When you bought a house with a nice, green lawn, you probably figured that it wouldn’t take much work to keep that lawn nice and green. You thought wrong. For the most widely grown crop in the United States – featured prominently in more than 80 million American residential yards – grass is surprisingly difficult to take care of, so you shouldn’t be ashamed that yours has developed brown patches and other problems.
If you struggle to maintain your lawn, this is the guide for you. Here are a few step-by-step walkthroughs of the important lawn tasks you’re probably doing wrong.
Though it might seem counter-intuitive, mowing your lawn correctly results in thicker and greener growth, improving its look and thwarting weeds. Here are a few steps you can take to mow better every time:
Learn about your grass. Different types of grass have different ideal height ranges, and cutting above or below that ideal range will negatively impact the look and health of your lawn. Plus, when you know your grass’s variety, you can more accurately fertilize, water and otherwise care for your lawn.
Adjust the blade height of your mower. After disconnecting the spark plug (to ensure the mower doesn’t turn on accidentally), measure the height of your mower’s blade and move it to meet your mowing needs.
Follow the one-third rule. You should never trim more than one-third of your grass’s height at one time; doing so is too traumatic on the plant and will likely result in death or impaired growth.
Mow when grass is dry. Cutting wet grass results in ragged edges that invite infection, and the damp clippings can become matted and smother your lawn.
You should know what will happen when you don’t water your lawn enough: death. But, you might not have known that your lawn can also die when you water it too much. Here are a few watering tips to keep your grass happy:
Water in the morning. Scheduling your sprinklers – or setting out your hose – in the early morning (before 10 A.M.) is ideal because the cool temperature allows most of the moisture to sink into the soil, but the excess will likely evaporate, preventing a marsh.
Water one inch per week. If you live in a rainy area, you might not need to water your lawn until the dry season. Otherwise, you should either water once or twice a week to ensure enough water is penetrating the soil. You can check water flow in a few ways:
- Researching. Sprinkler system manufacturers publish flow rates, so you can look up how quickly an inch of water spreads over your lawn.
- Checking the soil. Using a screwdriver, shovel or long, straight stick, you can check your lawn every 15 minutes during watering to determine how deep the water has penetrated.
- Measuring. You can place empty tuna cans around your lawn to catch sprinkler water. When the cans measure an average of one inch, you can stop watering.
Every once in a while, you will need to spread more seed onto your lawn to encourage thicker growth. If you are wondering how to overseed a lawn, you can find information at that link; here are a few tips to ensure you overseed correctly:
Prepare your lawn before seeding. You should mow your lawn and rake up any debris to ensure seeds fall into the soil.
Overseed in the right season. You need the soil to be the right temperature for growth; in the north, that means fall is ideal, but in the south, you should seed in the late spring.
Limit lawn activity after seeding. You don’t want to crush your new seedlings just as they get growing, so try to avoid mowing or walking on your lawn until the lawn reaches mowing height.
Your lawn needs fertilizer for that extra boost of nutrients it probably isn’t getting from your soil. Here’s how to fertilize properly, to ensure your grass is eating well:
Buy or rent a spreader. You simply can’t fertilize properly without the right tools. Rotary spreaders are ideal, but you can also use a drop spreader with success.
Spread from the outside in. You should fertilize the edges of your lawn first, then go back and forth between the edges, overlapping slightly to ensure you don’t miss any spots.
Fertilize twice per year. For most grasses in most areas, you need to fertilize in late spring and in early fall, to ensure your lawn has enough nutrients to grow strong and survive the winter.
Water before and after fertilizing. A wet lawn is better prepared to take in nutrients, and water helps carry the fertilizer into the soil.