Area measurements and mapping a lawn should be the first step in any home lawn care program. It is essential to know the square footage of your lawn in order to make accurate applications of fertilizers and other lawn care products. The most commonly used area measurements are square feet (sqft) and acres (ac). Most home lawns can be measured up in units of 1,000 sqft.
Calculating area can be accomplished using several methods; dividing a lawn into geometric figures (rectangles, trapezoids, triangles, circles and ovals) and using the offset method (for irregular shaped areas).
The offset method is used to measure irregularly shaped areas. It reduces large areas to a series of smaller trapezoids or rectangles that are equally spaced along a measured line. This method will determine the area to within 5%.
The four steps in determining area by the offset method are as follows:
Step 1. Determine the length line. This is the longest axis of the area. Its endpoints should be labeled A and B.
Step 2. Mark offset lines as right angles (900) to the length line. Choose how many offset lines to use so that they divide line AB into equal segments and define regions amenable to calculation. To ensure accuracy, use as many offset lines as possible.
Step 3. Measure the length of each offset line. These are measured from one edge of the area to the other.
Step 4. Add up the lengths of all offset lines and multiply by the distance between offset lines on the length line.
Proper use of fertilizers and other lawn care products, whether of synthetic or natural origin, contributes to healthy plant growth. Applying too much of a synthetic fertilizer may cause foliar burns or injury to the plant. Using too little may result in inadequate pest control or nutrient deficiencies.
The only way to know just how much fertilizer or pest control product is being applied to your lawn is to calibrate your application equipment. Calibrating simply begins with knowing the total square footage of your lawn and making sure you apply the correct amount of material for that square footage according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Always read and follow the product label.
Homeowners have a wide variety of spreaders to work with - some drop type, some rotary type, some listed on the product label for recommended settings, and many that are not.
The best approach for homeowners does not necessarily involve the actual calibration of their spreader, but a more common sense approach to applying fertilizer and lawn care products. If you accurately measure the square footage of your lawn and then purchase the correct amount of fertilizer or lawn care product, then the task at hand is to evenly distribute that material over the total square footage. For example, you measured your lawn to be 10,000 square feet. The lawn care product you purchase states that, the contents of this bag covers 5,000 square feet. Therefore, you require 2 bags of this product to cover 10,000 square feet. You may ask now, what is the best technique to evenly distribute this product. Even distribution is usually assured with multiple passes in multiple directions over your lawn. Therefore, place your spreader on a light setting and continue to make passes over your lawn, changing directions with each pass until all the required material has been applied. This may require 3, 4, 5 or more trips over your lawn, but you can be certain that the distribution of the material is very good. Think of it as good exercise.
For those wishing to know specific calibration techniques of drop and rotary spreaders, please refer to MU Guide Sheet WQ551 – Calibrating Home Garden Equipment: http://extension.missouri.edu/explore/envqual/wq0551.htm.
REVISED: September 30, 2015