30 Tips for Achieving a Lush Lawn This Season
Grow greener grass and be the envy of the neighborhood! Here are 30 tips to help you achieve a lush lawn this season.
Healthy Grass Is the Best Weed Preventer
Regular core aeration will slow thatch development. However, it won’t do much to remove existing thatch. This can be done by renting a power rake, which will ‘lift’ the thatch from the soil surface. This thatch residue can then be raked by hand and removed. Dethatching is hard work, so it’s smart to prevent buildup in the first place. The best way to do that is to avoid overwatering and overfertilizing.
Water Grass Seed Carefully
Seeds covered with fabric or mulch or mixed with a mulch-like product stand a better chance. But even with this protection, you should water lightly at least once or twice a day during hot or windy days. Sprinkle the seeds with a light mist until they sprout. A hard spray or big droplets of water will wash the seeds away or make them clump together. After the seeds sprout, keep watering once a day until the grass is ready for its first mowing.
Got lawn problems? We’ve got the solution to six of the most common lawn problems.
Raise Your Mower
Apply a Preemergent Herbicide
Grow Greener Grass
Our staff expert tells you the six secrets for growing greener grass. You’ll keep your lawn healthier, greener and thicker with a lot less effort. He also reveals the five biggest mistakes! Learn how to grow greener grass.
Choose the Best Sprinkler for the Location
Reseed to Prevent Weeds
Reseeding with genetically improved varieties will also boost your lawn’s performance. Many newer grasses require less fertilizer, watering and mowing compared with the older grasses that are most likely in your lawn. If you haven’t reseeded in the past 10 years, you’re long overdue. Simply use your fertilizer spreader to broadcast seed immediately after core aerating. Those soil plugs lying on your lawn’s surface will dry out while you do this. After you’ve spread the seed, break up these cores with a rake. The combination of seed and pulverized soil will backfill your aerator holes, creating perfect seed-to-soil contact.
Add a Remote Hose Connection for Easier Watering
If you’re constantly dragging long lengths of hose from the house to the far corners of your yard, consider adding a remote faucet instead. Depending on how much time and expense you want to put into it, this can be as simple as a length of garden hose connected to a fence with pipe straps, as shown here, or an underground pipe complete with a vacuum breaker at the house. (Learn more about how to install an outdoor faucet here. Either way, you’ll save a ton of time and effort by not having to deal with long hoses.
Mowing is a chore that’s easy to put off?the grass will still be there in a couple days. But delay is bad for your grass. The taller it gets, the more you’ll cut off when you finally mow. And the more you cut off, the more you’ll ‘shock’ the grass. That weakens each individual plant and leads to other problems later on. It also opens up the turf canopy and allows weeds to bully their way in.
Rule of thumb: Never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade each time you mow. And keep your lawn mower blade sharp. A clean cut reduces the chance of common lawn diseases making their way into the leaf tissue. Your lawn will look much better too.
Fertilize Just Enough
There’s no need to fertilizer more than twice a year. An organic fertilizer applied after core aeration will maximize plant and soil health. Like compost, organic fertilizers help feed beneficial organisms and replace valuable nutrients in your lawn. Most organic fertilizers are very safe to use nearly any time of the growing season. We prefer meal-based organics containing bonemeal, blood meal, fish meal and feather meal; however, organics made with poultry litter and biosolids work too.
Save Your Lawn Products
Leave a bag of fertilizer or weed killer open for long and it’ll soak up moisture from the air and won’t go through a spreader. Even grass seed could use an extra layer of protection from a moisture-wicking concrete floor. Place opened bags of lawn products in large resealable plastic bags ($1 at discount stores). The products will be free of clumps or pests when you need them.
Reseed Bare Patches
Save Water with an Impact or Rotary Sprinkler
Aerate the Soil
‘Aerating’ simply means making holes in the ground by removing plugs of soil. And it’s the single most important task you can perform to maintain a healthy, good-looking lawn. Nothing else comes close! It relieves compaction caused by foot traffic and creates extra pore space in the soil, allowing air, nutrients and water to enter. All of that helps roots to thrive.
Aerate your lawn at least once a year, preferably in the fall. Do it two or even three times each year if you can. The more, the better. You can rent a lawn aerator at any equipment rental store. Get one that will remove plugs of soil rather than one that pokes holes in the ground.
Check Soil Moisture to Determine Watering Time
After an extended warm, dry period (dry soil is the key) set up your sprinkler and set a timer for 30 minutes. Then turn off the water and check the soil for moisture depth. Do this by pushing a shovel into the lawn and tipping it forward to expose the soil. See how deep the water has penetrated. Moist soil will be darker. Your goal is to run the sprinkler until the water penetrates 3 to 4 in. into the soil.
If the water has not penetrated far enough, restart the watering and continue to keep track of the time. Check again in another 15 minutes. With trial and error, you’ll eventually arrive at the optimal length of time to water for your soil type and water pressure.
Growing Grass Under Trees
The key to growing grass under trees is to match shade-tolerant varieties with your local climate. Red and tall fescues work in cool-weather zones and St. Augustine grass works in warmer areas. Learn about growing grass under trees.
One of the biggest mistakes made by lawn owners who have a sprinkler system is overusing it! Too much water is costly, wasteful and bad for your lawn. Water early in the morning, not during the afternoon when it’s hot or when it’s windy. More of that precious water will make its way to the roots.
Space irrigation cycles as far apart as possible. Let the grass wilt and turn a little blue before watering again. The less you water, the deeper those grass roots will go to look for it. This is a good thing! Overwatering discourages roots from penetrating deep into the soil. They are encouraged to stay close to the surface where the moisture is. A lawn with shallow roots dries out quicker. Not good!
Use Weed Killers Sparingly
Eliminate weeds in your lawn and prevent their return by maintaining healthy grass, using a minimum of weed killers and good timing. We show you six strategies that simplify weed control and reduce your weed patrol chore. Learn how to eliminate weeds from your grass.
Lawn Watering Wisdom
- Adjust your watering to the conditions. Different areas of your lawn will have different watering requirements. The key is to make note of this as you water so you can tailor your watering. For example, south-facing hills may require more water; areas under trees, less.
- Keep watering in a drought. Don’t believe the common wisdom that grass goes dormant in a drought. If you don’t provide your grass some moisture in a drought, it will die.
- Water in the morning if possible. The grass can benefit from the water all day long. Plus, watering in the evening may encourage the growth of harmful fungi.
To apply compost, spread it over your lawn with a shovel, aiming for a layer 1/4 to 1/2 in. thick. Then work it into the turf with a rake. It’s best to do this after aerating. Most garden centers sell bagged compost. But to cover an entire yard, you’re better off buying in bulk from a garden center. Don’t worry about buying too much?any leftovers will benefit your garden and shrub beds.
For Healthy Grass, Adjust Your Soil pH
Note: Lawn and garden centers sell do-it-yourself pH testers; more accurate tests can be performed by extension services.
Buy an Impact Sprinkler on a Tripod
The Best Lawn Advice is Locally Grown
Install an Inexpensive Irrigation System
Programmable timers allow you to choose the time of day and duration that the connected sprinkler will run. Read product descriptions and online reviews carefully to determine which timer is right for your situation, since different models have different functions and abilities.
Feed Shady Areas Less
People tend to overapply fertilizer to shady areas because the grass is struggling. But that just kills it faster!
Many people really have two lawns—a lawn that gets full sun for most of the day, and a shaded lawn that may get only two to four hours of direct sun—and their water and fertilizer needs are different. The grass in shady areas needs less water because less evaporates, and it needs less fertilizer because with less sun it doesn’t grow as much. When you go into shade, shift the controls on the spreader so you’re spreading about half the amount.
Run All Sprinklers at Once When Using Well Water
Broadcast Spreader Technique
The best way to find out the actual dispersal pattern for your broadcast spreader is to do a test run on your driveway and then measure the results. Clean off a 12 x 20-ft. section of the driveway. Close the flow lever on your spreader and set the controls for the product you’re using. Fill the spreader—do this on the driveway or sidewalk to avoid spills on the grass—then open the flow lever and push the spreader several feet down the center of the driveway at your normal pace, continuing for a few steps after you close the hopper.
Measure the average dispersal pattern to the sides and front. (Note: The right side of the dispersal pattern for spreaders is wider than the left side.) Sweep up the test material and dump it back into the spreader, then apply the material to your lawn, walking back and forth in the long direction on your lawn (Figure A). Overlap each course 6 to 12 in., but close off the flow when you make tight turns. Walk the spreader up the center of the driveway, then measure the total width and the width on each side. Apply a ‘header strip’ around the perimeter of the yard, then fill in the middle. Shut off the spreader when you turn.
6 Common Lawn Problems and How to Fix Them
Try these expert and homeowner-tested solutions to common backyard landscape problems—eroding slopes, a shady lawn, wet soil, bad soil, mushrooms and swampy areas. Photo courtesy of EnergyScapes. Discover 6 common lawn problems and how to fix them.