Do you long to have the kind of lawn that all your neighbors aspire to emulate? Or do you live next door to Super Lawn Care Guy and just want to give him a little competition? You know the type--every spring, he's out there digging up each and every dandelion with his little dandelion knife. Either way, having a lush, green lawn is possible, and a lot easier than you might think.
- Know your climate. If you want your grass to grow well, you have to plant a strain that's suited for your area. Zoysia grass grows well in warmer climates and will turn brown if temperatures dip below 55 degrees. Fescue grass, on the other hand, loves cooler weather, as does bentgrass. If you live in a area that frequently experiences very dry conditions, you may want to plant a type of meadow grass, which is very hardy and drought-resistant.
- Kill the weeds. Nothing ruins the look of your lawn more quickly than hundreds of yellow dandelions bobbing their heads at you every time you pull in the driveway. The key to killing weeds without killing your lawn is to know your enemy. Weeds such as crabgrass and pigweed are best treated with a pre-emergence herbicide in the spring. Make sure to buy one that won't harm grasses. Other weeds, such as the aforementioned dandelion, are best dealt with by using a post-emergence herbicide in the fall. If you can convince your neighbors to treat their weeds also, that's even better. After all, it doesn't matter how diligent you are in eliminating your weeds if you have an acre of crabgrass growing next door.
- The best defense is a good offense. You'll have much better results if you keep your lawn healthy from the start. A mistake that is frequently made by homeowners is mowing the grass too short. It may seem like a timesaver in the short-term, but you're actually giving more weed seeds a chance to germinate by exposing them to sunlight. A very short lawn is also susceptible to problems in high temperatures and dry weather. If your lawnmower has three settings, always use the middle one, which should be cut the grass about two inches high.
- If there's a problem... First, identify the problem. If your lawn is tired-looking, try a spring application of fertilizer formulated especially for lawns. Use a fertilizer with more phosphorous than nitrogen. Nitrogen will green your lawn, but it encourages top growth. In the spring, you should encourage your grass to form dense, deep roots so that it will have a better chance of surviving the hot, dry days of summer. If you're fertilizing in the fall, you may want to purchase a slow-release fertilizer. This will better penetrate to the roots of your grass. After fertilizing, water your lawn so that the nitrogen in the fertilizer doesn't burn your grass.
Dethatching can also help revitalize an older lawn. Dethatching is simply pulling out all of the yard waste and dead grass that has accumulated at the base of your lawn. It can help fertilizer reach the roots of your grass more easily and give the grass more of a chance to spread in reseeded areas. There are lawn care companies that have machines to dethatch your yard quickly. You can also use a lawn rake if you don't mind a bit of manual labor. Use a bow rake, which has short, heavy metal teeth, not a lawn rake, which is used for raking leaves. Hold the rake at about a 45-degree angle and pull it across your lawn, using short strokes. Repeat as many times as necessary to clear all of the matted debris from underneath the grass.
Another way to revitalize your lawn is via aeration. Aerating your lawn simply means using a lawn tractor with a special attachment to punch small, cylindrical holes all over your yard. This encourages roots to become stronger and healthier by getting air and nutrients to them more easily.
- Over-seed if necessary. If you have a patch of lawn that remains stubbornly sparse, it may need to be over-seeded. Over-seeding is most successful if you first dethatch and aerate the area you plan to seed. Next, scatter grass seed over the area. Water it very gently, but thoroughly, then cover it lightly with a layer of straw. The idea is to keep the grass seed from blowing away, not to cover it completely. Don't allow the seed to dry out, but be sure it's not waterlogged, either. Do not mow the over-seeded area until the new grass is well-established.
With these five easy steps, you can be the envy of your neighborhood, and just maybe, earn the respect of Super Lawn Care Guy, too!