Does grass spread to the bare spots on your lawn? How does grass get its food? How does grass grow?
As a residential owner that genuinely cares for your lawn, you might be interested to know the answers to these questions. You want to make it as beautiful as could be and get that well-manicured aesthetic that all homeowners want.
To get into the essential portion of the subject at hand, you need to learn about a few crucial aspects of a single grass stalk: its growth, how it spreads, and how it gets its food. It, in turn, will give you an all-encompassing understanding of proper lawn maintenance.
Table of Contents
How does grass grow?
You might be wondering why is it whenever you cut one-third or more out of a single grass stalk, and continue to cut it throughout its growth cycle, it manages to survive and even prosper? If you did the same thing with any other plant in your garden, it probably wouldn’t survive the season.
The answer is that grass grows in a different way than other plants.
Other kinds of plants like trees, shrubs, or vines will keep growing and adding new branches and stems in their extremities. It occurs far from the plant base.
In the meantime, the grass is different in this regard. Although some growth happens on the individual blades, the central growth area is the crown.
The crown is situated at the base of the grass stalk close to the soil line. It is where the shoot and root section converge. It’s the part that actively grows and pushes out the leaf blades that form all over them.
Besides the growth happening on the grass blades, the top is where old growing occurs while new sprouts will happen underneath.
The grass stalk’s crown also initiates the growth of the roots. However, they grow conventionally compared to the other portions.
Yet based on scientific fact, the growth of new cells form at the crest of the roots rather than on the crown. Its tips stretch outwards, searching for a nutrient source and begin to build a far-reaching network of tiny fibers, most of them almost invisible to the eyes.
To better illustrate it, one scientist made an analysis o, a root system of Kentucky bluegrass in a residential lawn in Purdue, Indiana, USA. He found out there were 2k roots with one million root hairs in one cubic inch of soil.
Whenever the grassroots grow poorly, it will mean that they haven’t absorbed the necessary nutrients and water properly. It will be explained further in later segments.
How does grass spread?
Does grass spread on its own? Will sod grass spread? These questions will likely come up if you have a pet dog that makes it a habit to relieve itself on the lawn.
You might be delighted that the dog does this outdoors instead of inside the house, but your lawn grass suffers in this unfortunate circumstance. There will be dead patches of turfgrass that will appear throughout your yard, which will become bare spots.
The dog’s fecal and urine matter will infect the lawn with patch disease that will kill the surrounding area it was dropped on.
Also, you want the lawn to grow on the entire area, including the bare spots. You want it spread towards the edges, which creates nice-looking borders.
However, some types of grass can quickly spread and become thick, while others scarcely do it. The way it can spread and cover up empty spots depends on the kind of turfgrass you have.
Bluegrass, ryegrass, or bentgrass are different from each other. Also, its capability to disseminate is determined by how well you’ve taken cared of the yard.
There are a few ways that grass undergoes to reproduce and expand from the mother stalk. Most species of turfgrass can spread by doing one or more of these methods.
Sowing seeds by spreading themselves on bare spots in the lawn is the most prevalent method of lateral spread grass seed. However, it should be mentioned for all homeowners like you to remember that you must not depend on this method.
Since you mow the grass before the heads of the seeds grow, you hardly see any of them develop on your lawn. But if you haven’t mowed the yard for more than a week, you will eventually see the tiny heads popping up above the grass blades.
Some grass types have adapted and altered their biological functioning due to constant cutting and mowing. They have formed seeds very close to the ground instead of above the stems, right below the mower blades.
If you’re worried about something white growing on top of the grass blades, those are merely grass seeding. They’re only doing what Mother Nature intended them to do.
However, some grasses have become hybrid due to intermingling with other types, and as a result, became sterile.
So it still depends on the type of grass, if they’re going to seed by themselves or not. But do not rely on this method if you want to be sure to spread it to where you want it to go.
Inflorescence refers to the production of grass seeds from flower clusters. Some species of grass grow flowers after they have formulated an adequate quantity of leaf blades.
After your turfgrass has reached adult size without being cut or mowed, its stems begin to become longer and develop inflorescence. It happens only if the climate is excellent with lots of sunshine and water.
Grass flowers can have both female and male reproductive systems in one flower or separately. In most situations, these flowers will begin to bear seeds after being fertilized by pollens from other compatible grass flowers.
A tiller is a new offshoot of the original grass stalk that has leaf blades and roots. It has formed from the side of the stem and has grown out from the crown. It, in turn, made the mother stalk wider and thicker.
Most types of lawn grass produce and send out tillers. It is how those kinds multiply and spread across the lawn.
Some homeowners use this method for expanding and thickening their yard, which is called either clump grass or bunchgrass. A common type of yard grass called perennial ryegrass is a kind of bunchgrass.
It will take time for this kind of method to spread to bare spots that needed filling. Over time, it will get thicker and thicker.
Tall fescue is a kind of clump grass, and many types like these have wide blades. If this is used to patch a bare area in a lawn, it will look obvious.
They are types of transplanting grass runners.
They are grass stems that run underground, which sprouts out of the soil far away from the mother stalk. They will develop into new stalks that can spread out their rhizomes.
These are an excellent method for spreading grass, and rhizome-capable grass can also be thickened by tillering.
Fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass can spread across your lawn by the rhizome method. They can extend far and wide, looking for an empty spot to encapsulate and develop.
Even if you don’t like it, they can clamber over gardens and creates boundaries on them. So you have to watch out that if it happens to areas you don’t want grass runners to appear.
Dry or clay-like soil will make it difficult for rhizomes to spread. You can also restrict it from spreading by regularly mowing your lawn.
However, if you have rich soil with plenty of sunlight and water, rhizomes will flourish.
Stolons are somewhat similar to rhizomes, but instead of running underground, they travel and spread above the soil. Like rhizomes, they expand from the mother stalk and form grass stalks along the way.
Zoysia grass, creeping bentgrass, and St. Augustine grass spread via stolons and can do it quickly. If the soil is dry or clay-like, it will have a hard time spreading.
They can also overpower other types of lawn grass and proceed to blanket and take over the entire growing space. The way that hinders this type of growth is to mow your lawn frequently.
How does grass get its food?
There is a misconception that grass receives its nutrients from the soil. And if mixed with fertilizer, then it gets more food. Strictly speaking, fertilizer isn’t entirely food, but some of the raw ingredients for grass food.
A particular stalk of grass makes its food in each leaf blade in a process called photosynthesis.
All kinds of green plants utilize rays of the sun to manufacture food in their leaves. The word photo refers to light, and synthesis means putting together. Here is a simpler explanation:
The energy of the sun enables the plants to transform carbon dioxide in the air and water in their leaves into food. The plant uses the food to make fats, protein, cellulose, and other essential nutrients. These are used to make stems, leaves, runners, seeds, roots, crowns, and many more.
Unused food is stashed away as starch materials in the leaves and roots.
So back to the original query about the grass getting food from the soil. It’s able to get water, trace elements, and materials magnesium, nitrogen, calcium, potassium, and many more.
These are the raw ingredients that were mentioned earlier. Plants will be converting them by using the energy from the manufactured food into necessary building blocks.
To reiterate, organic materials and fertilizer only provide the raw materials but are not plant food.
Here is a step-by-step process of how it works:
- Within each leaf blade of grass, the light for the sun is utilized in converting carbon dioxide and water into food.
- The food is transformed into cellulose, proteins, fats, and other essential building blocks needed to make plants healthy. These are formulated by merging the food with other raw ingredients in the leaves.
- The grassroots absorbs the water and nutrients then sends it to different parts of the grass
Spreading the grass yourself
You don’t have to depend on your lawn’s natural capability to fix the bare spots themselves.
First, you can flush the spots with water to remove the remaining salt in the soil. When they become dry, use a garden trowel to scratch up the soil and even add some new dirt and mix it with the old one. It’s to make them on the level surface from the rest.
Then begin the process of over-seeding the spots. Once done, water the entire lawn and add extra water to the newly seeded parts.
If you have a large lawn, you might consider either sodding or reseeding the bare spots. In this situation, reseeding will most likely work.
Once the bare spots and been filled up and repaired, do the same lawn care practices you’ve done before, and you can also spot-irrigate those once empty areas.
Best grass types for spreading
Bermuda grass and Kentucky bluegrass are the most common types found in the southern and northern parts of the USA. These are the best and easiest to spread in empty spots.
These are equipped with stolons and rhizomes, which can quickly locate those bare areas fill them up in no time at all.
Other types like St. Augustine, zoysia, and centipede grass are also recommended. For cooler northern climates, red fescue is a great alternative.
Experts say that grass that grows in the southern USA has greater chances of spreading than northern grass. Many types of grass that grow in the northern part don’t spread, and reseeding will likely work more.
Perennial ryegrass, tall or chewing fescue are bunch-type grasses that grow in cooler areas and fill bare areas. Tall fescue can only be used to fill up empty spots on the same tall fescue lawn.
Tall fescue isn’t good to mix with others and get clumpy if used to patch up Bermuda or Kentucky bluegrass lawns.
It’s important to take note that every time you use any method to cut grass in your lawn, you are disrupting crucial food manufacturing processes occurring in the individual grass stalk.
You should know the right balance in cutting grass the proper way and keep the lawn healthy. If you cut or mow the grass the wrong way, you can critically affect its food manufacturing process.
The consequence might be a sickly and off-putting lawn, and you don’t want that.