Earlier today we introduced you to our new summer series – The Curb Appeal Series. And we promised we’d be back this afternoon with a post about Growing the Perfect Lawn, courtesy of The Family Handyman.
I don’t know about you, but our lawn could always use some help. Dean is in charge of cutting the grass, but the fertilizing, overseeding and watering falls to me. Just when it seems like I get a handle on it and it’s lush and green, life takes over and I completely ignore the grass. With five common things to avoid and six sure-fire ways to get the perfect lawn, I’m thinking this year I may just manage to add a lush green lawn to our curb appeal list!
Getting great grass is surprisingly simple—but ruining it is even easier. If you’re willing to learn some basic facts about lawn care and put in just a few hours of light labor every summer, you can have a lush lawn that will be the envy of your neighborhood.
The June issue of The Family Handyman reveals five surefire ways to wreck your yard, along with six magic bullets to make lawn care faster and easier this summer.
Five Great Ways to Wreck Your Yard
1. Dethatch when it’s not needed. Dethatching involves flailing away at your lawn with a powerful, engine driven steel rake to collect 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. If you have thatch, it’s probably because you’ve been underwatering, overfertilizing and/or consistently mowing when the grass is overgrown.
2. Catch the clippings.
It’s best to let the clippings lie. They’ll release nutrients into the soil and form a mulch to help keep in soil moisture.
3. Ignore the directions on lawn treatments.
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.
If you 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 will turn yellow and take weeks to heal itself.
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.
The Six Magic Bullets for a Great Lawn
1. Water deeply, but not often.
Determine how long you need to water using the guidelines below. Heavy soils should be watered less often and less heavily but for longer periods of time. Sandy soils can handle heavy, fast watering but dry out faster. In hot, dry weather, you may have to water every two to three days.
Determine how long you need to water: Water for 30 minutes, then plunge a spade into the soil and pry out a wedge to see how far the water has penetrated. Four to six inches deep is ideal. If it’s not deep enough, continue to water – you can use the time this takes as a barometer for future waterings.
When the weather is too cool, the weed isn’t growing and the herbicide won’t be absorbed. 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.
3. Kill crabgrass before it sprouts.
Crabgrass preventers (aka reemergence treatments) only prevent crabgrass (and any other seed) from sprouting. Once crabgrass sprouts, it’s too late. The key is to apply preventer between the second and the third mowing. Because crabgrass starts sprouting a few weeks after the grass greens up, that’s generally just the right time.
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. Not sure what type of grass you have? Take a sample to a garden center for help, or go to scotts.com and use their “grass type identifier” at the bottom of the page to compare your sample with the ones shown.
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 season. Surprisingly, it’s much more important to fertilize in the fall than in the spring, when most people do it.
6. Test the soil pH level.
Collect one tablespoon-size sample a couple of inches under the sod in three different places in your yard and take the samples in for testing. Some garden centers offer the service, or search the Internet for “soil testing” to find a place to send it.
A pH between 6 and 7.2 is ideal. If it’s too high, you’ll treat the lawn with iron sulfate or sulphur; too low and you’ll use pelletized limestone. Applying the treatment is as easy as walking around the yard with a spreader.
Additional DIY tips, product recommendations and more can be found online at www.familyhandyman.com or in the June issue of The Family Handyman.
How’s your lawn looking? Could you benefit from any of these tips? (I know I could!) Have you made any of the five mistakes above? (Um, guilty.) Or do you naturally have a green thumb when it comes to your grass?