The Anatomy and Health of a Lawn

A landscaped space with a curved paver walkway and lush lawn.

In order to maintain healthy grass, it’s important to understand the various elements within your lawn and how they work together to create a thriving environment.


Your lawn’s soil contains both organic material and mineral particles. The amount of mineral particles dictates whether the soil texture is that of sand, silt, or clay. A loam soil containing an ideal proportion of all three mineral particles is the best for growth and will usually feel sandy. This type of soil has a large amount of air space, allowing it to quickly and easily absorb water. These spaces also allow the water to easily circulate and penetrate root systems.

You can determine which type of soil you have by squeezing a handful of it into a sphere. If the sphere breaks easily you most likely have loam soil. If the soil keeps its shape it's probably clay-based.

Topsoil and Subsoil

Laying down rolls of sod in a yard.

The topsoil is the top layer of the soil matter of your lawn. It's dark in color and loose in texture because of its high organic matter content. The subsoil is the lower layer of the soil matter of your lawn. It's typically lighter in color because it contains fewer nutrients.

You can easily observe the soil below your lawn by cutting a vertical slice of it from your yard. Be sure to cut a piece deep enough to be able to see both the topsoil and the subsoil.

pH Levels

The pH levels of your lawn indicate the acid and alkaline amounts within your soil. The pH levels in soil range from 0 to 14. Soils with pH levels higher than 7 are alkaline and those lower than 7 are acidic. A level at 7 indicates that the soil is neutral.

Soil that is moderately acidic with a pH level between 6 and 6.5 provides an environment where the most nutrients are released. Acidic soils are generally located in regions where there are high amounts of rainfall. If your soil is too acidic, the pH levels can be raised by applying lime. If your soil is too alkaline, the pH levels can be reduced by adding sulfur.

Living Organisms

A bug on a stalk on grass with moisture on it.

Your lawn is a habitat for many different living organisms including worms and spiders. These organisms form a food web within the soil and help to maintain the health and growth of your lawn. They decompose the clippings that are left after you cut your lawn, mix organic and mineral matter within the soil, and create spaces that allow water and air to circulate and provide nutrients to plant life.

Effects of the Seasons

While the types of soil and grasses growing within your lawn will vary based on where you live, most lawns are able to survive the differences in weather that come with the changes of the seasons. Grass is generally able to withstand all of the seasons. They survive harsh conditions because of the rapid growth that takes places during the spring and the autumn months and the dormant states during summer and winter months. Effective lawn care routines follow the natural life cycles of grass throughout the seasons.

Grass shoots begin to grow during the early spring using the nutrients they stored within their roots during the autumn and winter months. The best shoot growth occurs when the temperatures outside are between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Root and leaf growth slows down during the summer when temperatures begin to rise. Grass rests during periods of heat and drought. Soil temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to root damage. During the autumn months the grass shoots begin to grow once more. They also store nutrients for the winter months in their root systems. The best root growth takes place when the soil temperatures are between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Maintaining a Healthy Lawn

A burlap bag with fertilizer for a lawn.

How well you take care of your lawn will greatly influence its health. By taking good care of your lawn, it will be better able to take care of itself during times of extreme temperatures and drought. Lawns that are healthy grow faster and have deeper root systems, enabling them unsusceptible to damage from invading insects. You can ensure that you have a healthy lawn throughout the year by following some simple tips.

  • Avoid giving your lawn too much water. When you overwater a lawn, the spaces created for air become filled with water. This decreases the amount of oxygen that can get into the soil.
  • Avoid applying too much fertilizer. Excess fertilizer will create an imbalance of nutrients which could affect the organisms living in the soil.
  • Do not apply fertilizer during the early spring as this is when the grass growth should be slow.
  • Reduce the amount of pesticides you use in order to protect the insects that are beneficial to the health of your lawn.