Darlington Designs

Let’s Talk Lawn

Americans have a love affair with their lawns. I wonder if this is due to the attachment we’ve always had to wide-open spaces that our forefathers and mothers encountered as they went west across our native prairie grasslands, of that they are somehow reminiscent of parks.

Whatever the reason, lawn is a large component of the suburban landscape and from a design standpoint, it’s desirable as it allows play space for children and pets, and for what is called, “negative space:” the area where the eye can rest between the more colorfully planted landscape borders.

As desirable a feature as they are, lawns are needy. Turf grass as it is typically grown is not a native species plant for most homeowners in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. For this reason, it requires specific care and resources—both time and financial—to keep it looking great and growing strong. Many of these aspects are time sensitive, and imperative to the appearance of the lawn.


Soil in the Delaware Valley region tends to be on the acidic side of the scale. Turfgrass wants a pH that is more toward the neutral zone, so it’s important to first know what the pH level is for any certain lawn space via a soil test and then remediate by lime application to the specific volume.


The best-looking lawns receive an annual seeding and core aerating to help rejuvenate the turf. A robust-looking lawn will out-compete weeds and often be more vigorous, able to better hold up against pests and disease. Timing is also imperative when it comes to certain applications, such as pre-emergent crab-grass preventative that must happen before weed seeds germinate in spring. What many people don’t realize is that the crab grass in today’s lawn is really sprung from last season’s seed. Pre-emergent prevents those prior-year seeds from sprouting.

Mowing Height

Truly, the taller you can stand your grass to be the better it is for the turf. Longer leaves helps cool the roots of the grass and help with soil water retention. Longer grass blades allow for more photosynthesis, which is how all plants feed themselves from sun energy conversion. Turf cut too short can expose soil area resulting in weed seed opportunity and scorching the grass roots that are near at the soil line. Turf height of about three inches is desirable.


Most plants want an inch of natural rain fall per week for health. It’s desirable for plants to drive deep, strong roots for this water rather than have shallow, surface roots. Turf grass is included in this. When irrigating, it’s much better to run your systems less days and for longer time periods to promote these deep roots. It also allows leaves to dry between irrigation points and that helps to prevent lawn fungus.