Regardless of whether we are talking about your front lawn that everyone can see or the grass in your backyard that is only for you and your close ones, you surely want it to be pristine. It’s not uncommon for people to try all sorts of approaches and apply various hacks but still have no luck when it comes to making their lawn green and healthy.
If you’ve found yourself in this situation, you are probably always on the lookout for new tips and tricks to help you out on your journey to that perfect lawn. Keep on reading for some suggestions on what you can do to improve your lawn.
1. Perform some soil tests
A lot of people skip this step thinking that it is not all that important. However, how can your grass thrive if the soil is not optimal? This is why you need a test that will show you which nutrients the soil is full of and which ones it’s lacking. For example, you need to keep an eye on nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which are major components of most fertilizers.
Furthermore, the test can tell you whether the soil is acidic, alkaline or neutral. The pH levels can also affect the success of your lawn as not all grasses require the same pH level. You can purchase the test online or at the Home Depot, for example, and examine the soil on your own, or you can take a sample to a local nursery and have experts do it for you. Once you know what you are dealing with, it will be much easier to work on improving your lawn.
2. Find the best way to amend the soil
If the test shows that the soil is not what your grass needs, you should consult with a professional to see what you can do to amend it. They will probably recommend some type of fertilizer that contains the nutrients that the soil is lacking. If the pH levels are off, they will have advice for that as well. On the other hand, you can try some DIY methods to correct the soil pH levels.
3. Pick the right type of grass
While it is possible that the soil is simply lacking the basic nutrients for the grass you’ve chosen to thrive, it is also possible that you’ve picked a grass that is not suited to the soil you have. This is why you have to carefully research the type of grass you wish to plant. Different types of grass have better chances of succeeding in different parts of the world.
For instance, cool-season grasses grow well in fall and spring as cold winters and moderate summers present no problem for them. So, if you live in a cool climate, consider fine fescue, tall fescue and perennial ryegrass. As opposed to them, we have warm-season grasses that grow best from late spring to early fall, meaning that they tolerate high temperatures and are relatively good with droughts.
Think about Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass and Zoysia grass if these are the weather conditions of your area. Fixing up your soil a little is okay if it’s missing some nutrients but keep in mind that you will need to do a lot of amending if you choose an exotic type of grass that can simply not succeed in your area.
4. Aerate the soil to prevent compaction
If you have kids, pets or just do plenty of activities on the lawn, chances are that it is a bit compacted. Regardless of whether you are starting from scratch or just doing some small improvements to the lawn, you should aerate it. This process of taking plugs of soil out of the ground is essential as it will allow the air, water and nutrients to better penetrate the soil and reach the roots of the grass.
Depending on how compacted your soil is, you can do it every year or once every few years. If you notice a small patch of the lawn that is compacted, you can treat it individually. It is recommended to aerate in the fall. You can use a garden fork to do this, look into aerating shoes or turn to rental gas-powered aerators.
5. Weed on a regular basis
Perhaps there is nothing wrong with the soil or the type of grass you’ve chosen. Maybe your biggest problem is weeds and wild grasses. Your best move here is to work on preventing these issues altogether. So, you should look for a quality pre-emergent herbicide and apply it when aerating your lawn as that will allow the soil to really absorb it. However, applying it once a year is not enough as different weeds sprout at different times.
Consider applying pre-emergent herbicides in spring and fall. On the other hand, you can apply post-emergent herbicides if the weeds have already appeared. Some will be persistent and you might have to deal with them by hand. Make sure you are equipped with a Hoselink stand-up weed puller or hand scythe weeder to make your job much easier.
6. Feed when necessary
The soil test will show you which nutrients might be lacking from the soil; however, feeding the soil once to amend it is not enough. You have to treat the soil twice a year to ensure it has all the necessary elements. So, feed it in the spring with a fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen and in the fall with a feed that is full of phosphate and potash. The fall feeding should be done while aerating.
When choosing a fertilizer, consult with local nursery experts but ask for organic and natural types. They are better for both your grass and the environment and they have been proven to work better than the synthetic option.
7. Know when to water
Proper watering is also a big aspect of a successful lawn. If a lawn is lacking water, it will start to lose its spring and change colour. The amount of water a lawn requires will depend on the type of grass and the area you live in but a rule of thumb is one to two inches of water per week. If there is not enough rain in your area, you will have to water it on your own by giving it a few good soakings a couple of times a week.
Thorough watering is better than plenty of light sprinklings as the latter doesn’t allow the water to reach the roots but only moistens the grass. Furthermore, when you water the lawn is also important. You’ll want to avoid watering at night as that will leave the grass wet overnight and make it more susceptible to various diseases caused by mould and other fungi. Instead, water it early in the morning as less water is lost due to evaporation and the lawn will have enough time to dry out. If you don’t have time to do it on your own, get an impact sprinkler with a timer.
8. Don’t mow the lawn too short
There are also certain mowing practices that you should adopt. The first thing to keep in mind is the fact that you should never remove more than a third of the grass’s length. Mowing it too short will put it in danger, especially if it’s too sunny as then it can burn. Then, you should also know that during colder weather, the need for mowing will be reduced. What is more, you should never mow wet grass as that will both affect the grass and damage your mower’s blades. The blades need to be sharp in order to not damage the grass during mowing.
So, either look up a tutorial on how you can sharpen them yourself or take them to a local expert who can do it for you. Finally, when it comes to mowing, you’ll want to alternate your mowing patterns as that will prevent compaction of the soil as well as the grass from growing in only one direction which makes mowing more difficult later on. It will also prevent wheel marks from the mower from appearing on the lawn.
9. Start grass-cycling and composting for greener grass
Once you’re done with mowing, you can simply leave your grass on the lawn as it will quickly decompose and provide the soil with the necessary nutrients. This process is called grass-cycling and it will not only reduce the need for fertilizers but it will also save you time and reduce the waste that goes to landfills.
On the other hand, you can compost the grass clippings and add other waste from the garden and even your kitchen. Other than making your grass greener, compost improves water drainage in clay soils, stimulates root growth, balances the pH levels of most soils and attracts beneficial organisms.
Regardless of whether your goal is to have a lawn that is the envy of all your neighbours or to create a nice space for you and your family, this endeavour requires work. You have to do research and implement the best watering, feeding and mowing practices in order to have a healthy, green lawn.
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Patrick Adams is a freelance writer and rock-blues fan. When he is not writing about home improvement, he loves to play chess, watch basketball, and play his guitar. More than anything, he loves to spend his time in his garage, repairing appliances and creating stuff from wood.