The benefits of a luscious, healthy and green lawn are boundless. Homeowners don’t want a brown front yard to be the first thing seen by guests when they arrive. They certainly don’t want their children and pets playing on the dry, dirty surfaces of a diseased and decaying backyard. With just a few tricks, you can maintain a beautiful yard that will be both pleasant for play and pleasing to the eye.
Every organism requires a food source and your lawn thrives on nitrogen, but the amount you use will depend on the particular species of your grass. Regardless, the amount of nitrogen in your lawn food should be higher than other two nutrients, phosphorus and potassium. A ratio 3:1:2, respectively, is usually recommended. It is best to use a broadcast or rotary spreader for even distribution and you should first spread the fertilizer first around the perimeter then back and forth across the lawn in an orderly manner.
Proper watering habits are key to any yard maintenance where vegetation is involved. You should research your specific lawn species for the exact amount of water to provide the most benefit to your grasses. A good rule of thumb is to water between 1 to 1.5 inches per week during the growing season and up to 2 inches in hot weather. When it’s time to fertilize, simply water 2 days before, allow it to dry, apply the feed, and lightly water again. Routine watering will also allow the plants and moisture to reduce the presence of dust and dirt buildup around your home and yard.
Proper feeding and watering leads to a faster growing lawn which means you will need to mow more often to maintain its height, look, and health. Experts recommend that lawns are mowed whenever they are growing, but the grasses should never be cut more than one-third of their height. Most lawns should be cut once a week at the highest setting beginning in early spring, lowering it as growth accelerates. Healthy grasses may need mowing three times a week during summer months. Another trick is to allow the lawn clippings to remain on the surface. Referred to as “grasscycling” this practice provides up to 25 percent of a lawn’s fertilizer needs. Just be sure to spread heavy patches more evenly about the lawn or even remove some to prevent disease.
In landscaping terms, thatch is the organic matter builds up around base of grass plants. Thatch can be caused by poor drainage and excessive thatch will cause root problems. Thatch should be removed in the very early spring or early fall. However, a small amount can provide the grasses with beneficial insulation and thatch measuring less than 0.5 inches thick should not be removed.
The pH, or the measure of the “potential for hydrogen” in water soluble substances, is important in lawn health. A simple soil test using Litmus paper and its color code will indicate an estimated pH level and an electronic pH meter is highly useful for a more accurate reading. For soil measuring below a 7 on the scale, pelletized calcium will reduce the acidity while sulfur gardening products will restore balance to an alkaline lawn.
Aeration creates air gaps that improves drainage, encourages deeper roots, and creates contact surfaces for seeding and fertilizing. It is also useful in reducing compaction, disease, thatch, and puddling. Core aeration is best if the plugs are 0.5 inches in diameter, 3-inches deep, with eight plugs per square foot of lawn. Additionally, you will want your soil to be slightly dried out, but moist enough for the tines to penetrate.
Although the leaves will turn brown and the lawn may appear dead during dormancy it is surviving underground. Allowing it to go dormant is healthier for the grasses than repeated rescue attempts. Dormant lawns do not usually need watering. However, 0.25 to 0.5 inches of water every two to four weeks is recommended in hot weather or extremely dry soil.
Keeping your home’s lawn healthy as well as beautiful doesn’t have to consume all your time and money. As long as you remain vigilant in its care, the above tricks will make your yard maintenance a chore worth doing. If, however, your efforts are thwarted, your grass may be the wrong species for your soil type, local climate, and use making it more difficult to maintain in which case you may consider a full lawn replacement.