Meet the expert
As the in-house turf “expert” at
The Family Handyman for the past 15 years, I’ve
spent a huge amount of time talking
with world-class grass gurus and learning
the science of lawns. And I’ve spent
even more time clearing and converting
a half-acre of rough, overgrown horse
pasture to a Pebble Beach–quality lawn.
My final conclusion is this: Growing greener
grass is surprisingly simple and
easy. If you’re willing to learn some basic
facts and put in just a few hours of light
labor every summer, you can
have a lush lawn.
You supply the labor and we will the know-how where you can learn how to grow greener grass.
How to grow greener grass magic bullet # 1. Water deeply, but not often
If you water frequently and for short periods,
the grass roots have no reason to grow deep.
Those shallow roots can’t reach deep soil nutrients
or deliver the water when you skip a watering.
Instead, water deeply enough to penetrate the soil 4 to 6
in. Do our little test for a few waterings and you’ll get a
sense of just how long and often. It’ll depend entirely on
weather conditions and your soil type.
Heavy soils should be watered less often and less heavily
but for longer periods of time. Sandy soils, on the
other hand, can handle heavy, fast watering but dry out
faster. In hot, dry weather, you may have to water every
two to three days.
How to grow greener grass magic bullet # 2. Attack broadleaf weeds in mild weather
You need to kill weeds when
they’re growing. That’s because the
herbicide is absorbed through the leaves
and then sent throughout the rest of
the plant. When the weather is too cool,
the weed isn’t growing and the herbicide
won’t be absorbed, and the chemical
isn’t as effective. Too hot and the
herbicide will stress the grass. The
product directions will give you the best
temperature range. Apply herbicides
when rain isn’t forecast; a soaking will
just rinse off the herbicide before it can
do any good.
How to grow greener grass magic bullet # 3. Kill crabgrass before it spreads
Crabgrass preventers (aka pre-emergence treatments) do one
thing and one thing only. They prevent crabgrass (and any other
seed) from sprouting.
sprouts, it’s too late.
Here’s the key.
second and the
starts sprouting a
few weeks after
the grass greens
up, that’s generally
just the right time.
How to grow greener grass magic bullet # 4. Don’t cut the grass too short
Every grass type has an optimal cutting height. And
you’re better off on the high side of that height. Here are
a few reasons. The grass blade is the food factory of the
plant. Short blades just can’t generate as much food as long
blades. Long blades also shade and cool the soil. That means weed
seeds are less likely to sprout, and you won’t have to water as
often because water won’t evaporate as fast.
Not sure what type of grass you have? Take a sample
to a garden center for help. Or go to scotts.com and
click on “grass type identifier” at the bottom of the
page. Compare your sample with the ones shown.
Video: Mowing the Lawn to the Right Height
There is more to a healthy lawn than watering and fertilizing. Mowing the lawn to the right height is important for healthy grass. Travis Larson, an editor at The Family Handyman, will show you how to determine what height is optimal for cutting your grass. Each type of grass has a recommended cutting height.
How to grow greener grass magic bullet # 5. Don’t skip the fall fertilizing
Before the lawn goes
to sleep for the winter,
you should feed it well.
Even after the grass
seems to go dormant, the
roots are soaking up
nutrients and storing
energy for the next growing
it’s much more important
to fertilize in the fall than
in the spring, when most
people do it. Like watering,
this is one of the
most important favors
you can do for your lawn.
How to grow greener grass magic bullet # 6. Test the soil pH level
Grass grows best when it’s
growing in the “pH happy
zone.” If the soil is too acidic
or too alkaline, the grass won’t
thrive even if you do everything else
right. So collect one tablespoon-size
sample a couple of inches under the sod
in three different places in your yard
and take the three samples in for testing.
Some garden centers
offer the service, or
search the Internet for “soil testing” to
find a place to send it.
You’re after a pH between 6 and 7.2.
If it’s too high, you’ll treat the lawn
with iron sulfate or sulphur; too low
and you’ll use pelletized limestone.
Whoever does the testing will tell you
what and how much to use to fix the
pH. Applying the treatment is as easy
as walking around the yard
with a spreader.
The Family Handyman Video: How to Correct Soil PH
The Family Handyman Senior Editor, Travis Larson, will show you how to test your soil's current PH level and how to correct it so you will be able to grow greener grass.
Five ways to growing greener grass simpler and cheaper: 1. Use a broadcast spreader
Use a broadcast
(the type that
straight down) are
notoriously tricky to
use. You’re bound
to end up with
stripes or checkerboard
your grass. You’re
much better off
with a broadcast
spews out the
granules at random
for much more consistent
Simpler and cheaper: 2. Eliminate a few weeds one by one
Don't treat your
whole lawn for just
a few weeds. That's
expensive, a hassle
unsound. If you
have only a few
weeds, pull them
by hand or spray
each one with a
Simpler and cheaper: 3. Use liquid broadleaf weed killers
Use a hose-end
sprayer to kill a
yard full of weeds.
It’s faster and more
effective to dispense
than to use granular
You just add
the herbicide, dial
in the right concentration
sprayer lid and
walk around the
yard and mist all
the weeds. You can
treat an average
yard in less than
Simpler and faster: 4. Reseed late in the growing season
Reseed in the late
seeding a small
patch or a whole
yard, you’re going to
be much more successful
if you wait
for the cooler,
damper weather of
late summer or
early fall. It’s almost
impossible to get
seed to survive
during the dog days
of summer. It’s
simply too hot and
dry. You’ll most
likely just waste
your time and expensive seed.
Simpler and easier: 5. Use concentrates
you can. For most
liquids, you can
and mix your own
water. You'll save
about 70 percent
of the cost of premixed.
Be sure to
mix only as much
as you can use
within a week or
two. Minerals in
tap water will
reduce the potency
of the chemicals in
just a short time.
Five great ways to wreck your lawn: 1. Dethatch when not needed
Dethatching involves flailing away at your lawn with a powerful, engine-driven
steel rake. If that sounds scary, imagine how your grass feels! The
idea is to rake up the old woody stems resting at the base of the grass
leaves. Dethatching does this, but at great cost to your lawn because it
tears up not only the grass but also the roots. It’s rarely a good idea. If you
have thatch, it’s probably because you’ve been underwatering, overfertilizing
and/or consistently mowing when the grass is overgrown.
Wreck your lawn: 2. Catch the clippings
OK, maybe it won’t actually wreck your
lawn, but you’re not doing it any favors
either. Let the clippings lie. They’ll
release nutrients into the soil and form a
mulch to help keep in soil moisture.
Wreck your lawn: 3. Ignore the directions on lawn treatments
They are SO important! It’s not only the
concentration for fluids or the spreader
setting for granules. Pay attention to the
details like the rain forecast and what
temperature ranges the treatments
require. Skip them and you’ll either wreck
your lawn or waste your time and money.
Wreck your lawn: 4. Overfertilize!
Yep, just skip the directions
and pour it on. You'll kill your
whole yard in no time. And if
you don’t kill it outright, it'll
turn yellow and take weeks to
Back to Top
Wreck your lawn: 5. Mow with dull blades
Dull mower blades rip through the leaves, which stresses the plant.
Instead, you want to slice them off cleanly. You can always tell a lawn
that’s been mowed with a dull blade because it looks brown on the
top. Get on your hands and knees and you can actually see the damage.
Learn How to Grow Greener Grass With These 12 Pearls of Wisdom
1. Don’t mow wet grass. You’ll leave giant
clumps of sodden clippings where they’ll smother
the grass beneath. Not only that, it’ll carpet the
underside of your mower deck with a thick mat.
2. Set your spreader at half the recommended
dosage and treat the lawn twice from
opposite directions. It’ll take twice as much hoof
work on your part, but you’ll get a more consistent
3. Fill the spreader on the driveway, not
over the grass. Or at least spread a tarp on the
grass to catch spillage. If you have an accident,
you’ll have a nice, big dead spot in your lawn.
4. Accept that you can’t grow grass
everywhere. If you’ve struggled mightily to
grow grass in a shady spot, at some point give it
up and mulch, use a shade-tolerant ground cover
or plan yourself a patio.
5. Give crabgrass a second dose of crabgrass
preventer. About one month after your first
treatment, apply a second to stop the seeds that
survived the first treatment from germinating.
6. Rinse out your spreader every time,
especially after using fertilizer. Fertilizer is
essentially a type of salt. And it eats up any
metal parts it finds.
7. Aerate in the Fall if you have heavy
loam or clay soil. (No need if you have sand.)
Just before you fertilize, rent an aerator and
aerate the lawn from both directions. It will
help loosen the soil and allow the fertilizer to
penetrate deep into the soil.
8. Give your lawn a good flat-top for
winter. Just this one time each year, set your
lawn mower to 1-1/2 to 2 in. and clip it off. That’ll
help retard mold during the winter.
9. Water new seed lightly and twice a
day or more. If you don’t bother keeping the soil
moist over new seed, don’t bother seeding.
Dampen the soil even more often during hot,
windy weather. Keep watering for at least two
weeks and don’t miss any days.
10. Rake up downed leaves in the fall or
those soggy leaves will suffocate the new
sprouts in the spring and leave dead spots all
over your lawn.
11. Choose “slow-release” fertilizers.
Rather than feeding the lawn all at once, this
type allows the lawn to snack over a longer
period. These fertilizers cost a bit more but are
well worth the added expense.
12. Don’t apply too much seed. You should
try to achieve a concentration of about 15 seeds
per square inch. If you exceed this, you’ll have an
overpopulated lawn with too many plants competing
for nutrients and sunlight.