Lawns that have shallow root systems typically need more water, more frequently, and they are more susceptible to stressors like high foot traffic, extreme cold in the winter, extreme heat in the summer, as well as extended periods of drought or irregular irrigation.
When you fertilize lawns that have shallow root systems you are far more likely to waste nutrients due to leaching and denitrification simply because water more easily transports nutrients below the root zone of the grass plant… and if you only lightly water those nutrients in more of it is lost to the atmosphere and through oxidation.
Most root systems for all grass types can grow much deeper than the topsoil found in typical residential lawns. By watering deeply, core aerating, and applying bio-stimulants on a regular basis grass roots can be encouraged to put on deeper and wider growth without the aid of excess phosphorus. But there a few other factors that can enhance their development.
A smaller root density under your soil’s surface also impacts the holding capacity of the grass plant – meaning it can hold smaller amounts of carbohydrates through periods of dormancy, it can uptake fewer nutrients at any given time, and it can retain less water overall.
This in in contrast to the CEC, the holding capacity of the soil itself; which is an entirely different topic for another day.
Shallow root systems show themselves off as with surface foliage that is simply less efficient in pretty much everything – the plant itself doesn’t perform up to it’s full potential. Basically, keeping a lawn that has shallow shallow roots healthy is going to require a lot of micromanagement on your part to keep it looking good.
In most cases a grass plant with a deeper root system:
- Can benefit more from the beneficial microorganisms that live in your soil
- Can benefit more from the mycorrhizal fungi that coexists within the grass’ roots and extends their reach
- Can stay green and lush for a longer period of time when faced with heat and drought stress
- Can green-up earlier in the Spring
- Can stay green and growing further into the Fall
- Can be fertilized at higher rates but less frequently
- Can more reliably resist lawn diseases without the use of chemicals or fungicides
- Can suppress weed infestation more effectively without the use of chemical weed preventatives or post-emergent weed killers
In short, you want your grass roots to go as deep as possible so that lawn care is easier for you to accomplish throughout the season and so that your lawn looks better all year around without the application of dangerous products to you, your family, or your animals.
Before we consider all of the special stuff we can do to encourage strong rooting let’s first quickly make mention of the most common and obvious things people do and teach on the subject of root development.
The Most Obvious Ways To Make Grass Roots Grow Deep
If you watched that short video then you know that two of the most obvious ways to encourage deep root systems in lawns everywhere is to irrigate deeply and infrequently. Many experts also frequently advise homeowners to apply heavy applications of phosphorus to the lawn (like what you’d find in a starter fertilizer) to help promote extensive root systems.
Instead of watering three times a week for 20-30 minutes per zone you might try watering once every 5-7 days for an hour or two per zone… that’s deep watering and it’s not a unique concept.
Starter fertilizers contain ample amounts of Phosphorus which plants use to establish strong roots in addition to high levels of Nitrogen. They can usually be applied to lawns when local restrictions allow for it but applying lots of phosphorus is not the best way to get the deepest roots – it’s simply a tool in the shed that can be easily abused and it’s an incomplete solution anyway.
In my premium web-course “Deeper Grass Roots = Healthier Lawns” I teach you exactly what to do – beyond watering deeply and ensuring your soil has adequate amounts of phosphorus available – to stimulate the deepest root systems possible in your lawn.
If you want to buy in now you can do so through this link. Otherwise keep on reading and I’ll explain it a bit.
Now let’s quickly look at what you will learn about root growth in the grass in your lawn once you decide to purchase access to this web-course.
Encouraging Grass Root Systems To Grow Deeper
What You Will Learn In “Deeper Grass Roots = Healthier Lawns”
Usually when we take purposeful steps to improve the root systems of our grass we are not actually pushing top growth, so the results of our actions shouldn’t result in you having to mow the grass more frequently.
In fact you might not even see a lot of difference in the growth of your lawn at all. The grass blades may look more substantial and colorful but the growth rate may stay the same – that’s exactly what we want.
If you implement the information provided in my course into your lawn care regimen this season you will most likely notice significant results in your ability to keep an amazing looking lawn with less water inputs, less chemical inputs (especially during the most challenging times of the year for your grass type), less fungicidal inputs, and fewer applications of traditional lawn fertilizer.
In my course “Deeper Grass Roots = Healthier Lawns” I cover many different distinct strategies one at a time.
Here is a summary of what is taught right up front in case you are interested. Think of it as a taste of what’s to come in this course. On the other side you’ll learn:
- How to irrigate for maximum root development
- Why your mowing practices may be getting in the way
- What core aeration actually does to benefit a lawn
- Why liquid aeration is used by so many professionals
- Who should consider dethatching and why
- How to fertilize the soil and not push over-growth
- Why a focus on micronutrients and trace elements is so effective
- How Bio-Stimulants and natural plant-based hormones can super-charge your efforts
Not only that but we’ll cover a number of topics that are frequently misunderstood in the DIY lawn care community and I’ll teach you how to leverage these concepts to take your lawn to the next level!
Getting the right top-dressings on the lawn at the right time can take you further than you can imagine. They can help your grass plants work more efficiently and uptake nutrients that other lawns just can’t touch.
A Bit About The Other Side Of The Pay Wall
I have a substantial amount of information to say about each of these topics and getting it right on each topic will have an incremental effect on the health of your entire grass system, starting underground at the root level.
Remember, a lawn with shallow roots can still look good and grow green; the problem with only watering, fertilizing, and cutting the lawn when it gets too tall is that you will constantly face problems throughout the year.
Problems like dry spots in the lawn, summer dormancy, fungal diseases, and thinning grass are common.
Weeds can more easily establish in a lawn with thin grass and roots. Grub damage can be more problematic in grass roots that do not have adequate mass. Even dog urine can burn grass that is not strong enough to take, hold, and use the excesses that come from our animals.
The simplest way to encourage root growth after you start a deep infrequent watering schedule is to regularly apply a Root Growth Stimulant product to the lawn throughout the growing season. RGS is a popular product used by DIY lawn care enthusiasts due to it being a one-stop shop for a few of the tricks up my sleeve. It’s a product I sometimes use and one I recommend as well…
…but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
You can price out RGS here and add it into your routine but I even more strongly recommend buying access to the rest of this course so that you can learn all of the ninja tips I have to offer on this topic.
Here’s a quick video I made about why this course is worth spending money on:
This course is actually a VERY long private, members-only blog post, complete with supplemental private YouTube videos to reinforce certain points.
It’s more than any article I’ve ever seen and paid access to it will give you continued access to it and any future updates I make to it in the future.
Now with that sales pitch out of the way I’d like to give you some extra information on this topic because even if you don’t buy the premium guide there’s still a lot of basic stuff that you can do; all of which will make a big difference in the depth of your grass’ root systems.
Simple Grass Root Development Strategies Anyone Can Implement
As you know, grass root systems are the foundation of all turf no matter the type. You can’t keep a lawn with no roots and the deeper they go the easier it becomes.
Most lawn owners that put a ton of effort into seeing that their lawns are properly taken care of do a few common things right.
- They water
- They mow
- They fertilize
- They aerate
- They seed
- They may even dethatch
Most of these lawn owners think that as long as the turf looks good on the surface then they assume they are doing alright.
Unfortunately many of these same people constantly battle areas of stress in their lawns during the summer or late emergency from winter dormancy. Fungal infections in lawns can be common within this group of lawn owners, and water bills can get high as irrigation in the summer can get extreme.
All the efforts expended on lawn maintenance may yield little or no results for some people if the turf is not deeply rooted. Stimulating root growth as oposed to top growth is actually what every lawn owner should be after even if it’s hard to see immediate results in your actions.
Roots Are How Plants Stay Alive!
The roots in your lawn is the link between the leaf canopy on the surface and the soil below. You can take steps to improve your soil but if you don’t encourage root depth then the bets soil in the world will underperform in a yard… or a garden for that matter. Roots perform critical functions that contribute to the health and growth of grass and they hold nutrition and energy (carbohydrates and amino acids) that plants use when conditions are right.
Here are a few notable functions performed by roots:
- Grass Roots Make The Absorption of Water Possible
- The Grass Root Is The Main Pathway For Nutrients To Enter The Plant
- The Roots In Your Lawn Are What Anchors It In Place
- Root Systems Transporting and Synthesize Hormones Needed For Growth & Defense
- Your Roots Store Plant Carbohydrates For Energy During Periods of Excess or Dormancy
- Extensive Root Systems Encourage Microbial Activity in the Soil
- Deep Roots Have Increased Reach Due To An Expanded Network Of Symbiotic Mycorrhiza
The Basics of Promoting Strong Root Growth In Both The Lawn & Garden
Below you’ll find my list of basic things just about anyone can do in a lawn or garden to promote strong root growth in your favorite plants. For advanced strategies, the stealth tips that will take your lawn or garden to the next level, you’ll have to buy the access to the extended version of this article through this link.
#1. How Mowing The Lawn Factors Into The Rooting of Grass
There is a link between the height of your grass and the depth of its roots. It’s advisable not to cut your lawn very low. It will result in deeper roots.
This is more evident in cold season grasses such as ryegrasses and fescues. They shouldn’t be mowed frequently, and they shouldn’t be mowed too low. A lot of people mow their grasses quite low, which shouldn’t be the case. Though, warm-season grasses are less affected in their rooting by low mowing.
That being said, not all grasses are intolerant when mowing height is concerned. Some grasses thrive better when they are mowed low. The point is, know the appropriate mowing height for your turf grass and stick to it.
#2. Simple Ways To Leverage Your Irrigation and Watering Patterns
This is something that is always stated, but less emphasis is given on the “how-to.” Your grass needs to be adequately watered. But how do you know you’re watering correctly?
Irrigation will need to be done based on the specific needs of your grasses, its stage of development, and the season of the year. How often and how long the irrigation process will go on depends on environmental factors, root zone, traffic, etc.
One generally accepted advice is to water infrequently but deeply. Doing this will promote a deeper and more extensive root system.
Overwatering reduces rooting as water fills up the space for oxygen, which is needed for respiration. When this happens, the plant lacks the energy needed to absorb and translocate other essential plant nutrients.
#3. What Fertilizers Will Make The Most Difference In Grass Root Growth
So many times, we want to make sure our grasses are receiving the best of what they lack, we also want to hasten their growth and ensure that they are as healthy as can be. And so we turn to fertilizers for help.
Watering, mowing, and fertilizing are regular lawn maintenance practices that we need to sustain to have a lush and beautiful looking lawn, but if they are not done correctly, we might be hurting our lawn in the process.
It is necessary to fertilize correctly, to know the varying needs of your turf per time and fertilize accordingly. If this is done correctly, you’ll not only be achieving a naturally glowing field; you’ll also be promoting a healthy root growth inside.
#4. Lawn Aeration Is Not Optional
You should know things such as knowing how and when to irrigate, when to apply fertilizers, when to mow and how high the grass should be cut, but knowing when to aerate is just as important even though the vast majority of people don’t do it.
Foot traffic and regular use of a residential lawn by either dogs, children, or even adults can lead to it becoming compacted. It’s incredibly important to manage compaction with aeration because compacted soil hinders rooting and microbial life.
The more traffic or use you get on you lawn the more important core aeration and liquid aeration is.
#5. Dealing with Excess Thatch Will Reap Serious Rewards
Thatch of about ½” is safe and even essential for the growth of your turf as it allows for moisture retention in the soil as well as the regulation of soil temperature. But it can prove to be an issue when it begins to exceed the 1/2″ inch threshold because it blocks nutrients and water from ever actually getting to the soil.
Excess thatch build-up can hinder the absorption of nutrients, fertilizer, and water. It can also lead to a breeding site for insect pests and disease-causing organisms.
Deep root develops when the plant has access to all the necessary components for its growth. Therefore, for you to promote root growth in your grasses, you’ll have to properly manage thatch and ensure that it remains within the acceptable range of half an inch.
It’s Time To Actually Do Something!
Your grass roots are actually your primary target. They are what you should be aiming for when managing your a lawn. Shallow roots will pose a problem to the growth and development of a healthy lawn, while deeper roots will help in promoting your lawn’s health.
Your energy really should be exerted on what happens beneath the surface. If that is properly managed, you can rest assured that you’ll have a healthy, vigorously growing, and verdant lawn.
Choose any of the previously outlined options and start working towards improving the root structure of your grass plants. Seriously, take action; get started. Your lawn can look better than ever in just one season or less.
And then, If you want to take your game and step it up a notch further though then make sure to buy my web-course, “Deeper Grass Roots = Healthier Lawn” today!
It’s worth it!