A well-kept lawn can be the envy of the neighborhood. Most homeowners don’t need to spend a lot of green to achieve healthy green yards — a little care can go a long way toward a beautiful, sustainable lawn.
Over time the soil under your lawn becomes compacted from foot traffic and regular mowing. When this happens, it is more difficult for grass roots to get the air, water and nutrients they need to grow. You can use a hand-held or machine-powered aerator to remove small cores from the soil. This creates passageways for water to reach the root zone, promoting better drainage and more efficient watering. Most experts recommend aerating your lawn once a year.
Dead grass and roots build up on top of the soil over the life of your lawn, creating a layer of thatch. Your lawn benefits from some thatch to help insulate and protect the roots. However, when the layer of thatch becomes more than half an inch thick, it begins to strangle the grass. Unable to penetrate the thatch, the grass roots grow along its surface. The resulting mat of tangled roots is more susceptible to drought and disease. Lawns with a significant problem may have dead patches and feel spongy underfoot. Remove built-up thatch with a dethatching machine in early fall — incremental work will help avoid damaging your lawn. A steel-tine rake should take care of a minor thatch problem.
Water deeper and less often
Setting the sprinkler out for a few minutes during the week actually makes your lawn more susceptible to drought and fungus. Watering your lawn less often with more water encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil. Deep roots can better withstand hot, dry weather.
Water your lawn in the early morning when it’s least windy and temperatures are cool. You’ll want to make sure you’re watering 4 inches into the soil, a healthy depth for grass roots. To determine how long to water your lawn, check the soil moisture about every 15 minutes during your first watering. Insert a trowel down 4 inches and feel with your finger for wet soil. Time how long it takes the water to seep down 4 inches. Water your lawn for the same amount of time no more than twice a week.
Fertilizing your lawn provides it with the nutrients it needs to grow a lush, green carpeting. The right product for your lawn will vary depending on the soil type, acidity, climate and type of grass.
Give your lawn a good watering one to two days before fertilizing. Once it’s dry, spread your fertilizer. You can use a broadcast or rotary spreader for large areas. Handheld broadcast or battery-powered spreaders work well for small lawns. Lightly water your lawn after fertilizing to carry the fertilizer down into the root system. Take care not to overwater or water before it rains, or your fertilizer could be washed away. Grasses in warmer climates can be lightly fertilized several times from early spring to late summer. Fertilize grasses in cooler climates once in early fall.
Grass roots usually grow as deep as the blades are high. Cutting the blades too short limits the water and nutrients your lawn can draw from the soil. It also limits your lawn’s ability to absorb the sunlight it needs to grow. High-cut lawns meanwhile are more resistant to weeds and drought. Set your mower deck between at 2 and a half and 3 inches and expect to mow about once a week.
Grasscycling is the practice of leaving grass clippings on top of your lawn after mowing. This method saves time and money, as you won’t have to bag up clippings to put on the curb. The clippings also help fertilize your lawn, adding valuable nutrients as they decompose.
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