Whether you have a green thumb or not, it’s easy to maintain a blissful, barefoot-worthy backyard.
Don’t Remove Grass Clippings
Leaving grass clippings on the lawn after you mow can cause thatch problems, right? Nope! That’s a myth. Turns out, grass clippings can actually help with the overall health of your lawn. And (bonus!) that means less work for you when you mow. Find out even more benefits to leaving grass clippings on your lawn.
Don’t Skip Aerating
Most lawns, whether seeded or sodded, are planted over a fairly skimpy layer of topsoil. Over time, lawn mowers, pets, and pick-up football games compact the soil, making it difficult for air, water, and vital nutrients to penetrate to the grassroots. Your challenge: to restore healthy soil conditions that nurture your lawn. To loosen and aerate the soil, rent a power core aerator. They’re available at rental centers, plus some hardware stores and garden centers. We’ll walk you through how to properly aerate your lawn here.
Don’t Use a Dull Mower Blade
Dull mower blades rip through the grass blades instead of slicing them cleanly, and that stresses the plant. You can always tell a lawn that’s been mowed with a dull blade because it looks brown on the top. Get on your hands and knees and you can actually see the damage. Be sure to sharpen your mower blade each season to keep your lawn in good shape.
Don’t Water Every Day
Did you know your lawn can actually get dependent and needy if it has too much water? Instead of watering every day for 15 minutes, choose one day a week to water the lawn for an entire hour. Your lawn will be watered deeply, and it will be healthier and more drought-tolerant.
Don’t Forget to Dethatch
Thatch is a layer of slowly decomposing grass stems, roots, clippings, and debris that accumulate at the soil surface over time. It can build up in your lawn and virtually choke it to death. Excessive thatch buildup is commonly found in lawns that have been overfertilized or overwatered and have never been aerated. Thatch buildup of 3/4 in. or more will restrict water and nutrient penetration into the soil (think thatched roof) and can harbor disease organisms that can increase the need for pesticides. Slice open a section of turf. If the thatch is more than 3/4 in. thick, take action. Learn the best technique for removing thatch here.
Don’t Give Up on Shady Areas
Growing grass under shade trees isn’t easy, but one key to success is choosing the right shade grass species and planting method for your region. In cool-season areas, you’ll get a better result using seed rather than sod. Sod is grown in wide-open fields under conditions that favor sun-loving grasses. Choose red and tall fescues for shady areas in Northern zones. Garden centers will have grass seed mixes formulated for shade. Late summer and mid-spring are the best times to establish cool-season grasses in shady areas. Learn more about growing grass in shady areas here.
Don’t Fertilize Shady Areas More
People tend to overapply fertilizer to shady areas because the grass is struggling. But that just kills it faster!
Many people really have two lawns—a lawn that gets full sun for most of the day, and a shaded lawn that may get only two to four hours of direct sun—and their water and fertilizer needs are different. The grass in shady areas needs less water because less evaporates, and it needs less fertilizer because with less sun it doesn’t grow as much. When you go into shade, shift the controls on the spreader so you’re spreading about half the amount.
Don’t Forget to Check Soil Moisture
Common wisdom for establishing the correct length of time to water is to place a pie pan in the yard and note how long it takes to fill 1/2 in. deep. But experts prefer a more accurate method that takes soil conditions into account. Heavier soil doesn’t absorb moisture nearly as fast as loose or sandy soil, so it needs to be watered longer.
After an extended warm, dry period (dry soil is the key) set up your sprinkler and set a timer for 30 minutes. Then turn off the water and check the soil for moisture depth. Do this by pushing a shovel into the lawn and tipping it forward to expose the soil. See how deep the water has penetrated. Moist soil will be darker. Your goal is to run the sprinkler until the water penetrates 3 to 4 in. into the soil.
If the water has not penetrated far enough, restart the watering and continue to keep track of the time. Check again in another 15 minutes. With trial and error, you’ll eventually arrive at the optimal length of time to water for your soil type and water pressure. Get a grip on lawn watering with these incredibly easy tips.
Don’t Wait Too Long Between Mowing
If you came back from a vacation and the neighbor kid neglected to mow your yard, don’t try and mow it down in one day. Cut off some of the lengths and then wait a couple days and mow again. This will cause less stress on the grass. You may need three passes depending on how long the grass grew.
Don’t Skip Reseeding
Reseeding is a job you can do in a weekend if you have an average-size lawn. You’ll have to wrestle home a couple of engine-powered rental machines. And once your work is done, be prepared to keep the soil damp with daily watering for the first month or so. It’s the key to a successful reseeding job.