving the blades at least 3 inches long.
Why do we love our lawns? Perhaps the reason is rooted in childhood memories of running barefoot through freshly cut grass, feeling the tickle of cool blades, and inhaling the clean chlorophyll scent. Or maybe it's the way well-tended turf sets off a house, like a tailored tux highlights any man. (Realtors report that a nice lawn can bump up a house's value by nearly 20 percent.)
Whatever the reason, we lavish affection on our lawns—to the tune of $40 billion a year—in the form of fertilizer, weed and pest controls, and yard-care equipment. But buying stuff in hopes of having a lush lawn isn't the same as actually knowing how to grow one. Most of us pick up our yard-care habits in bits and pieces—by watching Dad, imitating our neighbors, or talking to garden-aisle clerks at the home center. And if that doesn't work, well, let a lawn service take care of it.
Here's a less expensive suggestion: Follow the advice in this grass-growing guide and become your own lawn-care expert. We've tapped authorities such as This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook; Dr. Bruce Augustin, chief agronomist at Scotts; Kevin Morris at the National Turfgrass Federation; and organic lawn advocate Paul Tukey. From them you'll learn the fundamentals: which grass is best for your area, how to plant it, when to mow it, how much to water it, and what you need to do at each stage of the growing season. Who knows—in a year or two you could be strolling barefoot through your own thick carpet of turf, feeling that old familiar tickle on your toes.

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