Even if your yard looks pretty good, it’s still possible to experience a twinge of envy when you drive past a particularly lush lawn. What’s their secret? Do they have a special kind of grass, or is it due to expertly mixed fertilizer? In many cases, it’s due to a combination of things that all work together. They’re all important in their own way, even if they’re only done a few times a year.
Of course, starting with the right type of grass is important. For example, warm-weather grasses won’t thrive in cooler climates, and vice versa. If you live in the south, a company like The Grass Store would probably recommend Palisades Zoysia or some other hardy grass variety. That way you could get a rich green turf with minimal watering, and minimal effort.
Most of the techniques below aren’t anything out of the ordinary; it’s just a matter of doing them properly to get the best results. With some dedication and (most importantly) consistency, you can have the kind of yard that’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.
Technique #1: Optimize the soil’s pH balance
Don’t worry; this is simpler than it sounds! The calculations are easy to find online, and the entire process only takes a few steps. Start with a simple pH test on your yard to determine whether or not it’s in the right range. The most common imbalance is overly acidic soil, which requires the application of lime to correct. Once you’ve found out how much lime to apply (based on how much the pH needs to be adjusted, as well as the square footage of the grass), you can just sprinkle it on, water lightly, and let gravity take care of the rest. Correcting the soil’s pH helps with nutrient uptake from the soil, which obviously results in richer, thicker grass.
Technique #2: Topdress with compost
Compost for grass is a bit like probiotics for people – it provides important microorganisms that improve nutrient uptake. For grass, it also improves the composition of the topsoil, and gives better drainage. Between one thing and another, compost provides a great boost for your lawn. A layer that’s between one-quarter and one-half of an inch is ideal; start by putting down small piles of compost at periodic intervals, then gently go over them with a rake to spread evenly. Finally, give the grass a light watering to help everything settle down to the roots.
Technique #3: Apply fertilizer
All other things being equal, most yards get slowly depleted of nutrients over the years. Water from rain or sprinklers leaches the nutrients deeper down into the soil, while grass and other plants use up the nutrients in the shallower layers. It does help to let the grass clippings from each mowing to act as a natural compost, but this may not be enough in the long-term.
That’s why nitrogen-based fertilizers are a good idea for most warm-season grasses. If you’re using a fertilizer with a fairly standard concentration, once per year should be the minimum. However, make sure you always check the label, and test the soil before applying fertilizer. Too much of certain nutrients can be just as harmful as too little; you want to make sure you’re adding just the right amount.
Also, remember that fertilizer only has an effect on growing grass. If it’s applied during the lawn’s dormancy period, it’ll be too deep into the soil to be usable by the time the roots are waking up.
Technique #4: Use good watering habits
Grass doesn’t just need the right amount of water, although that’s definitely the bare minimum; it also benefits from being watered at the right intervals, and at the right times of day.
- Those with warm-season grasses probably won’t need to water their lawns all that much, but it pays to know how much the grass actually needs. There’s even some variation between varieties of the same species; for example, Palisades Zoysia needs a bit more water than Zeon Zoysia for best results.
- Warm-season grasses are adapted to drier conditions, so your watering schedule should reflect that. In most cases, a once-weekly watering schedule is plenty. You’ll be giving the grass enough water to soak down to the roots, without turning the yard into a swamp. This also encourages your grass to grow longer roots, which can contribute to a more robust lawn.
- A morning watering time is best to reduce the likelihood of diseased grass. How does this work? It’s all about the moisture – specifically, how long it sits on top of the grass instead of evaporating. An evening watering time means that the grass will be damp for hours, which encourages the growth of fungal diseases. A morning watering time, on the other hand, lets the sun evaporate excess moisture for healthier grass.
Technique #5: Mow properly
Have you ever gotten a haircut that looked great, but required you to get regular touch-ups so it didn’t grow out? That’s how you should approach mowing the lawn. It’s easy to wait until you just can’t take it anymore, and then take off several inches; after all, it isn’t like the grass knows the difference. Except, it actually does. This type of mowing schedule stresses your grass out, keeping it from growing the way it should.
Ideally, you should only cut one-third of the yard’s height at once. If the grass is supposed to be kept around 2 inches, mow it when it reaches 3 inches. For a lot of varieties, this means mowing once a week. And make sure to use sharp blades on the lawnmower! This provides a cleaner cut, reducing stress to the grass and lowering the chances of insect-related diseases.
Getting a thick, healthy lawn takes some effort, but it certainly isn’t rocket science. Once you establish a new routine, it’ll feel like second nature – and once you start seeing results, you won’t want to stop! Before you know it, you’ll be getting asked about your secrets to get such a beautiful lawn.