The old cultural adage “The grass is always greener on the other side” might be a literal statement when you look at your own lawn compared to your neighbor’s. This need not be the case, as all it takes is a little bit of knowledge and a couple of hours of light sweating to turn your drab yard into a verdant paradise.
To start off, you’re going to have to do some research – depending on what the answers are can affect your course of action. With this information on hand, we can then move onto the proper ways to mow and water.
When these basics are down, you can start the fertilizer and weed killing process. Finally, you’re going to make sure you are maximizing all of the above techniques by looking at the soil composition.
What are You Working With?
Before you begin the much-needed process of greening up, you need to take an assessment of the state of your lawn. Most importantly try to find out what type of grasses you have – there are several varieties that are roughly divided into the cool and warm season.
If you are in a cooler climate, expect to find Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, along with tall and fine fescue. If you are in a warmer climate, you’ll probably have St. Augustine, Zoysia, Bermuda, and Bahia grasses.
What type of grass you have will heavily determine the preferred height of your lawn, along with what types of fertilizer and weed killer to use?
Do you need to ask the obvious question: What season is it? If the growing season is about over you, need not fear as you can still set up for next year.
In fact, in the cooler climates it is a myth that you need to start the lawn care process in early spring – starting in Autumn is ideal. Doing so will ensure that you have a strong lawn that will be able to weather the brutal winter freezing.
Cutting Your Grass
Each type of grass has a desired height. When you are cutting its best not to cut too much at once – lawn care experts agree that anything over a ⅓ of its height can put grass in shock and cause unnecessary damage. In reverse, letting your lawn grow too high can choke the roots of necessary sunlight and nutrient it needs.
When you are mowing, make sure you do it when the lawn is dry – wet grass tends to clump up. This clumping can gunk up the underside of the mower and cause slow down, while also damaging the grass’s ability to absorb cuttings.
Which brings the next point – take advantage of those lawn clippings! While having grass clippings all over your yard might not be aesthetically pleasing in the short term, in the long run, you are going to help with keeping everything vibrant.
Broken down clippings are nature’s way of recycling – they decay and are absorbed as nutrients by the newly cut grass. When you are cutting try to always go in the same direction to maximize the distribution of the clippings.
Everyone knows that a properly watered lawn is greener and healthier than a dehydrated one. You don’t necessarily need to water every day – and in fact, this can actually harm your grass as it encourages shallow root growth.
When watering, its best to go for quality and not quantity. Longer watering creates deep root growth – which is important for making hearty grass. Ideally, you want the water to pierce down to 6” deep.
There are two simple tests you can do to find out if you are watering enough: The first is pushing a spade into the lawn and simply pulling 6” of dirt up. If it isn’t wet at the bottom, you need to water more.
The second requires a couple of open containers out in the yard while you are watering. When you think you are finished go ahead and check the containers. If there isn’t at least 6” in the container, you need to water that area more thoroughly.
Fertilizer and Weed Killer
Just like people, lawns need plenty of food and nutrients. The best way to do this is to apply some fertilizer. In cooler climates it’s best to start in fall, as this allows the lawn to hold some of its constitutions while it recedes in the winter.
If you are in a warmer climate, you need to overcompensate for the rain and sunlight and fertilize twice – once in the early spring and again in summer. Make sure to check you have the right type of fertilizer – different grasses need different levels of nutrients.
When you are fertilizing, make sure always to follow the directions – too much fertilizer can not only kill large swaths of your grass off but can lead to nitrogen runoff. Excess nitrogen can harm plants and kill off aquatic life.
When it comes to weed killer, you typically want concentrates. Not only are these more cost-effective, but they kill aggressive weeds faster. Remember, you always should look to see you are getting the right product for your lawn – using just any old weed killer can spell trouble.
If you only have a couple of weeds a small application in a spray bottle should suffice – for a larger infestation try grabbing a weed killer that attaches to your hose. This allows you to hit the whole lawn easily. If rain is on the horizon, it’s best to hold off in applying, as weed killers typically need a day for full absorption.
Check Your Soil
To give your lawn that extra verdant pop, you should check the constitution of your soil. Heavy amount of traffic on your lawn can lead to it becoming compacted. Heavily compacted soil can cause water drainage problems, choke off nutrients, and create poor air circulation – the perfect mixture if you want a browning lawn.
In order to loosen up your lawn, you need to aerate it. Aerating opens your soil up by stabbing it many times, typically around 3” deep. As an added benefit aerating allows microorganisms to establish themselves better. These beneficial organisms help break down organic particles, letting your lawn more readily absorb food and fertilizer.
If you have sandy soil, its best to double check you have the correct type of grass. Also, make sure that you are watering more – loose soil needs a lot of water as it dries out faster. If you have any dead patches, you might need to seed.
When you apply seed just make sure you don’t overseed – just like compacted soil, compacted grasses can harm nutrient absorption. It is best to apply seed late in the growing season – which is typically the late summer and early fall in most climates.
From here you are going to need to test your soil pH levels. If your soil isn’t’ at the proper balance, it can harm the grass’s ability to absorb nutrients. Chemical kits and electronic testers are available at your local gardening shop or hardware store.
Regardless of your choice, it is important to check multiple areas of your lawn. Ideally, you want your average to be in the 6 to 7.2 range. If too low, your soil is alkaline and can be raised by adding sulfur. If too high, the soil is acidic – a liberal application of pelletized lime should bring it down.
Greening up your lawn need not be a huge ordeal – a little know-how and a few hours of light labor a season can make a world of difference. The most important thing you can do is be consistent – keeping your lawn well-trimmed, following a strict water schedule, and fertilizing at the right times.
If you still struggle to get your lawn green, you need to do some research to discover the specific type of grass you have along with soil composition. Doing these few simple things will ensure that you have a beautiful and brightly viridescent lawn that will make your neighbors swoon.
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