A lush, well-maintained lawn is the ideal green fill for our colorful herbaceous borders, a fantastic setting for summer picnics as well as a foraging area for native birds and animals. Keeping your lawn looking beautiful may be a problem sometimes, especially when you are new to gardening, but if you follow our Top 10 Lawn Care Tips you will have it under control in no time.
Once you’ve built your dream garden space and installed the area’s best soil and grass, how are you going to keep it looking its best? We’re going to teach you how to keep your yard looking good throughout the year. The ultimate goal is to create an environment that allows your lawn to take care of itself (other than mowing, of course). To avoid getting a dull, weed plagued lawn, follow these easy measures.
Table of Contents
Top 10 List
Mow Your Lawn Regularly
It is best to cut just one-third of the length of the grass when mowing your lawn. The time of year and current weather conditions will decide how often you need to trim, but you will likely need to cut the grass in summer at least once a week and once every two weeks in spring and fall. Regular trimming facilitates the spreading of the roots, which will help to fill spaces and obstruct weeds.
Never cut your lawn shorter than three inches. Grass height of three inches keeps the ground shaded, the grass healthy, and the weeds down. Cutting it shorter makes it harder on the grass and easier on the weeds. Make sure that the mower is well balanced and the blades are clean and sharp.
Don’t mow when it is wet, as this will cause more damage to the blades of grass. Use the lightest mower that you can deal with. The trend has been toward large, high-powered, zero-turn riding lawnmowers that compact the ground and tear out the grass at each turn. If you Cn get away with a small mulching walk behind mower, do it.
Always alternate your directions of cut so that you don’t wear the same pattern into the lawn week after week. Always use a mulching mower and mulch leave right into the lawn. Leaving the clippings in the lawn will make for a stronger lawn with better soil.
Edge Your Lawn
Edging a lawn is a fresh, trimmed lawn’s final touch. To delineate your lawn after each mowing, use a string trimmer turned on its side like the professionals, or you can do it by hand with any sort of shears. Once a year, grab an edging shovel and re-cut the natural edge wherever the lawn is creeping into the beds.
Remove the Weeds
Weeds can appear anywhere in your lawn and come from many different sources. The exact type of weed is not as important as your response to it. Your best weed defense is a healthy, tall lawn with deep roots. Your second line of defense is using an organic fertilizer that contains corn gluten which helps discourage weed growth. Your third line of defense is to pick the big weeds when you see them. If you pick a handful every time you mow, you will stay on top of the problem.
Don’t use chemical weed killers as they destroy beneficial soil microbes and contaminate your groundwater.
Relieve Compacted Soil
Compacted soil is the result of heavy equipment use, overwatering, and chemical fertilizer use. Hard, compacted lawn soil will make it more difficult for your lawn to thrive and take care of itself. To alleviate compacted soil, you have a couple of choices.
If your soil is compacted, I’m guessing that you have been neglecting it and treating it poorly for a bit, so I’m going to suggest core aeration. A core aerator is a motorized piece of equipment that rolls across the lawn and digs out cylindrical soil plugs. You can rent these machines at most local rental places.
If you don’t want to spend the money on the rental, but you have a digging fork, you can use that to loosen up the top couple of inches of soil. The trick is to push the fork in, wiggle it a bit and pull it out. You are not trying to pry out chunks of lawn and till the site. This would be disturbing too many grass roots. You are just loosening soil and leaving the root intact.
Once you have aerated, you will want to spread a thin layer of well-aged organic compost onto the lawn and water it deeply. The aeration will allow the water to carry the soil amending compost down into the ground. In time, with proper care, your lawn soil will loosen up and be rich and dark with nutrients.
Water Your Lawn
The amount and frequency of irrigation in your area will depend on the type of soil and weather conditions. The goal is to have a healthy lawn that never needs watering, but if you are in a very arid region and want a lawn, you may need to water it. It is best to water grass in the early morning before it gets hot to get the best results.
Always water new, young lawns, but once they get established, only water a few times a year during the driest time and always water slowly and deeply when you do. Slow and deep watering encourages roots to grow deeply, which will produce a healthier lawn. Sprinkler systems are unnecessary, expensive and create a lawn that is shallow-rooted and dependent on the sprinkler to survive. If you are in an area where there are no wild grass areas, and lawns shouldn’t grow because it is basically a desert, then you will need an irrigation system, but really, you might want to consider xeriscaping instead.
Feed Your Lawn
If you have been applying weed and feed several times per year and irrigating every other day with an irrigation system, then you will need to ween your lawn off slowly. But, if you have been organic for years, you should be able to take care of any fertilization by simply applying organic compost once or twice a year. Remember, if we do this correctly, our lawn can practically take care of itself. I haven’t watered or fertilized my lawn for many years, and it is green and lush each season because it is deep-rooted, organic, and diverse.
Fill Bare Lawn Patches
Over time, if you follow all of the recommendations above, you won’t have any bare patches to fill, but right now, if you are just starting out and you’ve just aerated and top-dressed with compost, this would be a great time to get a hardy mix of grass seed and fill in any thin or bare spots. More grass equals fewer weeds, so keep that grass strong, tall, and thick.
Over-Seed Your Lawn
If your lawn has been abused for years and is really short and thin and seems almost hopeless, a good plan might be to over-seed the entire lawn. In this case, you could over-aerate it to loosen it up, then spread compost over the lawn, but not so deep that you cover all of the grass. Then sprinkle a hardy mix of grass seed over the entire lawn and rake it all smooth to ensure contact with the ground. Water this lawn as if it were new, and you will have a nice thick lawn in no time.
When purchasing grass seed, don’t get the most expensive golf course mixes. Golf courses love to have very select, fine grasses and then irrigate and fertilize continually. You want to get the hardy grass mix #2 or whatever might be the favorite of the guys that seed the big expanses along the roads and large yards. This seed can be purchased from the local feed mill, and it will be hardy and will grow well in your area.
Ignore the Pests
My advice is not to look for pests and ignore them if you do see them. Lawn pests will not wipe out a robust, healthy lawn. These creatures love the weak and pampered chemical lawns. Your healthy organic lawn will take care of itself as long as you stick to the organic treatment.
Get Your Soil Tested?
I would always vote no. Once again, if you follow the steps above, you should have no need to test your soil. If you have other plants growing throughout your yard, the soil is fine. Wean your lawn off of the chemicals and start dressing it with organic compost, and it will be fine.
Follow these suggestions to manage your lawn organically, and in a few years, you won’t believe how easy it is. Below are a few more suggestions related to specific issues:
Frequently Asked Questions
I have a shady spot in my yard that just won’t grow grass. What should I do?
If your grass just isn’t growing in a few spots because it is too shaded, either give up and plant a flower bed or cut down some trees to let in more sun. That’s it. Don’t bother with shade seed, etc. Grass just doesn’t grow well in the shade. This is a fact.
We are having a drought in my area; what should I do to save my lawn?
In a drought, even the strongest lawn will brownout. Don’t sweat it; this is fine. This is how grass reacts to severe drought. It will jump right back when it starts raining again. Unless, of course, you’re in a dust bowl type of drought that lasts for years. In this case, forget grass altogether; it is the least of your worries.
I have an area in my lawn that is always wet, and it just won’t grow grass. What should I do?
if you have wet areas in your lawn that just won’t grow grass, you have three choices. You can re-grade the area to allow the water to drain out; you can install a French drain system to drain the water or give up and plant some plants there that like wet soil. That is it, no other options.
What should I do if my soil is really sticky and clay-like and my grass doesn’t grow well?
If your soil is very stiff and sticky like clay, you can aerate more and top dress with a sand and compost mix. Eventually, it will come around, but it may take several years.
What should I do if my lawn has a lot of thatch?
Thatch only occurs on pampered and chemically treated lawns. A healthy organic lawn has enough bacteria and microbes in the soil to break down thatch, so it just isn’t a thing. Treat your lawn organically as suggested above, and that will be a thing of the past.