|Unless you have just built a new house, and the dirt has all been scooped up and patted down so you can lay sod, chances are that you have a “ready-made” lawn that needs to be dealt with. When it’s a really big lawn, the little problems like bald patches, weeds, and winterkill spots can seem overwhelming. But you can have the lawn looking just right, by choosing the right fertilizer, applying it at the right time, and using your lawn mover in the right way.
One of the first things you’ll want to check into, is whether your lawn needs to be de-thatched. See those dead-looking patches that have grass on them, but they look a little sad? Chances are, there’s a layer of dead grass, roots, and other material, lying between the dirt and the upper vegetation. This blocks the lawn from getting the sun and nutrients it needs. One way to avoid thatch build-up, is with a good, deep raking in the fall. You’re not just cleaning up leaves, you’re “fluffing” your grass for the future.
Just because you have a lawn, does not mean you are going to be guaranteed nice grass. It’s not an automatic pairing. Grass needs care, the same as garden plants, although granted, much less of it. Still, weed control will remove some of the impediments to having a lusher carpet in your yard, and periodic fertilizing will help as well.
Before buying fertilizers, you need to have some idea of the kind of grass you are growing. It it’s impossible to tell, then go for the type that is appropriate to your growing season. Southern locations are more likely to grow “warm” grasses than the “cold” grasses of the north. If you have special areas in your yard that need particular attention, for example large areas of shade where grass is sparse, that may require you do some seeding with a variety of grass that should not be treated with all-purpose fertilizer. So check before you sew, or fertilize.
Weed control can often be done at the same time as you fertilize, with many manufacturers offering combined formulas that are easy to spread with rolling dispensers. Since this isn’t a job you’ll be wanting to do every week, the slow release fertilizers for grass, are ideal. A good weed killer /grass feed in the Spring, followed by a special weed killer treatment (if necessary) in late June, will have your lawn putting up fresh greenery in no time. Depending on your location, you may also choose to do a summer feeding that is specially designed to help grass survive summer pests and drought. Almost every type of grass will benefit from a final autumn feeding of fertilizer, to set it up for the next growing season.
Keeping your grass healthy through good mowing practices is also important. If you don’t have a mulching mower, and don’t want to rake, use this rule of thumb: mow when your grass is 3-4” long, and never cut shorter than 2”. This means you’ll be scattering very short, fine bits of grass that will mulch themselves naturally into the lawn. Over the season, it may require more mowings, but also saves you bagging and raking the clippings. With a mulching mower, the height of the deck and the length of grass is not as important, since what is cut will be shredded up and dispersed over a wide surface. The alternative to frequent mowing or a mulching mower, is mowing with a bag to catch the clippings, which are good for the compost heap, but deprive your lawn of a little natural fertilizer.
Water of course, is crucial to good lawn growth. Depending on where you live, there may be restrictions on when, or how often you’re allowed to water the lawn. Whatever your access to watering is, remember to do it in the late afternoon or evening, when less moisture will evaporate into the air, and more will go to the grass. While most homeowners rely on sprinkler systems in accordance with their lawn size, you might want to think about an irrigation system, if having a green outdoor carpet, really matters.